Nearly the Weekend

Nearly, oh so nearly there, with a long Bank Holiday weekend almost here (even if I am working on Saturday). Tomorrow I’ll be playing some more Neverwinter for a couple of hours, and otherwise being a house husband in between trying to transcribe yet more chapters of the book.

Today has gone quickly, and to be honest working with the public has been a good distraction as I’ve still been knocked sideways a bit by yesterday’s session. It also helped to have a good general chatter with Lady P between customers, and make some tentative plans for next weekend. This weekend we’ll be joined by the Charleesi, so Age of Ultron and possibly some Thorpe Park rollercoaster shenanigans beckon.

I’m also starting to plot for Lady M’s birthday later this year… Seeing as we’ve had to cancel our New York plans, I think a series of London-based bar events may be in order. I have some research to do on literary bars and may need to do some field study. There may be a call for volunteers to assist me in this…

Write-Ups and Memories

Black13thSo, we’re finally back in action with the Monday night group after a couple of week’s hiatus. I’ve just written up Monday’s mayhem, so that can be found in the usual place, or you can follow the link directly.

This week is not giving up without a fight, it has to be said, but at least it’s from a positive place. I had counselling today and it’s stirred up an awful lot of painful memories so I’m a bit raw today. Fortunately I have a good support network of people who care for me and so I’m already starting to feel brighter, ready to kick Thursday to the curb if it starts copping an attitude.

The positive elements of this are that the upset has come in a therapeutic context rather than in random memories and mood swings, and that it actually means I’m healthy enough to start to process and come to terms with how the depression really started to come in and colour everything way back when. It’s painful, but I’m better equipped to make sense of things now than I necessarily was at the time.

All the same, I’ll not be upset when I’ve had enough of today. At least there’s not the sense of futility that can come with mood swings out of nowhere. I know why I’m feeling bad, so I can deal with it better. So that’s positive.

A Call To Arms

I saw this on Tumblr somewhere. It seemed relevant

It’s not often you get an unexpected plea to come rescue someone, unless you’re Batman I guess, or you live a life of drama. I do my best these days to avoid drama because it’s so exhausting, though I can usually appreciate it when I see it, if only so I can use it in a story.

In this instance I got a call to come help moderate the Artyfakes stream, specifically to help cheer up Tabby. It’s fair to say she wasn’t looking as bubbly on-screen today as she normally is. I hadn’t intended to be online this evening after working until seven but if there’s one challenge I’ll rarely back down from, it’s one of putting a smile on people’s faces. This could mean only one thing: more #MadeUpModFacts.

My particular favourite was the proclamation that this evening’s facts were brought to the stream by the Voice of the Mysterons. Other highlights included some truly fowl jokes about Chinese Takeaway Ducks, the high profile splattering of trolls with the banhammer, and the revelation to the stream that Lady P was our concubine in chief; which was totally ignored by viewers distracted by the thought of Tabby and Lady P’s upcoming road trip date at Cadbury World.

Lady M was seen smirking gently as she read the chat channel while our binge-watching of Castle series 6 continued in the background; and it turned into a great evening of laughter and chatter quite in contrast to the more mundane day of shenanigans at the library that had preceded it.

It cheered up Tabby, cheered up Ladies M and P, and yes, continued to cheer me up. Told you this week would carry on getting better

A New Week


Right, I’ve had enough of this gruelling entropic grind. This week is going to be better, even if I have to bend the spacetime continuum over my knee and spank it to make it happen. It’s a lovely clarion call to arms, I know, but of course it’s never quite that easy to shake off low moods and disappointments. I may be quite capable of massive acts of self-delusion on occasion but I’m not stupid.

Still, the signs are looking positive. I’ve been able to be a supportive voice for a number of people today – something that’s very difficult on lower ebbs – and had a productive day at work. In large part that has come from saying F**k It to the world and throwing myself into things again. If you’ve not heard of, or read, this amazing little book, then you might find it worth a bit of your time to dip in. I’ve found it very helpful.

We also had a successful D&D session this evening, blending prepared material with fresh insanity and elements plucked from players’ unguarded comments. Secret Agents, check. Adventures on the high seas, check. Missing adventurers, check. Abandoned ruins, check. Unnatural perversions of reality in unexpected places, check. What’s the worst that could happen? They may just find out soon…

So, this week is going to carry on getting better. Today has been a very good start.


Keep Calm and Use the Konami Code
Keep Calm and Use the Konami Code

Well, it’s been an interesting few days – which feels like that’s meant in the context of the ancient chinese curse. I’ve generally felt too tired to update this blog for a few days, but I have been continuing to help out with moderating the Artyfakes Twitch streams. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the things I do to keep the chat channel moving is insert cheeky fictional facts about the hosts and the other moderators. They are usually surreal, or include in-jokes, but they seem to be popular enough and various regular watchers have begun to contribute their own during the streams.

Here’s a few of the more interesting ones I’ve thrown into the mix this week, all prefaced with #MadeUpModFacts:

  • The next Hearthstone expansion will open new chapters based on the number of cans of Monster consumed by Tabby.
  • The camera is powered by Nick on an exercise bike.
  • Ludd was recently seen taking over the controls of a quad-bike to train his pet raptors.
  • Every time the banhammer swings, a new duckling is rescued by Nick.
  • Squeakehb recently thought that an advert for a lab assistant would be filled by a puppy.
  • Mama Mod has been seen looking for a new safe for the Tabby Snacks
  • Darklord recently discovered a hidden treasure map on the back of the prints on his wall.
  • All the moderators have been signed up to give an acrobatic ice dance at the BBQ, choreographed by the Chuckle Brothers.
  • Nick has a new hobby – dressing up as the Muller Rice advert bear.
  • Everyone at the BBQ event will be given random name tags so that no one knows who anyone is. It’ll be just like the internet, but in real life.
  • All commissions are delivered by flying monkeys that were hand reared by Tabby herself.
  • Nick’s secret superhero identity is [censored by Mama Mod].
  • Tonight’s lighting is provided by the Nodding Wizard.
  • At the end of this broadcast, appraisal forms for feedback will be mailed to all viewers.

So, what’s the catch with Neverwinter?


The traditional MMORPG model used to be that you paid a monthly subscription to the publishers for the privilege of playing. The money went to recoup operating costs for hardware, bandwidth, development and active curating.  Examples that spring to mind from games I’ve played in the past include EVE Online, Star Wars Galaxies, Elder Scrolls Online, and City of Heroes. To that you can add World of Warcraft, which is still to many the big boy on the block.

It’s not the only model though. Guild Wars had no subscription fee at launch, choosing instead to charge for its various expansions or chapters but then allowing unlimited play. Other games have started as subscriptions-based, but then moved to a Free To Play model, where the basic form of the game is free, but other features need buying to unlock extra content. Star Wars: The Old Republic is a prime example of this approach.

The rise of DLC got console users used to micro transactions in games, but the prospect of paying a subscription on top of the fees required for online console services has proved too unpalatable to most. This is where Neverwinter on the XBox One seems to hit the sweet spot so far.

The game is free, and so far does not seem to be crippled in any way. There are a number of currencies available as rewards for different activities. Your basic missions will give you classic coinage and loot, but daily invocations or raid-like missions also grant rewards in other, more esoteric, currencies. You can also buy another currency with a straightforward credit card transaction that unlocks certain treasures, mounts, races, or pieces of equipment.

That then could be considered the catch to the Free part of Neverwinter, but so far on my play through I’ve not actually felt that I’m missing out on any content by playing through on the game as downloaded. My experience has been so far that its a good game to dip into casually, but there are also deeper complexities to be explored. If I find that anything serious is blocked by sticking to the Free version, I’ll report it, but I suspect it’s largely a matter of bling, or of saving time.

Sunday Hooligans Group

As I might have mentioned before, I’m running two Dungeons and Dragons groups at the moment – with varying degrees of wanting to pull my own hair out as we get stuck in. The ever-pulchritudinous Lady M has stepped into the breach to try and document the adventures getting started over there in her blog, so pop over and show her some love if you’ve got a spare moment.

We’re basically running through an adaptation of material found in the classic Temple of Elemental Evil series, fused with extra material and the whimsy of my caffeine-addled brain. My personal favourite moment of the last few weeks was the adventurers being so panicked by the sight and sound of a swarm of bats that they preferred to run headlong into a room with an angry giant adder. Of such moments are low level adventuring gold crafted…

Neverwinter On The XBox One

Like an awful lot of people I played the original Neverwinter games as they emerged from the series of strong Dungeons & Dragons PC games developed by Black Isle and Bioware, so the news that a new title was coming out certainly made my ears prick up. I don’t play very much on the PC any more, mostly because I don’t have the budget, time, or desk space to dedicate to a gaming rig, and mostly play on consoles these days. That’s mostly why I didn’t pick up on Neverwinter when it launched on PC as a MMORPG – that and the fact that I was still playing EVE regularly and didn’t want to stretch either my wallet or time any further.

Fast forward a bit and the free release on the XBox One reminded me that it existed so I downloaded it and rather tentatively gave it a go. I’m glad I did, and it’s not just for nostalgia’s sake.

Neverwinter is a firmly traditional fantasy game with a rich tradition in games that have been published in the setting over the years. That history can be seen everywhere, from flavour decisions in character making, building and character design and naming conventions and in the lore liberally scattered around the place. There are enough players and NPCs around to feel that the city is a living and thriving location, matched by opponents that respawn fast enough to make their faction’s threats feel credible.

Considering how steep some games make their learning curve (I’m looking at you EVE), I was pleasantly surprised at the way the narrative was employed to peel aside the layers of complexity available to you as a player without feeling restrictive. In some ways that comes from the levelling system that (appropriately) feels entirely helpful and natural here – at least to this grizzled tabletop campaigner.

I’ve played through to level fifteen so far, and this morning spent some time unpicking the complicated process of talking someone through joining for a multiplayer group session. This took a bit of perseverence and I’m not sure if that was down to the XBox Friends/Party system or the Neverwinter shards/instance implementation. I suspect a little from column A and a little from column B – or at least the interface between the two. That said, when we’d managed to get into the right shard and team up it felt very smooth and the only disruption we had came from a technical issue with the other person’s XBox rather than any network or server-side problem.

Graphically, it feels a little last generation – but not unbearably so, and the sheer amount of things going on at once and the speed and ease of doing things make these part of the charm of the game. There’s a quietly retro feel to the game that I think is entirely appropriate. We’re not talking blocky Minecraft-style graphics or horrible glitches, but don’t expect to be parkouring around the neighbourhood.

I really like it – and I think I’ll be wandering around making myself a nuisance there for a while. There’s a huge amount of material and options that I’ve only just started to look at – including the professions minigame, crafting and making sense of the daily dungeons and alternate monetary systems at play. There’s a lot here that I suspect would make more sense if I’d ever played World of Warcraft – but beyond a ten minute demo a number of years ago that’s not been on my radar either so I’m learning a lot of this wholesale.

I’ll post more (spoiler-free) as I go along – there’s quite a lot to play with, which is always fun with a free-to-play game.

Chaos Continued

Well, that’s been another fun day of chaos and misdirection, but funnily I feel happier about things than I did twenty four hours ago. Work today was characterised by waves of people with random requests and relief staff not actually having been asked to turn up despite their name being on the roster.

My favourite customer was the elderly gentleman asking for a book about an unspecified war that was so thick, and about this tall and wide. He could not quite grasp that I might not be able to immediately resolve his request from just that information.

No game this evening due to various people being ill or on holiday, so that’s more time for me to craft what looks like becoming a bit of a Lovecraftian take on the Pirates of the Caribbean. I’ve never had so much fun being unconventional.

Weekend Chaos

Well, I’ve managed to write up last Monday’s game, so I guess I’ve managed to achieve something this weekend! A busy day of work at the library, unexpected hiccups in getting us all to Lady P’s birthday bash and then a slew of people being ill/unexpectedly tied up with family meaning we cancelled today’s game has at least given me some time with the Charleesi while she revises for her upcoming exams. We’ve had some lovely Harris and Hoole coffees, people watched and traded quips with various staff as they’ve popped their heads round to say hi and see how we are.

On the console front, I’ve been enjoying getting to grips with Neverwinter on the XBox One – I’m running around as a half-orc warrior, enjoying laying about me with a huge sword and soaking up the atmosphere. Charleesi has created a warlock, and last I saw was running around zapping zombies, and later this evening I’m provisionally booked in to spend some time with an ex-editor of mine as we test the multiplayer elements and see what carnage we can unlock. If that works properly, I’ll be suggesting a team up Twitch stream with Lady P or something, see how the MMORPG elements work.

So, all in all, a bit of a weird few days where things haven’t quite gone to plan, but where I’ve been able to make the best of the rapidly changing options available. Unsettling but fun enough I guess.

Oh, a special shout out to Warren – whose 40th birthday it is today – someone who has stuck with me on my weird and winding journey for far longer than is probably safe, wise or intelligent; been my Best Man, and a very tolerant landlord. Anyone who manages all that and still calls me up to come over for a Chinese takeout with his family deserves all the applause and good wishes we can give him 😉