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.

Today’s Word: Thoughtful

A bit of a mixed bag day today, with a shortened game session due to Real Life getting in the way for several people. On the plus side we welcomed Danger from my Monday Miscreants to the Sunday Hooligans and had another volunteer to play. We may well have lost another along the way before we’ve properly started, but we’ll see how things roll out across the week.

We booked our Summer Holiday, and I’ve quietly arranged some dog-sitting for Lady P with the Charleesi so she can go on a course. Other than that it’s been quiet, so we’ve caught up on some shows, played some games and pottered around a bit. ‘Thoughtful’ seems to fit the day as a word as it draws to a close. Here’s hoping it looks up as the new week starts.

One thing I am enjoying is the Jawbone UP24. There’s a certain fascination with looking at my walking and sleep patterns when I sync it with my tablet, and there’s some motivational elements going on that don’t feel preachy. I know Lady M wasn’t sure about getting it for me, but I’m glad she did. I’ve configured it to nudge me to keep moving as well as act as a smart alarm, so my geek need to tinker under the hood is being serviced too. Yay!

Today’s Word: Meandering

Both Lady M and Charleesi have studies for exams in the near future, so after the riding lesson, they both buckled down to work while I played some if the new haul of games.

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The first mission of dragon Age Inquisition has me intrigued, but reminded me that I need to finish DA2 (and, technically DA:Origins too), and so I fired up Forza Horizons 2 after Lady M rage quit from it, and lost myself in its gorgeousness for a good portion of the afternoon. I’ve said before that I’m a sucker for sandbox games, and this Forza, combined with the import of drivatars from the previous game, has won me over.

This evening we had dinner at Demonic’s place as a birthday celebration, and came away with the awesome balloon pictured here. I also received a Good Book, sure to bring me relief in times of trial 😉 We didn’t stay late, but endured the horrible weather on the M25 with no more than the usual semi-horrified “what on earth?!” exclamations.

Now we’re home, with a bottle of rose wine with which to unwind. Truly a meandering path through the day, and hence the word of the day for the new journal. Tomorrow brings the Hooligan tabletop D&D game. Can’t wait.

Tabletop Baby Steps

Well, that went well I thought. Four potential players of the six were able to attend, so we took over a corner of the coffee house and I produced stacks of paper, pens and a Deadpool mask full of dice to begin the process of creating characters from scratch.

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Everyone there had played some form of Dungeons & Dragons before, but crucially none of them had played version 3.5 except Lady M; and it had been a couple of years for her too. It quickly became an exercise in shuffling books and dice, with some picking up concepts more quickly than others. Some had a basic concept in mind already, while Lady M let the dice decide her concept for her.

For me, it was a useful exercise in gauging how things were likely to play out. Who was clued up on searching out information, and who was intimidated by the walls of text? Who was looking for the highest combat modifiers and who was thinking how their rolled statistics would inform their roleplay choices?

Over the couple of hours we’d set aside, the first four characters began to take shape. An elven sorcerer, a dwarven cleric, a human ranger (loosely based on Merida from Brave) and a half-orc monk took on substance as skills were chosen and feats debated. With that development began the formation of rudimentary battle plans as each person took onboard a clearer mental image of their characters’ strengths, weaknesses, aptitudes and interests.

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There are two more people confirmed as wanting to play, and another potential player from my Monday group who only lives down the road. If he joins, he’ll have the clearest understanding of how I GM games from the off. Lady M and Charleesi have played a couple of short games, while Lady P and the others have only heard stories or read the blog entries here.

The buzz is quite different from that around the Roll20 screen on Mondays – the mix of personalities is younger and less scarred by enduring my GMing than the grizzled veterans I’m writing about in the Wartorn campaign. In addition, this (probably) Sunday group has an even mix of genders, so I’m expecting some different approaches to the game than the usual testosterone-driven games that I’ve typically had over the years. I’m really looking forward to it.

Another week whizzes past

hobbit barbarian riding a dinosaur
More reasons to hate Bagginses

Where’s this week gone? Having had Monday off to spend time with the Charleesi, my perception of the week has gone into overdrive. Combined with a busy week, I’ve just turned round and realised that it’s Saturday tomorrow. All in all, I’ve been quite pleased to have a relatively slow day then.

I’ve mostly spent it writing, with side excursions to shop for a niece’s birthday present and play Dragon Age 2 – which I only discovered I’d downloaded for free as a Games with Gold a while ago this week. As is the case with many games, I haven’t actually got round to finishing Dragon Age Origins, but now I’ve started 2, I’ll have to do that too, in between the Assassins Creed games. Oh boy…

I’ve had a number of conversations recently about setting up a tabletop D&D game, and today’s seen a bit of a leap forward in making that happen. The manager at our local coffee shop has agreed to let us make the place untidy, so I’ve decided to bite the bullet and get the various miscreants around the table. Guess I’d better arrange some material for that then…

I’ve set up a new shared message channel on Facebook to start organising people and begun fielding questions. Pretty much everyone is new to 3.5, so that should actually help as we begin rolling up characters on Sunday. If nothing else, it should give rise to all sorts of new anecdotes and dialogue – some of which will no doubt end up in stories.

Oh – in addition, I’ve finally got round to writing up Monday’s game – so that’s in the usual place above, and features traps and wandering monsters for the most part…

General Geekery

I had an interesting evening yesterday down the pub with Lady M, the ex-Lady M, Charleesi and an old friend we’ll call Lady G and her partner – as you do – and we got on to the topic of games. Lady G used to be part of a tabletop gaming group I used to run many many moons ago, but has little interest in roleplay games these days.

What we did discover though was a shared love of Cards Against Humanity; and that she is also a backer for Exploding Kittens, so plans have now started to get our calendars aligned so we can break out the depravity, or at least the laser pointers, and have some old geeky fun.

This really is starting to almost sound like we have a social life. How very ordinary. I’ll do a review of Exploding Kittens when we get a game or two in, looks fun and best played with a glass or two in hand.

More Dungeoneering Incoming

I still haven’t got round to writing up Monday’s game sessions, but the day’s not been without developments on the gaming front. I’ve been having casual conversations with a number of people about running a tabletop D&D game too, and putting some thought into the logistics. Today I followed up on a suggestion originally made by Charleesi, and asked the local coffee house manager if he had any objections to our setting up at one of his tables from time to time, and he has no problem with that at all.

So now I’m just in the process of confirming players, at which point I’ll start setting up shared files for online reference and sending out calendar invitations to start creating characters. I’ll start things off with 3.5 as I’m now feeling confident enough from the Wartorn campaign, and because I’ve not got any 5th edition books and don’t fancy learning all the changes on the fly.

So, we’ll see how that goes.

Games roundup

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I’m still playing Sunless Sea and Fallen London a lot, with the campaign world inspiring all sorts of ideas for my D&D campaign. I might even do a little homebrew campaign based off it at some point.

I’m also still alternating between Rogue and Unity from the Assassins Creed stable of games, enjoying the story unfolding in each like an intricate series of flashbacks and flash forwards.

My go-to game for killing a few minutes is still Peggle2, while I really do need to get back into Destiny. Halo is also demanding more play, but the sandbox games are just exerting a greater pull at the moment.

The weekly D&D game continues to be a highlight of my week. This week, the bard learned the hard way not to stand in the breach when an angry dire ape wants to clamber through. I’ll do the proper writeup over the next few days.

Overall, the bleakness seems to be retreating, so the distractions must be working 🙂

Sunday in the Park

I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in West London, and as happy as I am to be rude about Hounslow I do have to concede that we have some amazing parks. One of those, Osterley, became something of a fixture for my family, and then in turn for the Charleesi as she has grown up too.

Maintained by the National Trust, Osterley is largely freely open to the public, and is used by families and dog-walkers all year round. In the summer, it’s a favourite for picnics, and if it snows you can barely move for snowmen.

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Merida, lost in contemplation

Today, it was Charleesi’s turn to introduce someone new to it. She’d taken a few shots there recently with her new camera and mentioned in passing to Lady P that she thought it would make a good backdrop for cosplay pictures. With half an eye on the weather, the challenge was accepted, and that’s why we spent a good hour or so this afternoon, in the company of Merida from Disney’s Brave.

We were expecting some varied reactions, and West London did not disappoint us. Many people ignored us, or pretended to while casting suspicious eyes in our direction, as if expecting us to break out in song while film crews captured it for You’ve Been Framed. Some of the children waved and grinned, with one young girl running to embrace Merida and having a shy conversation before running back, starstruck, to her parents. Her brother had stayed back, hiding behind his father’s legs, desperate not to admit he was fascinated.

Then we had the older generation, shall we say, who didn’t recognise the character or understand why Lady P was dressed up and having her photo taken on a cold Sunday afternoon. We had some lovely confused comments as their brains caught up with them halfway through the conversations.

All in all, a wonderfully different way to spend a Sunday afternoon. We retired to Maidment Towers for hot chocolate, and we’ll see what awesomeness comes from the shoot.

Photo is courtesy of ItsLottiePhotography.

Sketches and Stuff

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This is a doodle in one of my notebooks

I doodle pretty much all the time, which has led some to query whether it is actually doodling or conscious art. My general attitude is: something I’ve started as a few random lines which has then warped and weaved into something else is a doodle. This picture is a good example of that, no matter how complex it may seem.

It has started as a few lines which I’ve then embellished and augmented, and yes I will agree that it is complicated and dense with detail. This is mostly because something here and there will suggest a shape and I will then go with it.

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A doodle that grew into something else

Then I get doodles that become something else, something more like a coherent piece. This usually happens when I’ve moved on to other things and then come back. There’s not usually any motivation other than to keep filling the page, but I’m usually starting to think about composition, even if what comes out is a poor reflection.

I still don’t usually have any great plan, but you might not necessarily know that if you come to the piece unexpectedly, and I’ll usually have writing around it because that’s what I’ve either started with, or I’m trying to carry on something from an adjacent page.

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So, this might be deliberate

Then there are the more conscious attempts at making pictures. They’ll still usually start with some random lines or swirls, but it will be recognisable as a discrete object, character or monster. There will have been some design thought process in there somewhere, usually…

I used to do group portraits to illustrate the adventurers in our Dungeons and Dragons games, way back when. This evening Lady P asked if I would do one for her favourite character over in her gaming group and I’ve agreed.

Should be equal parts fun and frustration I think as my doodles meet my perfectionism. Just keep listening for the muttering.