No Game Tonight

We’ve got a general approach with the D&D game that if someone is unwell or hasn’t the reserves to play that we pause. While we stream and do charity events, it is after all just a fun thing to do rather than a job.

On a purely selfish level, the creative writer in me is a bit relieved this week as I’d been struggling with story beats and potential set pieces for the next section. I’ve at least been able to use this extra time to do some poking around in various wiki sites like https://eberron.fandom.com/wiki/World_of_Eberron and the various books I’ve accumulated.

I almost have a plan. It could always go sideways if (more likely when) the adventurers go off on a tangent, but I believe they’re invested enough in the story to be curious about where their current path takes them. At the moment that path is taking them to Thorin’s home and a mounting tangle of mysteries.

The summons home came from Thorin’s long-lost sister. His father’s axe was delivered in the mail. A paladin-Inquisitor of The Silver Flame tracked him down and started asking veiled questions about his sister, and now there has been an assassination attempt.

Like the group, I can’t wait to find out what happens next – this really is part of the joy of collaborative play.

Post-Pride Month Thoughts

I’m tired. I don’t really feel like I’ve had a Pride month to speak of and I’m not sure if that’s down to being incredibly busy, being worn out in support of Trans partners and friends, or as a bi man not feeling particularly part of the community at the moment. Everything feels just that little bit more of a struggle this year – even as I acknowledge that good things are also happening, at least on the personal front.

I think in part, to be fair, this has been down to being focused on family and childcare – these have always got to take priority, and as an extended household that includes cover during half term for smaller people who aren’t quite old enough to be home alone for a couple of hours. It means I’ve been doing a lot of time slicing to help out. I’ve written about how supporting each other is a big part of the spirit of Pride – this year seems to have had that element land squarely on my shoulders – swings and roundabouts I suppose, at least in the microcosm of what my parents have called ‘The Entourage’

A lot of the public focus has also been focused on the Jubilee – a major public event across the nation – so it sounds petty to point fingers at that in any way because it has been a major unifier of communities. I think as I’ve been so involved in supporting my staff in setting up and running events related to it I’ve missed most of the holiday buzz that so many have enjoyed.

Plans on the work front are now focusing on Pride In Surrey, and on some work I’m doing for the libraries on Equalities, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). There’s a lot to do, especially balancing with the day job, but when isn’t there?

So – looking at my social media streams, people are generally enjoying their Pride Months and events – and I will no doubt enjoy the August event when it arrives in Camberley, but none of that buzz and excitement is currently swimming round either me or those immediately around me. As if to illustrate that, I just looked at my phone and saw a reminder that its London Pride tomorrow – and my internal response was a resounding “meh”. Maybe the burnout is coming from being so front and centre in being an active voice – the feeling of banging my head against a brick wall feels particularly ubiquitous at the moment.

I obviously need to get out much much more

Stompy Day

Well, I’ve been pretty productive today, just not always in ways thT I had planned. I’m pretty sure we’ve all had days where a stream of things crop up in quick succession and utterly derails the day. Today was that day for me. Lots of little things that needed a nudge, or a suggestion, or a decision, or a quick chat to resolve.

It’s been a pretty intense few days, but for all that there are some positive outcomes and foundations being laid for great things to happen – which is just as well or I’d be feeling grumpy about now rather than just tired, and nobody wants that.

And another thing, how is it already nearly the end of June?

Corridor Battle

The Sunday game was a pulse pounding battle in the narrow confines of a moving lightning rail train carriage. Assassins had landed on the roof in the night and attempted to separate the cars before focusing on Thorin. We’d left the previous week as a cliffhanger with Thorin and Valenia desperately fighting for their lives as the rest of the group roused from sleep.

This week saw Thorin fighting one on one with a skilled warrior, trading blows furiously while most of the rest of the group were held at bay by a warlock with an unearthly appearance – with tentacles and spikes instead of hair and slightly scaly skin. A detonated bead of force meanwhile had isolated Thorin from Valenia, who was in turn fighting a desperate battle with an orc assassin who was relentlessly beating her defences down.

The turning of the tide came with Kerne being able to concentrate and perform metamagic to extend the lightning of a witches bolt spell to both the warlock and the warrior fighting Thorin, just as the group’s newest member came crashing through a window. They’d climbed onto the roof, avoided the giant bats that the assassins had used as mounts, and made a supremely successful use of acrobatics to swing down between the attackers. As the group managed to finish off the opponents at that end of the carriage though, they could see Valenia fall beneath the blade of her opponent, joined by an assassin who had previously been kicked off the train.

The forcefield generated by the bead of force evaporated at that point, clearing a path for this newest assassin to press the attack on Thorin, while the first attempted and nearly succeeded in finishing off Valenia. It was only through a supreme feat of endurance that Valenia was able to retain consciousness and gulp down a healing potion they had bought before they left home. She barely evaded the attempt to finish her and was able to make a desperate shot with her bow as she lay on the floor to slay her opponent.

Thorin, utterly enraged at this point, was able to slay this new assassin with a fearsome display of prowess and as everyone stood, bloodied and exhausted we ended the session there.

Next week? Well who knows – at the very least some investigations in the aftermath…

Doing The Right Thing (In Games)

I love games that provide at least the illusion of decisions and consequences, where a choice in how yourselves a problem has dialogue or cutscene changed or a lasting effect on gameplay or final endings. Who do you save in the first Mass Effect? Do you shoot Wrex? Or do you complete a game in pacifist mode or genocide mode?

I was playing the Seige of Paris DLC for Assassins Creed Ragnarok and chose the harder fight option of sparing the King’s life. I got a rare achievement called Doing The Right Thing, and a number of nuanced responses in cut scenes from different characters that implied other political outcomes and developments.

That’s what got me reflecting that by and large I tend to choose the more moral and ethical options when gameplay offers the choice. Partly because most games version of being evil is just closing crass dialogue options or being a jerk.

I have to say that the decisions are in line with my personal ethics and morality rather than necessarily being traditional apple pie and vanilla goodness; and so may drift according to a given games ruleset. I suppose the ultimate decider tends to be that I don’t like being rude.

If I can help or be kind in a game, that tends to be the option I take, unless a little cruelty leads to a better result for people/realms/kingdoms/civilisations…

Hmmm.

How Bungie is Breaking My Partners

A regular part of the week is where boy s, Lady B and myself team up to play Destiny, usually streaming it on Lady B’s Twitch channel. It’s usually a bouncy fun experience of teasing, mindless shooting, and putting the world to rights.

Then Bungie released its latest Season of Content and started telling a harrowing story that confronts major characters with loss and regrets in the form of embodied nightmares of people who were important in some way to them. As players, we assist in their attempts to bream free of the grip of these taunting entities.

So far, so normal, but the dialogue and pace and beats of the story have been making my partners cry, and occasionally making me wince, as attempts to sever links fail and instead the characters have to come to terms with accepting these dark shadow sides of their regrets and fears. The nightmares are unrelenting in their taunting and harsh observations, in a way that anyone who has wrestled with their own demons and regrets in the small of the night will find arresting familiar.

Through a mix of cut scenes and in-game dialogue we’re being taken on a harrowing story of the need to forgive ourselves and come to terms with the people and events of our past that still hold on with fierce grips. It’s like being beside people doing deep therapy work, and it’s an unexpected rollercoaster that has been deeply affecting us.

Who would have thought that the new weekly chapters of a shoot and loot game all about space magic would turn out to have some of the deepest and sympathetic treatments of loss and regret across a whole slew of popular media currently available, and would be doing so in an engaging way that keeps us coming back for more and caring ever more intensely for these imaginary figures as they reflect our own fears and doubts back at us.

As the saying goes: “I came here to have a good time, and honestly I’m just feeling so attacked” – and as entertainment that pulls us out of our comfort zone, I can’t think of a better summation

Father’s Day

Yesterday was Father’s Day – as far as I am aware, a completely fabricated excuse to sell cards rather than anything traditional (I’m pretty sure it didn’t exist when I was younger)

Still, it’s a nice excuse to do and say nice things, and to recognise the good that most people do. Within a varied polycule of people with various gender expressions it gets a bit complicated until you settle down and relax. My daughter sent me a card and a Viking-style glass drinking horn. The cub went the traditional eleven year old boy route of not even noticing it was happening. I left an answerphone message for mine which I’ll follow up today, and various others had interactions with those parental figures still alive or present.

And for those having a bad day, we gathered round and were found family.

And now back to the grind, time to put the kettle on.

Orcs on a Train

Despite the best efforts of the rain to knock out our Internet connection we spent this Father’s Day evening back in the world of Eberron for the further adventures of the DDC.

Our last session had seen dreams and prophecy mix with nightmares and a redemptive struggle that ended with Caeluma losing some of their infernal heritage and instead growing feathered wings.

By contrast this week saw a brief couple of hours layover at the Lightning Rail station at Passage, where Valenia got lucky and Thorin was discretely quizzed by an Inquisitor from the Silver Flame about the whereabouts of Thorin’s sister and any recent contacts.

And then the journey continued uneventfully for a couple more days. On the second night, a group of assassins landed on the roof of one of the carriages and made their way in. They began trying to separate the front of the train from the rest of it, and seemed intent on isolating and killing Thorin.

The surprise attack was thwarted by Thorin and Valenia both being light sleepers. Thorin grabbed his axe and charged down the orcs leading the assault, while valenia tackled another and kicked them from the train before they could disconnect the carriages.

The rest of the group was roused by the sounds of conflict, and battle was joined. One of the orc assassins dropped a magical darkness in the train’s corridor and a brief but frenzied exchange of blows followed…

And that’s where we left the cliffhanger…

An Achievement

It’s finally official: I have just been voted to be co-chair of my work LGBTQ+ Staff Network which is a great honour, and one I aim to lift and use to help promote and celebrate EDI improvements. There’s a lot to do, but it dovetails with other similar roles and groups I’m working with so I’m expecting this all to be very fulfilling.

It’s not something I ever thought I’d do, or be considered for but I guess all my standing up to be counted and advocating for people in recent years has set my feet wandering this direction.

Interesting times. I hope I can live up to it.

What Does Pride Mean To Me?

I got asked to contribute to a thread on the work forum about what significance Pride has for me – either as an event or a way of living and working. It didn’t take me long to put together the following, so I thought I’d share it here too:

Pride for me – is having the support and acceptance to be my true self, not the facade I constructed for so many years to fit in with family and societal expectations. Its only since coming out and living life authentically that I realise just how exhausting carrying that mask at all times was. Pride is representing each other – supporting those who are actively suppressed, or who may not be free to speak up, or who may be overwhelmed – raising common voices so that no one has to feel that they are alone. Pride is acknowledging our history that is often unseen, and working together to move forward so that no one is left behind. Pride is curiosity, recognising that we evolve and grow over time. Pride is a challenge – facing those who would divide us or oppose us and speaking our truths. Pride is found family, the people we come to know and cherish along the way especially in the face of adversity.

And Pride is fun. Its a celebration of positivity despite everything thrown at us (sometimes literally). It is holding our heads high and being as loud or as quiet as we are comfortable with because sometimes just the act of being visible is rebellion and inspiration enough for people we’ll never know.