Pirates of the Thunder Sea

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The Roll20 Logo

The new phase of our Monday group started today, steering their newly acquired ship back home and basically stumbling into as many pirate cliches as I could whip up. We’re playing this game a lot more seat of the pants, so finding the tone is a bit hit and miss. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to fit undead fish-men attacking the ship while moored near a beach in, and have a brace of anecdotes to relay during the proper write-up.

I also seem to have let myself get talked into helping moderate a live stream for someone on an ongoing basis, so need to work my logistics out for that this week. Should be fun.

Work was one of those long slogs, complete with a camera crew shooting a piece for ITV News in the library while I continued to teach people basic computer skills. It feels like its been a long day, but my mood is actually noticeably lighter today. This is probably from actually having some nice customers in, and the continued presence of the Charleesi (even if she’s taken to actively snarling when we sing “Everything Is Awesome!” at her.)

In other geekery news, I’m downloading Neverwinter on the XBox One – well, it’s free and I’ve fond memories of the original games, so we’ll see how it plays when it goes live.

Another long day tomorrow, but a later start, so I can’t complain. Word of the day? “Supportive”

Good Tabletop Session

Despite the wind and rain, not to mention the loss of an hour’s sleep, we managed to get most of the Sunday group round the table today. The adventure was rather spectacular, with a number of huge laugh out loud moments that confused many of the customers around us, and it was good to be in such good company.

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Just in case you were still expecting dungeon crawls all the time...

I’ve gone distinctly old-school on them, throwing material loosely adapted from the original Temple of Elemental Evil at them, pretty much without any warning or preamble. The original adventure, as written, is a classic dungeon crawl that punishes groups that overextend themselves without mercy. It reads as a pretty static collection of rooms, so while adapting it from first edition to an Eberron-set 3.5 edition adventure I’ve tried to bring a more fluid and dynamic feel to it.

We’ll see how that works as we go along.

Afterwards, some of us went to a local pub and played Cards Against Humanity. I like to think our laughter and robust readings of cards and answers served to make people give us a wide-ish berth, but I think it may just have been their being more focused on the football playing on various screens.

We rounded off the evening with re-watching How to train your Dragon 2, and agreeing that Toothless seemed to share many mannerisms and expressions with Lady P’s springer spaniel, Chips. All in all, a great Sunday, with the added bonus of extra time with Charleesi here as the Easter Holidays just started for her. I could get used to Sundays like this.

Clocks go forward in the UK tonight

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Though given my usual casual relationship with time, it may already have happened, in which case this should make for an entertaining timestamp on the post. After a busy day showing Charleesi options for her next laptop, I’m feeling more tired than usual so I’ll probably be even more zombie like in the morning, so that’s something for tomorrow’s tabletop gamers to anticipate.

I’m inclined to put the blame for the tiredness on the tail end of the head cold, which does seem to be moving on at a good pace. If the Jawbone’s assessment of my sleep patterns is anything to go by though, I’ve also been having some very restless nights this week, so it seems to be a bit of a coin-toss unless one is causing the other.

In the meantime, I seem to have passed the cold back to Lady M, even though I think she’s still technically got the first one from six weeks ago (the joys of asthma). An awful lot of pillows seem to feature in our bed at present. I do worry they’ll fall and crush me while I sleep – maybe that’s the cause of the restlessness!

30 Days, 30 Words

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I mentioned last month that one of the presents I received for my birthday was a ‘day a word’ journal. My daughter, the Charleesi, challenged me to only write positive words in it to sum up each day. So far, I’ve been able to do that, despite some less than positive days. I’m pretty pleased with that, but I’ll admit that I haven’t remembered to necessarily write the word of the day actually on the day – there have been a few occasions where I’ve had to backtrack and do a few days at a time.

So, what are the first 30 words in the journal?

Indulgent, Contented, Meandering, Thoughtful, Rollercoaster, Snuggly, Productive, Cosplaytastic, Hopeful, Drunken, Muted, Educational, Managerial, Relaxed, Literary, Charitable, Breezy, Sociable, Challenging, Loud, Chatty, Resurgent, Distracted, Reactive, Agitated, Sniffly, Stuffy, Caffeinated, Anticipatory, Methodical.

Only one made-up word in there so far. I may have to get more creative as the year moves on, as I’m determined not to repeat any of the words either.

Car Demonstrations

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Lady M started her new job about 12 weeks ago, and they are all very happy with her. She’s passed her probation early, and is busy reorganising the business around her in line with industry best practice and lashings of plain-speaking common sense. If I’m reading between the lines correctly as she talks about the people and situations there, they generally seem torn between worshipping her and fearing her wrath.

As a total petrol head, she’s been looking forward to the opportunity to secure her company car, and has apparently been driving people to distraction as she number crunches tax and vehicle performance specifications – often in the same conversation. This week we had the first two candidate vehicles loaned to us. Needless to say, it’s been a good excuse to go for some evening drives.

The experiences have been mixed. The most recent was a one series BMW, specifically the 116d. We discovered the design feature that leads so many to think that BMWs don’t have working indicators, and enjoyed the vehicle’s performance far more than we’d been expecting.

It’s probably just as well really, as the Lexus hybrid we also got to test was so awful that Lady M pretty much trashed it (by putting diesel in the petrol tank). I dread to think what we’d have done if the BMW hadn’t been up to scratch. In her defence, the company policy is to have diesel vehicles, so getting a petrol hybrid and it not being specifically mentioned was a confusion. Yes, there was a big sticker in the rear window, but it was… Yes, okay, we goofed and nearly killed a thirty grand vehicle. Just as well we had RAC cover…

So next week I think a Mercedes A Class and some form of Audi is lined up. I suspect we may go with the Beemer.

Oh, the thing about BMW indicators? They’re designed not to flick on properly. There’s a friction point that, if you flick the indicator stick far enough, makes the indicators flash for three seconds. They won’t work as they do in other vehicles unless you force the indicator past that friction point. At that point it behaves normally. So now you know: BMWs don’t indicate through a combination of vehicle design and driver laziness. Kind of confirms all our suspicions really!

Game Write Ups

I’ve finally got round to updating the last two weeks of the Monday game – I’ve updated the Chapter Three page to reflect them and will likely be creating a new Chapter page to reflect the new and intriguing directions that seem to have just opened up for the campaign.

The last three chapters have drawn heavily on preprinted material, adapted to suit the larger party numbers and peculiarities of play as we’ve gone along. From here, well it gets interesting, and possibly a lot more free-form as I have a mix of prearranged material that can get re-skinned, and an awful lot more general notes and ideas. I suspect we’ll be winging quite a lot for a while – which is actually pretty exciting as well as terrifying…

Headcold Manflu

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No, not the name of a villain soon to be gracing our screens, or even one of the tabletop sessions, but a slightly tongue in cheek reference to how grim I’m feeling. I went to work to sneeze and sniffle at people, and have just now been steaming my head to try and free my sinuses up a bit before bed.

With any luck I’ll be right as rain soon enough. I put up with enough trying to keep my head straight without complicating things with a sinus infection. My immune system is already compromised by the diabetes, so I’m taking a fairly gung ho attack on what is basically a jumped up cold before it gets a proper foothold.

So, if I’m grumpier than usual over the next 36 hours, blame this virus.

Awesome Gamers

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Today went quickly, largely through being busy, and has ended in laughter which is never a bad thing. It’s always been a great joy how the people who play these games participate so wholeheartedly in the collaborative elements and tonight has been no exception. I’d bashed together a couple of potential road trip encounters to keep people interested while we transitioned in to the planned new phase of the game, but I think something rather awesome just happened.

As they were travelling by sea, I thought I’d throw in a swashbuckling pirate attack to spice things up. It was very much going to be a casual combat encounter, but as the rope swinging and cutlass-waving started, the players decided they wanted to capture the pirate ship.

So they did.

I’ve got a lot of quick rewriting and world-building to do, because I think we just diverted the whole campaign into a Dungeons & Dragons version of Pirates of the Caribbean crossed with Assassins Creed: Black Flag. They’ve even got a macguffin that powers that be would like to get their hands on, so let’s see where this goes…

The laughter and sheer joy on the faces of the people playing this evening has done me a power of good, even with the head cold that has detonated in my sinuses this evening. This bodes well for the rest of the week.

Short Weekend

I’m contemplating Monday with a degree of alarm, mostly centred around how quickly it’s arrived back on my doorstep. Today has slipped past and through my fingers, like fine sand. Even though I’ve completed the front page design work mentioned yesterday though, it still feels like a wasted day.

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In part this is fuelled by some small teasing from Lady M about how long I’m taking to wrap up the novel so I can start hawking it round and trying to get an agent. While it was well-meaning, it did tap into some insecurities that the depression has kicked up, and dovetail with an awareness that I haven’t written up this week’s session and hadn’t prepared anything for Monday night’s game.

One anxiety bout later, I did at least manage to prepare some maps and thumbnail sketched some possible sea-borne encounters for my Monday group. As it’s late here now, I’ll just have to write two sessions this week.

Tomorrow also sees week three of the computer basics course that I teach roughly once per quarter. This week is the often gruelling email session, though one person is a whole week behind, so I’m expecting to be a bit wrung through by the end of it. Unfortunately, with such a wide base of aptitudes, skills and experience between my students it’s  proving difficult to judge how quickly they are likely to pick things up. I’m sure I’ve muttered darkly about it before now.

So on the one hand I have people singing my praises about artwork created, adventures provided and customers engaged, and on the other I’m feeling a failure and burden to those around me for not managing to deliver constant awesomeness, being a bit clingy and not focus on what’s important. I’ve even apologised to Lady M for having an anxiety freakout and not being able to explain why.

I know it’s the black dog, that it’s irrational and that I’m being way too hard on myself; it doesn’t seem to make things any easier. I know things will improve, and I’m working to make that happen as best I can, mostly by constantly challenging all the negative ironclad assumptions my miswired brain can throw at me.

The big one right now is the thought that I am essentially unlovable, despite all empirical evidence to the contrary. Might as well go large on the challenges, right?

Design work and dedications

One of the things I’ve got used to while running our Roll20 game is the ability to run and play the sessions from anywhere that has an internet connection. This means that even with people on holiday we’ve been able to play more or less without interruptions – at least when we’re all more or less in neighbouring time zones.

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We don’t have that luxury with the tabletop group, so as Real Life has the habit of dropping bombs in our laps, we’ve got to give this week’s session a miss. The plan is to regroup next week with the full roster of players and start the main adventure. These disruptions are part and parcel of tabletop groups, and on a certain level I’ve kind of missed them as part of the experience.

What I’ve also missed, on a more positive side of things, is the creative artifacts that tabletop gaming tends to promote. Way back when, I used to draw character and group portraits, other players painted figurines, wrote journals and celebrated their love of the game in as many ways as possible. In this new group, one of my players has the same creative streak, which I hope will inspire the others.

He has already created hymns and texts for his dwarven cleric, and now he’s asked me to design and draw a front page for the journal that he intends to document his character’s life and journey. My efforts as a work in progress can be seen in the picture accompanying this blog. I’m rather pleased at how it’s turning out.