Friday 10 May 2019

Where Did April Go?

I knew there was something I had to do this month. Well, last month, but you know how these things go. But, having been ill for a week in April, I spent a lot of that month furiously attempting to play catch-up, and not entirely successfully.

The month started with me editing the updated edition of Katanas & Trenchcoats. Originally written as a gag and to raise money for a children's hospital, K&T riffs on Highlander and a lot of '80s and '90s over-the-top TV, cinema, music, and games to gloriously silly effect. And the new version may even be playable!

I edited a couple of the supplements for the first version, and they were always highly entertaining, although I did have to be careful with some of them because, never having watched Supernatural, I didn't necessarily get all of the jokes, so always had to check to make sure I wasn't ruining a gag with my cuts and changes. I can also squarely lay the blame for my love of the later Fast & Furious films at the game's door, because I had to watch them for research purposes to edit the car wizards supplement...

Plenty more stuff for Chaosium came sliding across my editorial desk, some of it ongoing sekkrit projects already hinted at on these pages, but also some new bits and bobs that will be out fairly soon as they're small but perfectly formed and can be slipped easily into the production schedule in a way that larger, more complex books can't be. Some of those larger, more complex projects are well on the way, though, so watch this space...

April also saw me in London for a semi-sekkrit meeting about a thing I've wanted to develop for a while. Can't say anything more than that at the moment, obviously, but keep your fingers crossed all the same. All I can say is that it's always very pleasant when someone who's work you enjoy turns out to be a thoroughly lovely person who you could easily spend hours gossiping away with.

The excursion also gave me an excuse to pop up to one of my favourite places in London: the Wellcome Collection - specifically, their Smoke and Mirrors exhibition about the psychology of magic. It being the Easter holidays, it was somewhat packed. There are also a lot of films you need to watch if you're going to get the most out of it, but even bimbling through in a short space of time is well worth it, especially if you run or play mystery RPGs.

Although my hieroglyphics class is currently on hiatus and doesn't return until mid-May, I did get to visit the Barker Research Library at Durham University on Easter Saturday to look at some wonderful 18th and 19th century books on Egypt brought out of storage for the North East Ancient Egypt Society by the wonderful librarians there. As well as some truly beautiful engravings of temples and artefacts, there was a fascinating report by Giovanni Battista Belzoni, former circus strongman turned Egyptologist (the sort of larger-than-life (quite literally, he was 6'7") character made for Call of Cthulhu and pretty much any other historical RPG you can think of), wherein he described crawling through a tomb full of mummies and accidentally crushing them when he had to stop for a rest, then had to stay there for another ten minutes or so to avoid breathing in too much of the mummy dust he'd just created...

I also ran another Call of Cthulhu game at my friendly local games cafe, Meeple Perk. This one was a repurposed scenario originally written for Vampire: the Masquerade some 20 years ago. It only got half-played at the time due to one of the players bringing their friend along to the game; a friend I didn't know who was a total rules-lawyer jerk who wouldn't stop complaining about all the mistakes I was making and how he would've done it much better seeing as he knew everything about V:tM (yes, that guy). I ditched Vampire entirely at that point because I was still too young and inexperienced to tell him where to get off and couldn't face trying to run the rest of my very Gothic, Durham-based (and heavily story-telling-based, as opposed to a "I iz powerful vampire wot can kill everythingz - worship me!" slaughter-fest) campaign with him in the room.

I'm pretty certain this particular scenario may have a slight curse attached to it, though, as things didn't exactly go smoothly to start with on the CoC run either, but by the end it all came together. Several decades of experience and teaching later, I think I can pretty much cope with most things gamers can throw at me, even if it takes a second or two to get my bearings. And there was a lot of laughter, so Breath of Angels is now part of my convention game roster for the next 12 months (at least). I'm not retiring After Dark just yet, but Scritch, Scratch is definitely out to pasture now.

I like to write a new scenario for conventions every year. As I move more into editing, I feel the need to keep my writing skills honed and to create my own thing, rather than purely developing and polishing other people's work. Having that impetus to create a thing for a specific purpose really helps, as well - there's no: "Oh, well, I don't really have time because X, so I won't bother." Because, as happened with this game, it's often more a case of: "Oh, floof, the game's next week? I thought I still had a fortnight to get something prepped! Write, woman! Write like the wind!"

(Which is where having extensive research notes on everything I've ever done also comes in really handy.)

And finally, I started editing a big campaign book for Blue Rose - the last of the big freelance projects still outstanding before I go pretty-much full-time at Chaosium in June. I like working on Blue Rose - the inclusivity and richness of the world is really appealing and the Green Ronin folks are always fun to work with.

So, there we go: another month done and dusted, even if the write-up was a little bit late in coming. Tune in next month (quite probably, knowing me) for what I got up to in May...

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