Interval

Was remembering the super dark time in early 2013 last weekend with my pal. Pre-blog. Still in Big4. There was a Japanese film festival playing and they were screening the new Berserk films. We both loved the manga but were dubious about the CG animation that was going to be used. Sadly they were garbage, and had a 5 minute ballroom dancing scene with lifeless CG mannequins. This was meant to be an edgy movie about a dude killing people with a giant sword.

In the interval between the first and second film, which I was praying would be better, we went to the shop and I bought a pound of cottage cheese, 2 liters of milk and a bread roll and ate them with my hands outside the cinema. This is when I was deeply infected with the tryhard disease while recovering from the ingrown toenails and working 60 hours, wishing I would die semi-painlessly in traffic on the way to work. My gf was miserable and trying to lift weights. I was saying I wouldn’t marry her until she could squat 100kg. My friend looked on with disgust as I shoveled the Polish cottage cheese into my mouth.

Back in the cinema, the cultural attaché to the film festival said much of the budget went on a 4 second scene where the protagonist kills goons with a sword in a cool way. The film was crushingly disappointing, and it was impossible to guess which was the scene, it was all so stiff and bland. But we stayed. And then there was the dancing scene that was supposed to be the climax of the film. It was about then I started to question everything in my life that had brought me to that point, and hated myself for letting everything get this bad. I looked like a homeless person and felt like shit. Busy season was over but I was burned out. I dreaded the thought of staying in Big 4, but had no other options in finance or law. In just another 2 months, I fucked my back up and set myself for 2 years of chronic pain. Because I wouldn’t give in and try life a different way.

It was only last week I told him what a rough time it was. At least I know now to jump ship ASAP. Nothing is as good as having options in life.

 

get-help

https://www.scribd.com/document/188457352/Creeping-Across-Time

This appears to be a comparison between a character from Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and the fictional character attached to the defunct lifting/stretching comedy blog Mopewod. That’s easily one of the most specific things I’ve found on the internet.

I’ve never read War and Peace, but fair play to whoever wrote it, it’s pretty good. Is Brent still alive now that he’s out of prison?

Talk about books for MM

If you like military scifi, I highly recommend Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” and “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by the same author. “The Forever War” by Joe Haldeman is also solid. Be careful which version you read, as it’s been edited quite a bit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Forever_War I read those in the last year, so they are pretty fresh recommends.

I also really liked “The Stars My Destination” by Alfred Bester. It’s a very tightly plotted scifi novel from the 50s. If you want to read more pulpy crime/scifi, I really liked “Junkie” by William S. Burroughs, and of course “Naked Lunch”, “The Soft Machine”, “Nova Express” and the “Ticket that Exploded” by the same author. All very much a challenge to read, but they throw up phrases and images that will stay with you forever.

For psychological scifi, I really like JG Ballard’s work. Some of his work is more experimental, but it all feels very current, even if he began writing in the 50s. His life story is easily the most interesting bit of his work.

Further into the cyberpunk/word salad genre, “Neuromancer”, “Mona Lisa Overdrive” and “Count Zero” are at least semi-decent. They are laughably dated, and written on a typewriter, but still radiate cool. Of those, Neuromancer is head-and-shoulders above the others.

If you want to go a bit further afield into Eastern European scifi, I highly recommend “Roadside Picnic” by the Strugatsky brothers. A very dark adventure story from the 1970s about the aftermath of an abstract alien visitation, and the effect it has on the “stalkers” who recover objects from the Visitation Zones. Also made into a film called Stalker, and a the loose basis for the game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

“We” by Yevgeny Zamyatin is a decent read if you like dystopian novels, it influenced many in the 20th century. I’m not entirely sold that it’s a great novel however. If you like Doctor Strangelove, read “Memoirs found in a Bathtub” by Stanislav Lem. If I think of more scifi novels, I’ll let you know.

I’ll do literary fiction next maybe. I define literary fiction as “anything not scifi/fantasy”.

 

For Coach:

I’m pretty divided on ancient Rome to ancient Greece. That period of 600-400AD of Athenian Greece is amazing. But Rome had such interesting stories and insights. If it tips me over into the Roman camp, I have 28mm Legionnaire models and fight my friend’s Celts in historical wargames.

I don’t really have strong feelings on Rebels v Empire  – I would prefer to live in the Rebel section post-war. But I don’t like Jedi as anything other than space knights. While the Empire have snazzy uniforms, I’d hate to pay the taxes required to fund the military.

I’ve never finished Dune, I’ve tried 3 or 4 times, but find the prose too stilted. It’s a shame, as it’s really influential on 40k.  I think it’s had so much sucked from it over the years by other works, it’s nothing but a dry husk.

I mostly read books to feel stuff.

Garbage collection

Started playing Necromunda again this weekend. It’s a 28mm skirmish game in the grimdark future where you control a cyberpunk gang and battle your friends for control of the Underhive. My gang are Enforcers – dedicated to restoring the rule of law in the Underhive. A very fun game to re-learn!

squad

The dude with the machinegun in the center is overwatching most of the field. He downed about 30% of the enemy gang! We’ll play with more terrain next time. I was nicely dug in.

squad2

Outnumbered almost 2:1, I split my 6 dudes and forced the gangers to come to me.  They tried to encircle me, but the heavy machinegun on the flank picked off guys as they broke cover and tried to close with me. 40″ range is great on a small table!

As I was armed with 18″ range shotguns, my opponent’s 24″ range rifles tried to pin my left bunch as the fight developed. Their good cover and elevation reduced the effectiveness of the rifle fire, and they were able to enfilade some gangers rushing the machinegun as they exited the building on the right. The rest of the fight was mostly one-sided. I think my team will have more problems on the attack if I can’t concentrate them. As it stood, sticking together and having supporting bases of fire helped inflict a large amount of casualties.

If I were fighting as the more numerous gangers, I would have made a big deathball of dudes and rolled down one flank trying to conceal my advance behind the buildings. I might have kept a small bunch of dudes to pin down the machinegunner, or at least stop them moving freely. When I had a superior force concentrated on one flank, I’d spring the trap and hit them very hard. All 10+ would have been much harder to kill in one turn.

IOPS

Had these awful meibomian cysts on my eye for the last year. Hot compresses didn’t get rid of them, so I at last got them scraped off last week. There ended up being like 6 on the top lid. Seems like there’s a low chance of reoccurance, but daily hot compresses and massaging the eyelid is the way to prevent it.

I also have blepharitis linked to the cysts, so this should make it easier to manage. Already, my eye is less crusty and swollen.

IOPS = eye-ops

 

group

Starting up painting models last week for campaign my friends are doing.We’re playing 5th edition 40k, which we felt was one of the better rulesets before it got too bloated. 3rd ed was good, but had many ambiguities in the rules.

Most of these models were 10+ years old sitting in wardrobes, and I never felt I could paint them adequately. So they festered in the back of my mind for a decade. It was only this year I worked up the interest to start them. I tried to limit my colour palette and give them a “warm” look with the red and brass. This made me learn colour theory, and improve my skills with a brush. The army will be Inquisition themed.

I have my driving test at the end of next month. Feeling good for it, doing plenty of driving. Think I hurt my Achilles tendon driving in pointy dress shoes though, as well as running too much on my forefoot.

RPGs and investigation

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I’m not a fan of D&D because 3.5 turned my friends into gay satanists. I much prefer wholesome Warhammer RPG games where you roll up a ratcatcher, a watchman, the town drunk and a hedge wizard and die horribly against knights, orcs, daemons or cholera. But the narrative you make together is what it’s all about. No one cares about generic +1 swords. Players want connections. I think more narrative games hit that sweetspot for me.

The Warhammer 40K RPG ‘Dark Heresy’ is a particular favourite of mine. It does melee combat, tactical gunplay, insanity and mutation very well. But the investigative part of the rules is very underwritten. Nowhere are you told how to make an investigation work. This is supposed to be about agents of the Holy Inquisition, rooting out the witch, the heretic and the alien from the Imperium! I’ve run a few games in the past, and a linear A > B > C progression, or going freeform week to week was all I could manage. That worked well when you had experienced people familiar with the setting. But it fell apart when I tried it with inexperienced players unfamiliar with Warhammer 40k. My usual way of running games failed, and it wasn’t enjoyable to play or run. This game only last 3 sessions, partly due to clashing characters and unreliable players. But really because they weren’t involved in the story, and felt lost about what to do next.

6 months ago when I returned to Ireland, I was asked to run another Dark Heresy game for the same group. I thought about what they asked for in the feedback I did following each session: maps for each location and more clues on where to go next. Simply telling them where to go next wasn’t enjoyable for me, and I struggled to make maps for a dark science fiction world.

So I did research to ensure the players were not lost in the setting, and make them feel they had agency in the story, and  an escalating threat to counter. We’ve run about 12 sessions now, for a total of 40-50 hours, and I was very pleased with what I put in place.

Maps:

I edited some generic fantasy maps to have more science fiction elements. While I haven’t drawn many complex maps from scratch, I’ve bashed several together in Paint and they players have really enjoyed the tactical elements of advancing under fire, laying and responding to ambushes, and successfully breaking/making contact as a squad of 10. I even watched ROTC videos on squad and individual movement to challenge them. Great playlist below on this!

 

Situations, not plots.

After a linear intro session, I decided to have more node-based play. There were several options to begin with: A or B or C. They could be tackled in any order, but all the clues lead to the next layer of the investigation. If they blew their cover, or took too long, enemy factions would take appropriate steps to lock down the area while they hunted the players or even unleash a plague to cover their tracks as they escaped.  So the scenario was more about the characters, and the desired ends of the antagonists. This naturally built the story and created tension.

The clues lead to one single location for the climax. They took clever steps to recon the disguised enemy base and degrade the enemy ability to monitor the situation by starting a riot in the settlement.  They prevented reinforcements from breaking through by recruiting an initially hostile gang. While they failed to kill the big bad, and were too injured and unprepared to prevent her escape, they had enough evidence to gain clues for the next stage of the mission.

These four sessions were based off “Edge of Darkness”, which I highly recommend as an intro to Dark Heresy. https://images-cdn.fantasyflightgames.com/filer_public/0e/1c/0e1c1623-734b-48d6-85a8-7ed306132b14/edge-of-darkness-scenario.pdf

Clues:

I try to give the players 3 clues in each situation to lead them to the correct conclusion. Essentially, the first clue should be automatic, and the subsequent clues should be interpreted to find suggest the next possible locations. This lets the players make their own choices and takes much of the pressure off the GM. Edge of Darkness hits several of the points made in this essay:http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/4147/roleplaying-games/dont-prep-plots

Maps again made these situations easier.