Thursday, January 29, 2009

I've just finished reading X-Factor #39

Peter David - you bastard.

No, I'm not going to spoil it, I'm not really going to say much other than I'm still a bit numb like the horror hasn't really sunk in. And it might not ever. I'm kind of grateful that I've been losing interest in the series or that really would have hurt. I usually get a bit down when I realise I'm not enjoying stuff that I used to look forward to (and the fact I hadn't got round to reading last week's comic until today kind of says how bothered I am at the moment) but in a way it's a blessing - I'm not always great at suspending my empathy and remembering it's only a story.

I think I'll probably get the next few issues and see how it goes, but this is definitely one story arch I won't be rereading.

Bastard. Really.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

GM Performance Anxiety

I really should be doing prep for my game tomorrow, but decided to drink cider and surf t' 'net. And blog about gaming, as I haven't really been doing well at the "write" resolution.

I've been making an effort to get interested in RPGs and GMing generally as I'd been running my D&D game for a bit now and mostly drifting...reading some books, yes, but nothing really beyond that. So I've tried to read more threads on RPGnet and found a blog on GMing which admittedly I've only really glanced at. I actually have no idea what I'm going to write here...was going to describe my game a bit but that might be boring. Well, I'll summarise.

My original idea was an Order of the Stick style game where the characters knew the rules and had some idea about how narrative drives events. As the Terror had been watching a lot of the '80s Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, I then went with the whole "ordinary people transported into world of fantasy idea". Which naturally led to the set-up of the PCs being players in their first ever 4th ed D&D game who ended up in the game world, inhabiting the bodies of their characters. Much confusion followed. Especially as two of my players decided to play old characters from previous (non-D&D) games and one decided to play one of the others. Or something. As it is, they're mostly tromping around doing usual adventurer-style stuff and I've failed to find a way to use the "Dungeonmaster" NPC to any effect - mostly due to a lack of plotting on my part. I really should be planning for tomorrow's session.

There are many things I feel I should be doing better as a GM. Sessions seem to drag - I never know what my NPCs are going to say, don't really have a grasp of the rules and occasionally forget that I'm allowed to just make an ad-hoc decision without looking stuff up. Players are distracted and getting them back on track is beyond me. Still have no idea if some of them are even enjoying it, beyond an excuse to hang out with friends. Maps, I am useless at, so combat tends to be a bit haphazard as we put together bits and pieces of map tiles and lego. Still haven't thought ahead very much about what treasure to give out, let alone how I'm going to throw enough encounters at them to progress at the rate I intended (seems a natural "story" is not quite a level's worth). I guess most of this will work out by itself in time, and if I actually could be bothered to think ahead a bit more and do more prep (which I really should be doing now) I might feel more in control. A lot of this is stuff I've struggled with right from the beginnings of my attempts to GM, and some (indecision, lack of characterisation and underwhelming NPCs) is a problem in my roleplaying as a whole.

As a player, I started off with simple, combat-focused characters, who mostly did nothing until a fight broke out and then attacked the nearest thing. And really, I haven't progressed much beyond that. Ok, with Bob - my ranger in J's Ravenloft campaign - I have had some ok roleplay. It's Ravenloft, he's gone crazy. He's currently an alcoholic who violently attacks his own reflection and trusts no-one except his companion wolf. But this means he still mostly just tags along with the rest of the party, occasionally doing ranger-y things, and getting drunk at every available opportunity. My attempts to be a more social-orientated character in a Weapons of the Gods game were...poor, frankly. Despite being surrounded only by friends of some years, I still get "stage-fright" about roleplaying and fail to think of the right things to say or do. Even in a "my character does X" way. The pressure is more intense when GMing, even though I'm sure most of my players would be happy if I just chucked hoard after hoard of zombies at them. Or dragons, or kobolds or whatever.

Again, I set my standards too high for myself. But there is no harm in trying to better. I just wish I knew how.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Need More Coffee

Still tired after the weekend. Daddy was away plotting evil things yesterday so I had a full day of the Terror - despite help from friends with more patience than I thought humanly possible it was still a struggle. No housework done and really I don't care - I got to have my whisky for Burns' Night in the end so that was something.

But dragging myself out of bed this morning was a struggle. Not that anything is particularly bad today, it's just another Monday. Sleep never seems to rest me, I don't know if I'm getting too little or too much. Anxieties about work, motherhood, housekeeping just keep building up. I try not to worry about other people who mean more to me than they'll ever know. Try to rationalise to myself there's nothing I can say that they don't already know, nothing i can do to help, that it's none of my business and it'll probably all work out in the end. Still occupies my mind, still hurts to see others pretending they're ok when they're obviously not. Even casual acquaintances have problems or illnesses which I wish I could say something about to...not help, but show support. That type of social impulse which proves to myself I'm not on the autistic spectrum, but I still don't know what to say or have the courage to say it. Horrific news that I can barely cope with but doesn't seem to affect anyone i know in the same way - just more bad stuff happening in a bad world. I seem to be building a tolerance to that one at least, I can read the headlines again. Most days.

And through this fog of angst I have to pick my way through another day - following routines meant to help that just make me feel worse. Exercise, bath, work, exercise, lunch, maybe some housework, work, head to school....that's supposed to be the easy bit of the day, but I need to fight myself as much as I end up fighting with the Terror. I want to just go back to bed, curl up and cry or lose myself in fantasies about how it could all be so much better. I suppose it's progress that I don't just do that, that I do face the day and try and do things even though I often fail and end up in tears or hating myself. Avoid that negative thinking - I don't always fail, I just set my standards too high sometimes. And I dislike things being difficult, but that's just tough. Life is difficult. I still have to live it.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Dangers of Warpy Thoughts

I'm still waiting to pick up my prescription. Last few days have not been fun, but I'll put that down to withdrawal badly timed to coincide with beginning work again. Still, I've managed to get a small but non-zero amount of new things written down in my thesis, so I can't say to myself "I've done nothing this week".

In lieu of any actual help from the PCT Mental Health Team, I've been going it alone for a bit now, and my next step in trying CBT on myself has been joining up to MoodGYM. I flew through the first few pages because I know all about the warped, negative, thinking associated with depression, and I'd like to think I'm getting better at identifying it in myself, but I still have problems actually replacing it with something. So I'll let you know how (and if) this helps.

What prompted this post was that I've just finished reading an interesting article in the New Scientist about "emotional contagion" - how our behaviour and feelings are influenced by those around us and the people they hang out, and the people they hang out with in turn. Read the article, it explains it much better than I could here. Near the end, it points out that actually cutting ties with established friends may be going too far, but perhaps we should spend less time with people whose traits we do not wish to share - like negative thinking. Naturally, my negative-thinking brain thought, "true, I shouldn't inflict my bad moods on friends as it'll just bring them down". Fortunately I managed to halt half-way through the "they're better off without me" and stopped myself from withdrawing further into gloomy thoughts...but it did lead to a few minutes reflection on how "I'm so miserable no-one wants to be my friend" is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And of course, I'm one of the lucky ones who has friends. Many more people with social anxiety or an autistic spectrum disorder (or indeed, other problems) suffer from social isolation and depression and being reminded that we as a species are inherently social animals is as bad as being given the impression that people avoid them because they have "undesirable" traits - true as that may be. I had half a mind to write a stern letter to the NS about their responsibility towards such people, but realised that was a bit unfair. It's society as a whole that is biased against those who are not "normal". I'm fairly NT actually, but get riled about anything that discriminates against people with autism - and my own mental health problems are enough to mean that I struggle with a society that just assumes you can talk to someone on the telephone, say. And occasionally I feel the need to be the one who stands up and says "hang on a minute, you can't treat us like this just because we're can't complain" and promote understanding of autism and social anxiety and other disorders which cause complications with everyday social interaction. We need an advocate - someone to tell the "normal" people what it's like, to point out we are not incapable of finding a place in society if only they'd let us and make sure the disability equality legislation is applied (as it should be) to us as well.

Of course, someone capable of doing all that would be unlikely to fall into this group in the first place - that's why I don't do anything about it. I can't face going to a psychologist for therapy that could actually help me get better, I certainly can't stand up and give a seminar on how society is biased against those who have communication and social difficulties. Duh.

So rather than writing a rambling, rant-y letter that has no coherent point and therefore won't get published, I'll just post this instead. There's still the outside chance someone will read it. I mean someone other than the two, maybe three, friends who read my blog anyway. I've probably ranted about this at them before.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


So we spent the weekend on a narrow boat. Well, I say narrow boat, it's quite a wide boat actually - very nice and very spacious. Of course, the slight problem was the Leeds-Liverpool canal was nicely frozen over and so we couldn't move the boat. There were also issues with the sink in the bathroom (probably frozen pipe) and then the toilet broke....luckily the owner is a lovely man and did his best to sort things out as best he could.

Friday we all arrived (me, Terror, Daddy, Granddad and Penny) and settled in and went for a walk before tea and then Christmas Part III - I got a Magic 8 Ball (which of course means I have no excuse to be indecisive anymore) among other nice pressies and the Terror got David Stein's patented Bubble Thing and the book that shows you how to make huge bubbles. So that was tried out on Saturday, which was otherwise a lazy day. The bubbles were kind of impressive, but of course I failed to take any pictures (and they burst quite quickly in the cold, and with the Terror punching them). We watched Madagascar more times than I would have thought humanly possible in one day. We got a bit of a break from an overtired child in the afternoon, and then went out for tea while Penny and Granddad babysat. We went along the canal to the Sycamore Farm and had a great three course meal with the biggest and best desserts I've ever seen...great quality and so huge even gluttons like us couldn't finish them.

Sunday, we went to Skipton, in particular to visit the castle. This time I remembered to take the camera, but forgot to buy more batteries when I discovered the ones in it appeared to be dead. It was interesting, Terror got to run around lots, and then we had a bit of walk around town and down by the canal. It was annoyingly unfrozen there. That evening we watched Casino Royale for the second time ever, having seen it in the cinema. It was still pretty good. Ought to get round to watching Quantum of Solace I suppose. Monday was spent packing, scraping ice and snow off the cars as it had snowed overnight, and then heading home to get things ready for school starting again today.

I think that covers everything...