Friday 3 August 2018

Busy Bees

So, Flaming June turned into Equally Flaming July here in England, before descending into Somewhat Sweaty With Occasional Thunderstorms July. As someone with very fair skin and a tendency to imitate a boiled lobster when exposed to sunlight, working indoors can be a boon. But, working from home means that, if I have research to do, I can at least escape into my little wilderness (laughing known as the back garden) and sit under a sun umbrella with my books so my vitamin D levels get a bit of a boost.

There was a bit of that in July as I managed to get on with more Children of Fear - technically, the final chapter, although readers of this blog will know that there is another one after it in the book, consisting of support material and random NPCs. Sometimes during the research phase, you stumble across an absolute gem: in the case of this chapter, it was the amazing All About Tea Vol. I, by William H. Ukers.

Written over twelve years and published in 1935, Vols. I and II were the follow up to Ukers' 1922 book, All About Coffee. All About Tea has pretty much everything you'd want to know about tea history and production, and then some. And, unlike some period tomes, it's a really good read - engaging and informative without any stuffiness. Mind you, I seriously doubt how many people nowadays need (or want) to know exactly who worked for all the tea companies in the world in the 1930s, but if you do, now you know where to look!

The first draft of the chapter was completed as July drew to a close, and once again, there's a huge pile of research that never made it anywhere near the book. It may get used again for something else somewhere down the line, but otherwise, it joins that in the gigantic pile of notebooks stacked all over my writing hovel.

I've also been proofing the print pdfs of the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set. Starter sets are a great way into gaming, and Mike Mason's done a smashing job of putting together something that will lead complete novices all the way through from their first tentative steps to running a game for up to five friends. And, once again, Nick Nacario and Chaosium's artists have done a smashing job of making the text look wonderful. As if that wasn't enough, it comes in a box! With dice! (But not ones you have to colour in with a crayon - this isn't the 1970s, you know.)

I also got to go and do a bit of gaming myself in July, thanks to Continuum, the biennial games convention in Leicester. Its predecessor, Convulsion, was the first games convention I ever went to, back in 1992. Our gaming group was encouraged to go along by our RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu GM, John. I took part in the giant Glorantha freeform, Home of the Bold, despite knowing only a little bit about Gloranthan lore, but it was such a fun convention, I went back again for years (with a gap in 1996 when I was working in Canada).

I'm not sure when it switched over to a new committee and name, but the convention in 2000 was the last one we went to for a long time. There wasn't a particular reason, really - it just somehow never seemed to be at the right time for us to make it. So we didn't go back until 2014. I'm glad we did - it was lovely walking in to see so many familiar faces and be welcomed back as if we'd never been away.

Anyway, the convention is a good excuse for me to indulge in a few games rather than just writing and running them. I tend to split my time between short freeforms and tabletop games, and that's what I did this time, too: a totally bonkers Live Aid freeform/skit on Friday night where I played Toyah, complete with bright red wig and 80s makeup, which was a huge amount of fun (in that reality, Toyah and David Bowie ended up contracted to make a record with the Muppets... and that was about the most sane thing that happened all evening); Noir World, set on the Orient Express with a Great Belgian Detective who wasn't M. Poirot, so ended up getting completely the wrong man, thanks to the machinations of the actual murderer; Liminal, where I played a fae who was slightly obsessed with chatting to ghosts while trying to work out why a bunch of villagers on Dartmoor were trying to kill all the tourists; and The Borden Legacy freeform, which was a very Mythos twist on the legend of Lizzie Borden, where I suspect I misread my character background but had a great deal of fun anyway (everyone seemed to think my sheriff should be incompetent, but I thought she was supposed to be like Marge from Fargo - not that I've seen Fargo, so maybe that's where I went wrong...).

I did do some work bits: a panel with Mike about what's coming up for Call of Cthulhu (it's always fun to be on a panel with Mike) and I ran Blue Rose for the first time. I thought I really should get round to it at some point seeing as I'm its editor! The game went very well, and it was lovely to see the players engage with their characters, sitting down and trying to find a diplomatic solution to something rather than just wading in with their fists. They did get the chance to thump something later on, but it was very much a last resort. And demonic creatures do need a good thumping, apparently.

It was interesting that some people were a little put off by the game's "romantic fantasy" tag, assuming that it therefore must be a game about in-character romance rather than chivalric, sweeping fantasy. Not that you can't have in-character romance if you want it, of course! Hopefully I managed to set a few people straight on that point, at least.

Mostly, though, I once again ended up wondering where the month went to. But at least I got to enjoy part of it catching up with old friends I haven't spent much time with in far too long, and with people I've worked with since the last Continuum but never actually met properly. Gaming has introduced me to so many lovely, talented, and generous people, and Continuum was no exception (thanks again for the copy of Monkey, Dan and Gwen - it's great fun, although I bet the people on Newcastle Quayside had no idea what I was doing sitting on the side of the beach with the book and a deck of cards giggling away to myself!).

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