Sunday, 31 March 2019

Marching On

You'll probably be unsurprised to hear that March was a busy month here in the writing hovel. As well as moving up to the advanced class in hieroglyphics, the last few weeks have seen a few changes, the biggest of which is that my contract with Chaosium is now on a full-time, permanent basis.

I think I can safely say that, when I sent those early Talislanta scenarios off to Wizards of the Coast, I never envisaged that, 25+ years later, I'd be working for one of the most iconic gaming companies in the field. As I think I said 18 months or so ago when I was first taken on as Assistant Line Editor for Call of Cthulhu, it's a great honour to be able to bring old classics to a new audience and develop new material for such a well-loved, and respected, game. Plus, I get to work with some wonderful people. I still have a lot to learn, but I know Mike (Mason) will steer me in the right direction!

I actually managed to get to one of the North East Ancient Egypt Society meetings this month. (Usually I'm away or already booked for something else.) This one was about the recent findings at Deir el Medina, the craftsmen's village for the Valleys of the Kings and Queens. The most fascinating part of the talk was about the partial mummies they discovered, particularly the torso of a woman with numerous symmetrical tattoos, and the disarticulated woman's thighs with a tattooed lotus flower garter belt. So, as you can imagine, that set the old brain a-whirring...

I've been working on numerous game-related things this month, most of which I can't tell you much about, but it included more development work, sending things out for proofing and compiling things into new collections, along with some more art and map direction. And things are only likely to get even busier as I move into my updated role.

The other highlight of the month was, of course, my trip to Berlin for the company summit, followed by CarcosaCon. It's always fun to be back in Berlin, and this time, we got to release the Berlin: the Wicked City sourcebook PDF while we were there. (Where we were staying for the summit was in the same area the first scenario in the book is set, so we all wandered down to the Elephant Gate at the Zoologischer Garten to take some celebratory photos!)

Held in the wonderful Zamek Czocha, CarcosaCon was the first Call of Cthulhu convention run by the lovely people at Black Monk Games, Chaosium's Polish-language licensees. Funnily enough, my husband, Richard, had already been there three times for various College of Wizardry LARPs over the last two years, so I was aware of what a spectacular venue it was, but it was even better to see it up close and personal, rather than just through photographs.

If you're going to hold a horror game convention in a castle, then it really needs to have secret passageways. Czocha has loads of them, often hidden behind movable bookshelves. It was always lovely to see gamers pop out from a bookcase, dirty great grins plastered across their faces.

You also need dungeons and wine cellars, spiral staircases, a mirror room, lots of portraits of people who are probably definitely not vampires (honest), a tower with a narrow, winding staircase and amazing views, a well in which to drown unfaithful wives, an actual oubliette and a small horde of cats and bats. And a gazebo, which, because of the wonderful sunny weather, you can sit out in and play games. (And yes, there were a couple of Knights of the Dinner Table gazebo jokes - this was a games convention, after all)

As is always the case at these conventions, I was lucky enough to spend time with some old friends and have the opportunity to make new ones in between panels, interviews, running a game and the copious quantities of good, hearty food served up by the castle's catering staff. The Polish Cthulhu players were a wonderful bunch, as were all the other gamers, some of whom had travelled quite a way to be there.

I also got to know Andrew and Sean from the HP Lovecraft Historical Society, who are responsible for the jaw-dropping Masks of Nyarlathotep Gamer Props Set and the wonderful Call of Cthulhu and Whisper in Darkness movies, both of which they showed in the library at the castle over the course of the convention. I also got to hear the opening act of their beautifully produced Masks of Nyarlathotep radio play - it's always a bit odd to hear dramatizations and live-plays of things you've worked on, but I'm thoroughly enjoying listening to the rest of this one now I'm home.

So, April is going to largely be a month of finishing off outstanding projects for other companies, but that's a tale for another day...

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

I very nearly managed to write this blog post on the last day of February, but then I got sidetracked - something which happens all too often when I'm dotting about between projects. And February was definitely a month of dotting about, with a bit of snow thrown in for good measure.

On the work front, I was back on tinkering with Children of Fear. It's gone out for a (hopefully) final round of independent playtesting and two very kind Vajrayana Buddhists I know through Twitter offered to proof read it for me to make sure I hadn't got my wires crossed or written anything heinous and/or insensitive. Their feedback was both fascinating to read and very helpful in tweaking some points and clarifying others. Sadly, due to space considerations, not everything they mentioned made it into the updated version, but I've worked in what I can.

I was also finishing up a writing assignment for Call of Cthulhu and the Cthulhu by Gaslight update, as well as continuing development work with the author and playtesters of Sekkrit Project 3. (Sekkrit Projects 1 and 2 are so secret and the last few months have been such a whirl that even I can't remember what they are, so we're all safe - for the moment...)

Having said I can't remember what the Sekkrit Projects are, I may well have been working on one of them for part of February, which basically involved getting everything into the house template document and prepping it for updating and editing. Then there was a bit of a sideways swerve on the last day of the month onto what shall henceforth be known as Sekkrit Project 4 (providing I can remember what that is next time I come to write about it), which is sort of more of the same while also sharing some similarities with SP3...

Needless to say, we have a lot of stuff in the pipeline for Call of Cthulhu, and we're all beavering away to make sure that you're all kept fully stocked with lovely, tentacley goodness. (And Secrets of Berlin is looking amazing, by the way.)

I also got to run some Call of Cthulhu in February as well! Our friendly local board games cafe, Meeple Perk, now runs an RPG night on Tuesdays. While D&D is very popular, they also aim to offer a bit of variation for those who don't want to play it, and I was asked to do a spot of guest GMing last week as part of the alternative game roster. I went with After Dark, my current go-to convention scenario, which is always a lot of fun and highly appropriate given that it's set in February.

I had a great evening, and one of the players was the wife of someone who came along to the launch party in January Her husband had insisted she should come play in my game as he'd had such fun at the previous event, which is always lovely to hear. What's even more wonderful about the launch party is that several of the people who attended (including the gentleman just mentioned) have now got together and run a fortnightly Call of Cthulhu game at Meeple Perk! As I pop in after hieroglyphics class on a Wednesday, I get to go and say hello to them and see how they're doing (usually lots of death and madness, you'll be unsuprised to hear), which makes me very happy indeed!

Speaking of hieroglyphics, I treated myself to a trip to London to visit the Petrie Museum again. I managed something of a flying visit there in December before Dragonmeet, but this time I went properly prepared with my hieroglyphics books and spent a very happy afternoon sitting on the floor translating funerary offerings.

Needless to say, that generated quite a bit of interest from other museum visitors (and staff), so I also got to explain what some of the objects said, especially the one with the spell for conjuring items to take into the afterlife with you. One little boy very solemnly informed me that he would want all the Transformers toys and all the games consoles waiting for him in the afterlife, except for the PS2 (because he already had one of those). His dad looked slightly mortified, but it seemed a pretty reasonable request to me!

As I still had a bit of time on my hands before my train home, I wandered along to the Senate House Library and their Staging Magic exhibition. This tiny but excellent exhibition is nestled between various reading rooms and sections of the fourth-floor library and, even more interesting for someone in my line of work, is composed of books from Harry Price's personal collection on the history of stage magic. There's even a short piece of film of Price performing the goat transforming ritual at Brocken!

February also gave me the opportunity to give two talks: one with my gaming hat on, the other wearing my embroiderer's hat. The first took me to Hexham, where I delivered a talk on the history of Assisi Work to the ladies of the Hexham Embroiderers Guild. They're always a lovely bunch to visit, and, thankfully, the snow had decided to fall the week previous to my visit and had cleared itself away by the time I got there. (One year, we had to abandon the December meeting I was running a workshop at due to the sudden onset of blizzard conditions.) Apparently, one of the reasons I get asked to go up in the winter is because I'm not afraid to venture out that far when there's a danger of dodgy weather! (A lot of the other local speakers won't.)

The other talk was with the students on the Writing and Editing for Gaming course at Taylor University, Indiana, run by my old friend and former colleague at Modiphius, T.R. Knight. This is my second appearance, and I trundle along to chat about writing and editing and being a woman in the gaming industry. As before, it was lovely to talk to the students and answer their questions. I personally believe that part of my role in the industry is to mentor and encourage fresh blood so that there is a new generation ready and able to pick up where us old fogies leave off, so having the opportunity to do something like this is important to me, as well as being a great honour and privilege.

The last thing (pretty much) that I did in February was go to see the touring production of The Mousetrap. I've been meaning to try to get to see this in London for years, just never quite got round to it. So when I found out it was coming to a local theatre, I bought tickets. Those of you who know me know I love my cosy and historical murder mysteries, and Dame Agatha is one of the finest proponents in the field - although it's important to remember that her stories were written as contemporary pieces, something we tend to forget now.

Yes, I figured out who the baddy was almost immediately (no, I'm not saying who it was - and they ask you not to tell as they take their curtain call at the end) because I've watched and read far too much Christie not to spot them, but I enjoyed it immensely nevertheless. There was a good deal more humour in it than I was expecting, including Christie poking fun at her own tropes and tricks, and it evoked the 1950s very well. (The play originally opened in 1952 and is the longest running stage production in the world, if I recall correctly.)

But even there, I couldn't get away from the day job, as one of the actresses (Harriett Hare) is also a voiceover artist for Games Workshop's YouTube channel!

Gaming - it gets everywhere...