Hospitals and Runarounds

Another busy week – this week’s game has been written up, with lots of tentacle-on-thief action and surprisingly soggy vampires to boot. We’re getting closer to the final conflict with the vampire and his blade, and I suspect it will either end up as a battle royale or a rather swift bit of lateral thinking will rip the floor out from under the planned set pieces. Not to worry, I’ve plenty more material and surprises for the group – Roll20 has totally transformed our Monday evenings, so I suspect there would be riots if I downed tools so soon.

This week has also seen the start in earnest of my daughter’s looking at places to study her A and AS levels, so I’ve found myself wandering around schools and sixth form colleges – or whatever they’re calling themselves now – finding it all bringing back memories of when I worked IT tech support at West Thames College back in the late nineties. The same smells and slightly faded paintwork, the long corridors of hard-wearing carpet and bare-bones laboratories and classrooms that don’t do justice to the teaching expertise that can shine there.

I suppose I could wax lyrical about where all the time has gone since my little girl was a bundle in my arms, but I’d rather be proud of the self assured and formidable young lady who stood with me and her mother in classrooms and positively glowed as new learning options unfolded in front of her. I loved how she looked at the course requirements for each of the options she was interested in, and found it all reinforcing how she can basically turn her hand to anything she wants because of all her hard work, aptitude and attitude. A proud daddy? Of course I am.

We also found out this week that Lady M’s labyrinthitis could be treated with the Epley maneuver as we sought a private referral to get to the root of her ongoing balance issues. So far there’s a marked improvement, though she has to try and sleep sitting up for the next week or so to help her inner ear settle down. Fingers crossed she’ll be back to normal soon.

Meanwhile, the black dog is biting a bit this week so I’m keeping a quiet eye on that, but then it’s that time of year so only to be expected. Ho hum, onward and upward.


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Fright Nights and Dungeon Crawls

Well, we seem to have made a fair few people jump with our dressing up for Fright Night at Thorpe Park last night. I was a little disappointed to see less people in costume than last year, but we embraced a “sod it” approach and went for it anyway.

commonsenseI joined Lady M and my daughter as a cloaked and masked deatheater, while Lady P opted to trial her new Deadpool costume, topped with a red cloak that we had spare. This led to a combination of reactions to and from our fellow queuers.

We made a point of being friendly/removing masks if smaller children were looking actually frightened, but others got menacing gestures, silent looming or shrieked curses that made otherwise cocky and burly young men leap in the air.

Staff seemed pleased to see we’d made an effort, and other in-character performers decided to not give us any scares; though I’m not sure whether that was uncertainty about how safe to attack dark wizards with wands it was, or being unsure if we were staff.

What we did learn was that some of the hijinks that are tolerated at conventions are not expected at the theme park, with Lady P nearly causing a security alert when she tried to blend with and disrupt a group of red robed actors that we’d thought was another group of cosplayers. We decided to err on the side of caution and eat instead.

We didn’t stay too late as Lady M’s labyrinthitis was making it very uncomfortable, and the cold weather meant that Lady P opted to change into warmer clothing halfway through, but all in all it was a great dry run for MCM London in a couple of weeks.

Oh, and I’ve finally written up Monday’s game session under Chapter Two, Week Twelve – Delving Deep, so go have a read of those musings too

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Rollercoaster Week

Ups and downs this week, with unexpected bad news about the health of one of Lady M’s relatives casting a pall, but great results from the first of her exams and unexpectedly good feedback from a series of job interviews.


It's a bit wet at the stables

The library has been busy, partly from being short-staffed and partly because customers seem to have decided that ten minutes before closing is a great time to arrive and ask complex questions. I have been contemplating engaging Bernard Black shop-closing techniques involving a broom and a loudhailer.

Still, it’s the weekend so once my daughter’s riding lesson is complete we’ll be gearing up for the Thorpe Park Fright Night. Let the chaos begin…

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Costume Developments

We spent a good portion of last weekend making papier mache and experimenting with acrylic paints and ink and I have to say the results are starting to look quite good. With the rest of the costume elements largely being made from existing kit and clothing, the masks are turning into the most intensive pieces of work. Hopefully though they’ll survive the next few weeks and end up being turned into something I can hang on the walls as a souvenir.

The initial sketch pad may have got a bit... embellished... since we started

The initial sketch pad may have got a bit… embellished… since we started

The basic cotton-based masks proved a good base for the glue and water mix I used, drying fairly quickly with some judicious use of airing cupboard space and strategic re-application of layers to reinforce tricky corners and junctions. Most of the issues came around trying to decide how to implement the various design ideas that we all had.

Most of the images found online for references use silver and gold, so those were the main colours that ended up being used as the base, but other hues and decorative patterns can also be seen on both official and fan-made designs, so I was pleased to find a good range of acrylic paints in a paint box that I had completely forgotten I had.

In the end I used a plain black acrylic paint base layer to seal the external surface so that further design work wouldn’t get lost in the text and pictures in the original newspaper coverings. After that we each took time to design shapes that we could cut into card and use as templates.

One of the masks with early silver drybrushing

One of the masks with early silver drybrushing

Some judicious use of water softened the card so that we could mould it to fit the mask contours and backed it with more glue for a secure fit, followed by more paint to help seal the whole surface. Then I dry-brushed silver over the whole assembly to pick out detail and give us a real idea of how each mask design was going to work out.

Death Eater masks are designed to inspire fear, so a bright colour scheme was never going to be on the cards, but I’ve also seen plenty of masks that use a brighter silver background to highlight dark hand-painted designs. I’ve not painted for quite some time, so I was reluctant to dive straight into that route. That’s why we went the card and template route.

I may adapt a cut out template at some point for another design if I do more in the future, as that seems a good compromise between the flow of paint and the structure of inlays. Each of us had ideas of how we wanted the masks to look. My daughter’s incorporates elements that look like a mask on the mask – or possibly a flayed mask, depending on how the colour scheme develops as she would like a little red in the mix somewhere.

Lady M models this year's Slytherin-inspired couture...

Lady M models this year’s Slytherin-inspired couture…

Lady M’s mask is all swirls and contours with splashes of green that suggest the Slytherin House background of many Death Eaters. My own takes cues from predatory animals, with dart-like daggers and stripes and stays with the golds and silvers.

By comparison, Lady P’s ensemble promises to mix bold colours with the dark cloak as a memorable comparison. The contrast should be rather striking, so I’m rather looking forward to seeing what she comes up with with limited preparation time.

For now, I think I won’t be doing much else to the masks, at least until this weekend when I reclaim the table that I usually keep my writing setup on as an art surface again. The final touches may not even go up until the morning before we head out to the event. Alternatively I might leave them, use the Thorpe Park event as a dry run and then tweak them for the MCM Expo in London at the end of October.

My Death Eater mask

My Death Eater mask

Each mask, to date, has about three or four layers of paint and ink washes on them with strategic dry brushing to highlight detail. Right now I’m struggling to find a point where I don’t either darken them too much, or give a cartoonish colour boost.

I tell you, designing these evil masks is a lot harder than it seems. I’m tending to go for more muted schemes given that we’ll be out in public as the evening draws in. Combined with hoods and capes and dark clothing beneath them, the effect should look quite intimidating.

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So, I seem to be about to do some cosplaying

We’re going to go to a Thorpe Park Fright Night again this year, having enjoyed it so much last year. The difference is that this year we’re going to go in costume, having seen quite a few people do it last year. We had such fun at Universal Studios this summer that it seemed perfectly right when my daughter suggested that we go as Death Eaters… so decision made. Then I mentioned the plan to Lady P and how we had no intention of going anywhere near the Fright Houses and she was in too. So that’s four of us unless we get any last-minute additions, who are all going as Death Eaters.

suppliesMy daughter has supplied capes and raided her mother’s boot supply for her costume, while I spent a fun hour or two yesterday wandering around Kingston in various costume and art supply stores. I’ve found some plain masks to use as the foundations for the papier mache construction suggested by the designs that my daughter has been quietly putting up on Pinterest, and a selection of black, white, silver and gold acrylic paints and black ink.

I used to paint figures for our tabletop roleplay games, including the odd bit of Warhammer 40k, so I’m used to working with acrylics to create metallic effects. That means that the transformation of the raw materials holds no terrors for me. Tomorrow morning we’ll be designing the masks themselves and I’ll paint them up when the papier mache is dry.

masksThe wands we bought at Olivander’s will complete the look, but I’ve a few additional wrinkles up my sleeves for the night, if the things I’ve ordered come through in time. If they don’t, there’s enough elements for the night.

The follow on from this is that Lady P is already a cosplayer, having a fondness for Merida and assorted characters as who she attends various conventions. It was only a short hop from doing this preparation to agree to all turn up to the MCM expo in London later in October with her and some of her friends – so hey, there’s at least two outings of the Death Eater family to look forward to.

Wish us luck?


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Game Write-Ups

I’m a bit behind, it’s just been a busy couple of weeks with work and general chaos – so I’ve only just got round to writing up last week’s game. I’ll aim to get this week’s one done this weekend.

In the meantime – well, Destiny. I’ve been playing both solo and with a widening circle of friends, and have even set up an XBox Clan called PessimistChic today to give us a shot at some of the clan-based achievements. Give us a shout if you’re passing – we’re mostly casual and enjoy working out what fits where.

Impressions of Destiny? Well it’s very, very pretty – I think Venus is the most astounding location so far, simply for the lush palette and vistas that open up around every corner. How does it play? Very like Halo – and for me this is a huge bonus. Is it the best story in the world? No, it’s sort of there but I’m not gripped, I’m just in a hurry to get to the next sprawling level or to get out there and explore the massive patrol areas.

It definitely isn’t an MMO, and it doesn’t easily allow for general chatter, making it rather lonely if you’re playing solo or casually… but if you have formed a party with friends and a wider fireteam, well then the game transforms. I’ve been doing missions and strikes and a bit of Crucible PvP with friends and playing socially like that has been great fun. I suppose the advantage has been that we haven’t been exposed to so much of the casual idiocy and profanity so common in online games  – at least no more than we manage among ourselves. Paradoxically then, it feels more social to me as a game, because I’m playing with friends I generally already know or who I’ve made contact with over time.

So – Destiny – gets a big thumbs up from me – I’ll write some more specific odds and ends shortly, going into different areas of play.

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Being British in Florida 5

If there’s one thing that struck me while we were in Florida, it was the difference in driving speeds. Driving on the opposite side of the road, and the rules about turning right at red lights were easy enough, but I found myself taxed far more adjusting to different speed limits.

This makes me sound like some sort of speed obsessed petrol head, I’m sure. As with most observations here, it is a matter of nuance though.

Painting with a very broad brush, my observation of US driving is one where people generally see speed limits and drive up to them, unless they’ve decided to not bother and just push past, mostly on the freeways. The roads are so large, and the amount of space swallows up so many vehicles, that the experience generally feels quite laid back. There’s rarely a sense of rush, just constant motion.

Driving in the UK however… well speed limits are often seen as minimum speeds, and there’s a lot more aggression. It may be sometimes quite restrained, because we’re British, but the tailgating, lane weaving and silent imprecation-mouthing traditions that can be seen up and down our country are a wonder of focused hostility, angst and rampant blood pressure.

Its probably because we don’t have as much space here. The physical boundaries of our vehicles give the illusion of personal space, but there’s just no great space between them.

One of the secret glees of our trip was overhearing a conversation between two Texans wondering why all British cars were so small. The number of facts, figures and conjectures summoned up from thin air were highly amusing, and will almost certainly be mined for dialogue in a story at some point

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