Sunday 10 May 2020

Losing Track of Time

I think we're all quite aware by now that things are not situation normal at the moment. I know I said I was aiming to have a quieter year this year, but a pandemic wasn't exactly what I had in mind.

In many respects, my life hasn't really changed - I worked from home anyway, and often didn't go out from one week to another. But in so many other respects, things are different. My husband now works from home alongside me. My hieroglyphics course was cancelled, the Lit and Phil closed, talks and conventions I was due to attend or teach were cancelled or postponed, businesses I loved supporting shut down - hopefully temporarily, but perhaps not. Friends have lost their jobs or are watching their businesses teeter on the brink. I worry for them all.

And yes, while I miss going out and visiting places, especially as the weather improves, I'd much rather be at home, protecting myself and protecting others, than swanning about in public. What inconveniences me a little could make all the difference in preventing someone far more vulnerable from getting ill. The level of some people's selfishness when ignoring lock down is disappointing, even if it's not even vaguely surprising given the various clown shows currently masquerading as world governments. We can, and should, do better.

A lot of gamers we know have had, or are suspected to have had, COVID-19. Some have been very sick and may suffer long lasting effects as a result; others, thankfully, got off relatively lightly. It is a shame that numerous conventions are no longer happening, but as everyone who's ever been to one knows, they are massive disease reservoirs, so much so that we always joke about the dreaded "con crud." Many of the people we know who've been ill caught it at an international event, one much smaller than the mega-conventions some people are complaining about being cancelled.

But, nothing is ever that simple - small companies often depend on convention revenue to get them through. While no conventions and shutting non-essential shops is the best way to protect everyone's health, it is hitting some people right in the wallet. So, if those companies are online and you can afford to, please support them. Get behind your friendly local games store or cafe or bookshop and help them financially in whichever way they've set up for you to do so. Same goes for everyone who is streaming content for your amusement - gamers, performers, etc. - donate to them if you can via the platform they've chosen. They're giving their time and creative energy to keep you from crawling up the walls and they need your help in return.

As far as roleplaying goes, I've never been busier prepping material for Chaosium or taking part in online games. So busy, in fact, that I've fallen way behind in writing this blog and I'm doing very badly at taking time off to recharge my batteries. In all other respects, though, I'm incredibly lucky. My revenue stream is, for the moment at least, secure so I'm doing what I can to pay it forward to those who aren't so fortunate. We've been there in the past, and worrying about where the money to pay the next bill is coming from is a headache people really don't need on top of everything else right now.

We gamers are part of a community. For all its faults - and let's not pretend they aren't many and varied - we are capable of creating great things and doing great good together. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you this, but now is the time to support each other in whatever way we can so we, as a community, can come out of this stronger and richer - creatively speaking, at the very least - than ever.

Be good everyone, be kind, and above all, stay safe.

Sunday 8 March 2020

What Do You Mean, it's March Already?

This year has been a bit of a whirlwind. Nothing new for me, I hear you cry, but January and February were somewhat crackers even by our standards. We were home for all of two weekends in the entire two months, which meant finding time to do anything other than laundry - like writing blog posts - was never going to happen.

Our first foray of the year, after seeing 2020 in with gin cocktails and numerous episodes of The Witcher, was to Bellevue and OrcaCon. As always, it was a wonderful, welcoming experience, full of games and lemon curd fry bread. It's always lovely to see old friends again, and to make new ones over shared gaming experiences. And, as has become something of a tradition, I was interviewed by the Geeks of Cascadia podcast team, who are always lovely to talk to.

After the convention, we went down to Tacoma for a change, and stayed at a thoroughly crazy hotel: McMenamin's Elks Temple. Multiple bars and restaurants on multiple floors (including a hidden one), with live music every night, and a suitably off-the-wall design aesthetic that made it a very entertaining stay. We walked down to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, as one does if one has been raised watching historical documentaries. It was very impressive on what was a freezing cold but beautifully clear day, and thankfully not attempting to shake itself apart.

We were also fed and watered very well, as Tacoma is an excellent place for eateries and bars: Red HotsIce Cream Social, Devil's Reef Tiki bar, Puget Sound Pizza, Hob Nob, and a lot of other cafes I can't now remember the names of. And there was the Tacoma Glass Museum, a very chill way to spend a Monday afternoon recovering from a convention.

And then there was a trip down to Olympia for a tour of the State Capitol, given by none other than Senator Steve Hobbs, one of the Geeks of Cascadia podcasters and also board member for OrcaCon. I got to wield the senate gavel, which was a lot of fun. We know some wonderful people, which means we get to do some cool and different things, and that trip was certainly one of them!

February didn't exactly slow down: proof of concept playtesting for the Rivers of London RPG, Maya on the Thames to learn Mayan hieroglyphics for the weekend (which confirmed I really only have room for one dead language in my life), and a blackwork workshop for the Ponteland Embroiderers Guild one very snowy afternoon.

And in amongst all of that, working on numerous projects for Chaosium and keeping up with my Egyptian hieroglyphics, including back-translating Peter Rabbit!

So, I know that's twice now I've covered two months in one post, and I hope to do better for the rest of this year. I certainly don't have as much planned at weekends as last year (or the beginning of this). Mind you, I didn't have much planned for last year, and look how that ended up!

Tuesday 31 December 2019

Double Chuckers

I was so going to write November's blog post at the end of November, but things sort of got away from me again. (Ah, the social whirlwind that is the life of a games designer!)

This year really hasn't let up, which means I'm feeling a wee bit worn out. And, while I swore back when I started keeping (a bit more) up to date with this here blogging malarkey that I wouldn't combine posts, I'm going to combine November and December's ramblings or I suspect they'll never get done.

Anyway, it's New Year's Eve and a time for reflection. So, here goes:

Egyptian grammar continues to be pretty much a complete mystery to me. I'll swear the academics have made half the tenses up just for the hell of it, because I certainly don't remember them from French, German and Latin classes at school. (Granted, those are a very, very long time ago now, but even so...) As a result, my translations remain in baby talk for the moment, but I'm hoping that the penny will drop at some point. My tutor, bless him, has just accepted that I will rename hieroglyphs that have been badly carved (rave Godzilla being my favourite of the entire year). In spite of his continued bemusement as to why I ask him to do these things, he not only gave me the translation for "Do not read from the book!" but also helped us to have accurate Ancient Egyptian charms in a supplement (The Shadow Over Providence). Classes continue next year, and I look forward to the ongoing challenge.

There's been a fair few books released this year that had my dabs on them. After a while, you sort of forget what came out when, so I think, in the end, it was 10 books in either physical or pdf (or both), plus consultation on at least 3 more from licensees. And that's just the ones that made it onto people's real and virtual shelves - there's over half a dozen more that are still in the production pipeline that I also worked on either as a writer, editor, developer, or some combination of all three.

And then there were the award nominations: Origins and ENnies, for both my work at Green Ronin and Chaosium. And some awards as well (Call of Cthulhu for the actual win!). It is nice to receive recognition - a lot of people put a lot of work into making these books and that pat on the back means a lot, if for no other reason than it makes you stop for a moment and think "Yes, we have done something pretty cool, haven't we?" And then it's back to the grindstone to get the next thing out.

Conventions: phew, yes. There were more than a few of those this year. OrcaCon (US), CarcosaCon (Poland), DNI Fantastyki (Poland), UK Games Expo (UK), mini-Kraken (Germany), Ropecon (Finland), Necronomicon (US), Kraken (Germany), AetherCon (virtual), and Dragonmeet (UK). Sadly no Steampunks in Space this year due to illness, which was a real disappointment as it's always a fun one.

There were quite a lot of interviews as well this year: Bayt al Azif, AetherCon, The Rolistes, live on Finnish day-time TV (a distinctly surreal experience), several Scandinavian podcasts, and one for the Finnish equivalent of the BBC! I'm pretty certain there were others as well, so apologies if I've forgotten any. As I mentioned at the top, this year has been something of a monumental blur...

Running things: I continue to be allowed out to run games and workshops both in the local area and further afield. Things kicked off with the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set launch in January (in association with the lovely folks at Travelling Man Newcastle, Meeple Perk and the Boutique Beats Bakery) and it never really stopped. Somewhere along the way was Free RPG Day and running things at both stores, along with a workshop at Meeple Games in Durham and numerous games at Meeple Perk. And then there's the embroidery talks and workshops, as well. It's always great fun to escape the writing hovel and talk to actual people, and share my love of games and embroidery with others. 

Looking to the Future: as some of you may have noticed, Chaosium now has the licence to produce a Rivers of London RPG. I spoke to Ben (Aaronovitch) at a book signing in Newcastle a little over a year ago about the possibility and, after a lot of work behind the scenes by my colleagues James Lowder and MOB, and Ben's agent, John, the announcement was made at Dragonmeet. It's met with a lot of positive feedback, so now the job of developing the system begins in earnest. I'm line editor for the project, as well as remaining as associate editor on Call of Cthulhu, so next year is likely to prove even busier than this one. As a fan of the books, I'm very excited about the whole thing as it's something I've been wanting to do for a while. Daunting? Yes - but I'm putting together an excellent team, and I know they'll do a good job. And Ben knows his stuff when it comes to gaming, so collaborating with him is going to be very interesting.

On the Cthulhu front, there's a lot on its way. All I can say is watch this space (as well as official channels) as to exactly what, but there is much goodness in the pipeline: some old and refreshed, some brand spanking new.

As for conventions, I'm off to Bellevue again in just over a week for OrcaCon. I'm not expecting to do quite as many conventions as this year, but then I wasn't expecting to do quite so many this year either!

So, as the old year fades and the new one begins: be safe, be kind, and enjoy your games, and may the New Year bring you peace, happiness and contentment.

See you on the flipside!

Monday 11 November 2019

Another One Bites the Dust

I was determined to get October’s blog post out as close to the end of the month, but the best laid plans, etc.

As you might have guessed, October was once again pretty busy. There was a lot of work for Chaosium: the usual litany of paperwork, proofing, approving, and editing. And I finally (by the end of the month, at least) got on to updating and editing a book I’ve been trying to update and edit since I went full time for the company in June!

Some projects are just like that: the overlooked child, if you will. They’re good projects, but they never seem to be quite as high a priority as other things, so they frequently get shunted to the end of the queue, meaning that they don’t get picked up again until other things quieten down - relatively speaking, at least. Still, I’m on it now, so hopefully nothing else crops up in the next month or so to distract me from it again...

October saw the first We Are All Us Day, in memory of the late and much missed Greg Stafford, founder of Chaosium and overall gaming mastermind. Chaosium released a free short scenario for each of its lines, and the Call of Cthulhu contribution was The Lightless Beacon by Leigh Carr, which I edited down from its previous incarnation as a convention scenario. If you haven’t already picked it up and are in need of a short filler scenario as a change of pace from your normal campaign, then I recommend you go and take a look - it’s a fun one.

I also ran a game at my friendly local board games cafe, Meeple Perk, for Greg Day (as it was unofficially called). Not Lightless Beacon as I’d already playtested the cut down version there - plus, my feeling has always been that if you’re getting a free game, do you really want me to run it for you in a shop or cafe somewhere? Why not take it home to share and enjoy with your own group instead? Spread the love/joy, etc. But maybe that’s just me...

Instead, I decided to design a short scenario actually based on something Greg had written - and he never actually wrote anything for Call of Cthulhu, so I had to get a little creative. I asked David Larkins, line editor for the King Arthur Pendragon game, if there was anything that might adapt nicely to CoC, and he came back to me with a few suggestions from the Great Pendragon Campaign. One of them was perfect, so I adapted it. And it ran very well. There’s a really strong contingent of role players at Meeple Perk, and it’s always a pleasure to run something new for them.

And then there was the annual pilgrimage to Neuhausen and the Kraken games convention. I was there as a guest again this year, and it’s always a fun one. There’s a very particular atmosphere you get at conventions where there really isn’t anywhere else for you to go, and the Kraken is always exceptionally well catered. It’s pretty fair to say that it’s a few days of eating and drinking with some serious outbreaks of gaming between meals.

I ran Church on the Hill (the Greg Day scenario) again at the Kraken, but with a few tweaks to see if it would work in another setting. Happily, it did, so it’ll be getting a proper write up at some point next year to act as an introductory scenario for yet another book we’re updating to 7th edition. No, not telling you which one, but there are six people you might be able to bribe to tell you! And I’m not telling you who they are, either...

Church on the Hill was another one of those serendipitous scenarios where the seed and the research collided beautifully. I’d thought of a location to use as a model, but had intended to twist it so it wasn’t set in a real place. But, having gone away and researched the real place (the rather wonderful Church of St Mary and St Hardulph at Breedon on the Hill, a village whose name literally translates as “Hill Hill on the Hill”), I decided that it couldn’t really be set anywhere else. Now all I need to do is actually visit the church. We’ve driven past it loads of times on the way to UK Games Expo, but never been to it. Those of you who know it are aware of how striking it is, clearly visible on its little hilltop, but its history is even more striking and well worth hunting out if you’re interested in the Anglo-Saxon period.

The last game I ran in October was back at Meeple Perk on Hallowe’en, when the cafe allowed a full-on Hardy takeover. My lovely husband ran a follow up to his very successful Alien game, while I got to finally run Untold: Adventures Await with the Scooby Doo set of Rory’s Story Cubes, something I’ve wanted to do on Hallowe’en ever since the game came out. As you can imagine, much hilarity ensued and my four players (taking on the roles of Fred, Daphne, Velma and Shaggy, with Scooby as Shaggy’s animal companion) created two very daft stories that were perfectly in keeping with the property as a whole.

And then it was November, but more on that next time. Although you’ll have to wait a little bit, as the monthly switch over takes place on Dragonmeet weekend and there are museums and stuff to visit...

Sunday 13 October 2019

Sliding into Autumn

Surprisingly, I wasn't at a games convention in September, which made a nice change. We were also at home for a couple of weekends, which was quite unusual for this year.

Not that I wasn't busy, mind you. There was a lot of art, map and handout direction and commissioning going on for a couple of scenario books that are working their way up through Call of Cthulhu's production pipeline. There was also a lot of checking art and maps for existing commissions.

I also got to do a little bit of writing - not much, just a few story seeds for one of the collections I was editing and art/map directing. It was fun, as the majority of my job now is polishing other people's work for publication so writing my own stuff takes a back seat and is usually restricted to writing con scenarios.

And then there was a lot of PDF proofing for projects that were ready for electronic release and getting sent off to the printers for physical distribution. By the time everything I've worked on this year so far makes its way into shops, I'll have my shelf back in Travelling Man Newcastle! (Last time I had a shelf full of "my" books was when everything in the Achtung! Cthulhu line was in print.)

Outside of Chaosium, but still linked to it, I got to complete a written interview for AetherCon, the online games convention. I'll also be taking part in a panel for that, come November. My interview with the Call of Cthulhu magazine, Bayt al Azif, was also published.

Then I was interviewed by a student from Taylor University, Indiana as part of a course assignment, as well as advising a class there who are producing a scenario for Miskatonic Repository. It's always great fun to talk to the students at Taylor, and this class was brimming with sensible questions and interesting ideas. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

And, after a summer of always meaning to keep up with my hieroglyphics but never quite getting round to it, I began translating the Text of Sinuhe ready for my hieroglyphics class restarting in October. Blimey, I'm rusty, and the myriad of odd tenses and sentence constructions mean I'm pretty much getting here on the transliteration side of things, but not so much on the translation side. Still, I do love a good puzzle.

But perhaps the biggest success in September was me getting my accounts up to date and submitting my tax return. I count that as a win!

Monday 9 September 2019

The Halcyon Days of Summer

As we begin the inexorable slide into autumn and the nights are drawing in, I can safely say that August has been another busy month, full of sunshine and rushing about here, there, and almost everywhere.

Things have been all go on the Chaosium front, as I’m sure you’re unsurprised to hear. Lots of art directing for The Children of Fear, for example - artists sending me their works in progress, me commenting on them and asking for corrections, or me sounding out my colleagues to see what they think. (I’m cheating a little by putting this link to the Children of Fear progress report in here because that was released in September, but I hope you’ll forgive a little bit of calendrical shenanigans on my part.)

As well as The Children of Fear, there have been other projects, most of which I can’t talk about - yet. I’m sure there’ll be an announcement at some point fairly soon, but rest assured that the Great Old Ones are keeping me out of mischief.

I also had to turn down a fascinating project because my diary is full to bursting at the moment. It was something outside my current experience for a company I haven’t officially worked with before, and it would have been an amazing challenge, but I knew I wasn’t going to have the time to devote to it that it needed, even though its projected release date is well over 18 months away.

Turning down work is hard, especially when it is something that would allow you to expand your skill base and design experience. But if I’d agreed to it, there was a severe danger that my current work would have suffered, the new project wouldn’t have received the care, love and attention it’s going to need to get it right, and everyone would have ended up pretty unhappy with the situation. The last thing I want to do is let anyone down, or hold anyone up, especially when it’s people I admire and respect (and would like to work with at some point in the future).

So, as sad as I was to have to do it, I decided to pass on this one. I really hope they find someone who can do the project justice, and they already know I’ll be more than happy to playtest it, should it become an actual thing.  Being realistic about time, energy and availability is a hard thing to learn, but not recognising that there are only so many hours in the day and only so much work you can shoulder is only going to make you miserable in the long run. And, seriously, life is too damn short for that sort of nonsense.

But - to cheerier things! August this year was, of course, NecronomiCon Providence time of year, and I was very happy to be heading back there, this time with my lovely husband in tow. He didn’t attend two years ago for a variety of reasons, and then had to listen to me waxing lyrical about what an awesome time I’d had and what wonderful people I’d met. So he was determined he wasn’t going to miss out on it this time around.

Because NecronomiCon is only every two years, it comes with an odd language issue - everyone always refers to “last year,” even though it wasn’t. Regardless, it was good to get back out to Providence and meet up with so many friends and colleagues, and to make new friends and colleagues, too. For a relatively small convention, there is so much going on: a packed gaming stream, a full stream of talks and panels, a movie stream, an art exhibition, and an academic stream, as well as a whole host of dramatic stuff (including our good friends at the HP Lovecraft Historical Society and their Dark Radio Theatre performances).

Perhaps the funniest of these was the night we finally got to see Robert Lloyd Parry and his superb presentation of MR James’ A Warning to the Curious. By funny, I don’t mean “funny, ha ha” but funny in that he regularly performs at a venue local to us, but we’re always away or otherwise engaged when he’s there. So we only had to go several thousand miles to see him! It was well worth it, mind you, and we’re planning on making sure we are about for his next visit to the Lit & Phil.

I also had a very nice chat with Mr Lloyd Parry the next day in the dealers hall, and it turns out he and his brother used to play Call of Cthulhu thirty-odd years ago. His brother was the Keeper, and it was the Games Workshop edition that they owned. A scenario in an old edition of White Dwarf had piqued their interest, as it was set in Suffolk, the site of many of James’ stories (The Watchers of Walberswick by Jon Sutherland).

It was a busy convention for me - three games (one for Extra Life, which raised a lot of money for a superb cause), two panels (both of which seem to have been well received based on the feedback I, and others, were given), and a day on the booth encouraging people to give us their money in return for beautiful things. I like being busy at conventions, although it does mean I don't always get to see much of the rest of the programming. And I largely resisted giving all my money to the other stallholders!

During the convention, I managed to have stuffies again, and finally located Dave's Coffee so I could try coffee milk, another Rhode Island specialty. (It's very good.) And, of course, there was the wonderful Ellie's for breakfast most days, even though they did scare us by moving since last time. The last event we went to was the Dunwich Horror Picture Show. It's still an awful film, and the print they have is in severe danger of either self-immolating or disintegrating into a million pieces, but the live band is great and it's nice to have a definitive end to a convention - so many just sort of fade out, leaving everyone bimbling around and looking a bit lost as people drift away over the course of the day.

It's often sad to leave a convention, and it's especially sad to leave NecronomiCon. The organisers and their minions do a wonderful job of making it a fun, safe gathering and Providence is a comfortable city to wander around. And then there's the people we have to say goodbye to. The podcasting and gaming community at NecronomiCon is a very special one, and I miss those reprobates a great deal now I'm home.

So, see you all again in two years?

Saturday 10 August 2019

Let Loose in Europe

As you might have guessed, July was also a somewhat hectic month, for a lot of reasons. Chaosium continued to keep me good and busy on the work front, but that isn't going to be the focus of this month's blog post (partly because I'm writing this away from home and the Oracle, my faithful desktop paper diary where I record what I get up to work-wise each day, so I can't check exactly what projects - secret or otherwise - I was working on. And there were a *lot*).

July saw two conventions: DNA Fantastyki in Wroclaw, Poland, and Ropecon in Helsinki, Finland.

The first one I attended was DNI Fantasyki, as a guest of Chaosium's Polish language licensees, Black Monk Games. I'd met the team when I was a guest at CarcosaCon in March, and I was looking forward to spending time with them again and getting to know them a little better. The convention took place in another castle, this one converted into the local arts and cultural centre. The Zamek was also surrounded by extensive parkland, and was a very fairytale style castle - much less vampire-inspired than Czocha!

I was collected from the airport by Joanna, my convention liaison, and taken to the hotel, a few miles from the convention site, but very comfortable. Joanna then took me into central Wroclaw to show me around which, of course, included a little bit of dwarf hunting. Later on, after I'd got back to the hotel and had a nap, I went for a walk to the next door Stadion, to discover that there was a hot rod motor show on there. Many of the attendees were staying in the same hotel as Fantastyki's guests, which was quite an unlikely pairing (although not quite as odd as the time we were at a Doctor Who convention and a bus load of Peter Kay fans arrived to stay for the night after a gig).

I took part in three presentations at DNI Fantastyki: one about upcoming Cthulhu products (that one was mostly in Polish, which was fascinating to listen to), one about what's best in Cthulhu, and one writing workshop. I also ran a session of this year's con scenario (Breath of Angels) and got to play in a storytelling game. A lot of the time, though, was spent sitting in the sun and talking through projects with our licensees. And playing on trams, if there wasn't a convention-organised taxi to get me where I needed to be.

One of the lovely things about the convention is that, because the castle is a community cultural centre, the con organisers want the locals to enjoy the convention, too, so you only need to buy a ticket if you want to go to the talks inside the castle. Everything in the park - the traders, the boffer sword people, the archery people, the food trucks, the beer tents and the music stage - were all free for whoever wanted to come along. As a result, there was a huge variety of people in attendance: cosplayers, gamers, locals, slightly confused visitors...

After the convention, I had a day to myself in Wroclaw, where I went dwarf hunting with a vengeance. I got a little over 70 of the little blighters, although some I must have walked past, going off the tourist map that allegedly showed where most of them were. Joanna once again collected me on the Tuesday to get me to my flight, and I headed home after a great weekend at a small(ish) but highly relaxed and fun convention.

Next up was a much larger convention: Ropecon (just a little under 5,000 this year). When we were in Germany for mini-Kraken in June, Richard received a text message from one of his Finnish LARPing friends, asking if I would be available as a last minute replacement Guest of Honour for Ropecon as, unfortunately, one of their original guests had had to drop out.

Now, I was sure I'd heard of Ropecon - all extremely good things, I hasten to add - but I just wanted to make sure I had the right convention. A quick check with friends on FB confirmed that I really would be an idiot if I said no, so I didn't - I happily accepted the invitation.

Unfortunately, I was due to fly to Helsinki the day after the Great Debacle at Schiphol Airport, which meant my flight was cancelled the night before and there was no getting through to anyone at the airline to sort the problem out due to, as you might expect, tens of thousands of people being stranded and/or without flights. Yes, it was exceptional circumstances, but the airline didn't exactly cover themselves in glory in the days that followed by the way they (mis)handled it. But that's another story...

Anyway, by just sorting myself out and buying the last seat that could get me to Finland in time for the convention, I made my way from Newcastle to Paris, then on to Helsinki, arriving much later than planned but there, nevertheless. I was collected at the airport by Massi and Veemelli, along with fellow guest, Jon Hodgson, who we've known for donkey's years. After a good chat in the car on the way to the hotel, we made some arrangements for sightseeing the next day, and went to get some sleep. (By that time, I'd only had about four hours in the previous 48, so I was a bit worn out.)

Let me just say: never have I been so well looked after at a convention. Not that I've ever not been looked after at  convention where I've been a guest, but Ropecon really took it to the next level. We were given a water bottle to make sure we stayed hydrated, awesome convention T-shirts, and a phone so we could get in touch with the organisers whenever we needed to. We had a translator (Veemelli) for the opening ceremony, gala, and closing ceremony so we knew what was going on, as well. We were thoroughly spoiled, which was lovely but a bit odd. At one point during the weekend, Jon lent over and whispered, "How's your impostor syndrome doing?" To which I replied, "Not great. Isn't it just important people who get handlers?"

(I was later informed at the Guest of Honour dinner that we were important people, which always sounds a bit odd, even if it is very nice to hear.)

I was very much kept out of mischief throughout the con: four panels (one about me, one about editing for gaming, one about gender in gaming, and one about the Mythos and gaming), the three big ceremonies, the rock-paper-scissors competition at the bouncy castle, two television interviews (one of them live on Finnish TV!), a newspaper interview, an interview for the convention's livestream (all the panels were livestreamed as well and should be on Youtube, if you're interested), a podcast interview (although his memory card ran out two-thirds of the way through - oops!), a game of Cogs, Cakes &Swordsticks, and recording some promotional material for the con!

I was also introduced to salmiakki (salty Finnish liquorice - lovely stuff), Long Drink (lonkero; gin and grapefruit soda - also lovely stuff; it was invented for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics by the grandfather of the woman who was our panel moderator for the gender in gaming discussion, and apparently one direct translation of its name is - wait for it - tentacle!), Finnish strawberries (soooo good) and the convention tradition of everyone buying vast quantities of sparkling wine because it's far cheaper than beer. Oh, that was a good night - chatting away to Finnish LARPers (most of whom know my husband from his international LARPing exploits) over long drink and sparkling wine until 2.30 in the morning...

And then there was the dancing. Finns really do love their dancing. I was fortunate enough to see them trying to kill each other doing some sort of polka (which basically looked like all the insane bits of Strip the Willow), and then take part in the wolf dance, which really is a sight to behold. Not only were there dance classes all through the convention, but the traditional dancing started at about 8 pm on the Saturday night and, as far as I could tell, was going to go on until everyone collapsed with exhaustion some time in the early hours of Sunday morning. And there was a disco LARP at midnight!

Did I mention the blacksmiths? Because, despite the heat (over 30C most of the time), there were blacksmiths forging away until the early hours of the morning as well. Totally hard core. (I'm pretty certain one of them was actually Wayland.) I may have bought a forged metal D6  - you know, in case any fairies start getting uppity at my gaming table...

Ropecon passed in a whirlwind of friendliness and hospitality. There was a dinner with Finnish game designers (very entertaining, and the best crayfish risotto I've ever had), and a Guest of Honour dinner so we could spend time with all the amazingly hard working convention volunteers (plus: braised reindeer shank, which was really tasty). And then I had to go home, back to my writing hovel (with thankfully little drama).

So, as you can see - another jam-packed month. Two great conventions, so many lovely fans, some great gaming, and some wonderful shared experiences that will stay with me for a long time.