Mod Mode

I can write about this now its been announced: I’m trialling being a moderator for the UKCC Facebook group for a few months to see how it goes and how it fits with my other commitments.

The UKCC is the UK Cosplay Community group, and I’ve been involved with them over the last five years or so as a positive and family friendly bunch of folks. I’ve made good friends both at conventions and just generally during the lockdown as online support has become more prominent and helpful.

Purely by coincidence I turned down an invitation to become an administrator for Squad UK about the same time because I knew I wouldn’t be able to give it the attention it really needed. By even bigger coincidence one of the UKCC admins has just taken on that role with Squad, further proving how small the cosplay world really is.

Good luck everyone!

The Great Cosplay Punch-Up

One of the things I am taking encouragement from is that large numbers of my fellow geeks and cosplayers aren’t letting the lockdown get in the way of community, support, or even common sense. There are increasing numbers of videos doing the rounds of showing people’s makeup, or cosplays, and even stuntwork – and so we decided to pick up on it and combine all three. Its by no means a unique challenge – as of the time of writing I know of at least one other group who have released on – but with 46 different cosplayers presenting 51 different costumes, we think this is the biggest one so far. The original facebook post by TJC Cosplays can be found here, but I’ve uploaded a high definition copy here too:

Hope you enjoy, if only for the sight of me getting punched in the face to start it all off.

The full list of cosplayers and their instagram pages is at the end of the video – and here’s a copy to save you scrolling through – go have fun looking these people up as they’re an amazing bunch of people and I’m very proud to have been able to join in on all this together with them:

We’re also planning a follow up with new characters and extra faces, and I’ll post updates and results here as that takes off

Inktober Shenanigans

I seem to have been drafted into taking part in this year’s Inktober – a challenge to draw and post a picture every day.

But wait, I hear you say – only one picture? Who are you kidding? It’s getting to stop drawing that’s usually the challenge.

All true, which is why I sound a little bemused, because I usually throw away 80 percent of my doodles, or evolve them into ever-larger canvasses in sketch books so it’s harder to note what’s been done on any given day.

So what I’m trying to do is use the daily prompts to force me out of my comfort zone of drawing grotesques and snarling demons. I’m posting things mostly to my Instagram account, which advertises to Twitter as well, and thence to Facebook.

It’s an intriguing exercise, and one I’m glad I’ve taken on.

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.


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?

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.


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.


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.

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.

Archery Lesson

One of the cool things about changes in staff line-up is that as you get to know the new people you work with you sometimes find people volunteering unusual and distinctive hobbies. Case in point has been the recent revelation that one of my colleagues is an archer. She in turn has been fascinated by the tales of horseriding that I’ve been telling about my daughter and that our main nickname for her these days is ‘Charleesi’ – loosely inspired as a conflation of her name and that of ‘Khaleesi’ Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones.

Jokes have abounded about Charlie learning archery on top of her riding – perhaps summoning images of Attila the Hen, leading her own barbarian hordes to overrun the world in the shadow of dragons (well okay, perhaps our conversations get a little surreal between serving customers). All of which led to wondering whether Charlie actually would be interested. So I asked her. From the way her eyes lit up and a grin appeared I knew this was going to be fun. So this weekend we arranged to go to a field out the back of the BP Headquarters in Sunbury with Alice, who is a member of the local archery club.

Arrow nocked, bow ready to shoot
Charleesi takes aim

We went through safety and range discipline instruction before watching Alice assemble and string her bow and the lesson began. After her shoot and then walking the range to retrieve the loosed arrows, it was our turn.

Alice’s bow is a 24lb draw, and so no one was expecting Charleesi to hit the 40 yard target. Alice believes that if Charlie does take up archery that she would probably start with a 16 to 18 lb draw bow, for example. Nevertheless, she was regularly getting the arrows to fly a good 30-35 yards and more or less in the right direction. Her regular riding experience was definitely showing in her upper body strength and  positioning.

When it came to my turn – because let’s face it if the opportunity is offered why not take it – I was tending to overshoot the target. It gave me a new-found appreciation for how difficult archery is compared to how it is shown in film and television – or simulated in games like Dungeons and Dragons.

nocking an arrow
you learn all sorts of things about your coordination when nocking an arrow

There’s certainly something very soothing about archery. I found the rest of the world fading away, narrowing down to my view to the target down the shaft of the arrow. There’s a satisfaction to be found in the thrum of the bowstring on release that as a first timer meant I didn’t even care if I hit the target or not.

Perhaps there’s something primal about it – its  purely the storing and release of muscle power to propel that arrow far further than you could throw it. Arrows don’t fly straight, which is a little counter-intuitive, but spiral through the air instead, which to my mind makes the sport as much art as science, with just that little bit extra randomness in the process than you might expect from shooting a rifle, for example.

And then there’s just the plain satisfaction of it – comparing notes with Charleesi later – we both agreed that there’s something very cool about bow use. Look at archers in films in recent years – Legolas in Lord of the Rings, Hawkeye in the Avengers, Katniss in the Hunger Games – and there’s something indefinablyimpressive about the combination of hand-eye coordination and strength required that absolutely resonates when you’re doing it yourself.

bow string injury
This is why you wear a protective arm guard when you use a bow

The day, sadly, was not without injury. My own, in fact, which just highlights the need for proper protective equipment and awareness when shooting. Don’t worry, I didn’t get shot. My arms are considerably thicker than Alice and Charleesi’s, and we were using Alice’s forearm guard to protect against the slap of the bowstring when releasing our shots. Towards the end of my last round of shots the velcro fastening slipped enough that the first couple of shots moved the guard down my arm so that the next couple of shots smacked straight into unprotected skin.

As you can see in the photo, it easily broke the skin and bruised the surrounding flesh, and writing this about a day later I can testify that that you are certainly very aware of the wound for some time.

Will we do some more? I think we will. Asking about training costs and club dues were all very reasonable, so perhaps once we’ve had our Disney experience this summer we’ll be looking to take archery up on a more regular basis