Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Campaign With No Name - Jan 26th

The party are continuing their exploration of the Bloodtower on the Moors, and, after deciding not to sleep in the barracks they find,continue heading up the stairs. The next floor up was a much more opulent sleeping quarters, and a quick search found some gems and gold hidden beneath a precious bowl filled with expensive soap. Again, they decided not to take a group bath and spend the night there, and headed further up the tower.

The next level up had a locked iron door which the Warlord kicked down. The room was roughly semi-circular and contained lots of empty shelves and chests. A thorough search found a magic ring that had been missed by whoever had cleared out the room, and a secret door to the other half of the level. This room was bare apart from three circles of intricate runes and sigils inscribed in the floor. After some studying,Chuck deduced these were teleport circles and carefully made a note of the "co-ordinates" in order to be able to teleport back to here should the need arise. Then they went up the stairs to the last floor.

The stairs came out in the middle of the open plan room which contained only a sarcophagus and another teleport circle as its defining features. Apart from three skeletons, a boneclaw and a human woman dressed in black robes, that is. Obviously having been waiting for the adventurers to emerge, the skeletons were quick to attack: shrieking in such a manner that chilled the characters to their bone before moving in for the kill. The party reacted quickly, trying to damage them as best they could with the sounds of their horrible shrieks still ringing in their ears. The boneclaw moved to the top of the stairs where it could hit them with its huge claws whenever they moved or were distracted by attacking at range. On being hit, the human turned into a flock of ravens and flew to the other side of the room then later targeting the two spellcasters with her own magic. The Warlord was able to help slaughter the skeletons before going to take on the boneclaw: Chuck holding it in place for him. The party found the necromancer's spells to be quite damaging, even over a short time, and when Mouse swapped places with her, a spectral tendril emerged from the floor and caused the elf to fall, unconscious and with her life-force draining away.

The Warlord skewered the boneclaw and shouted at Mouse to get up, rousing her. Despite their best efforts they failed to be able to stop the necromancer fleeing to the teleport circle and, muttering the word "Ometh", disappearing. Quickly realising that it must be a short-range teleport, Chuck and the Drow deduced she must be just downstairs, so while Mouse got to her feet and raced downstairs with Cat, they went through the teleport circle themselves. The Warlord, unconcerned with chasing after fleeing enemies, shrugged his shoulders and investigated the sarcophagus. It contained the perfectly preserved body of the former leader of the group of necromancers that called the Bloodtower home. After careful prodding to make sure he really was dead, he searched the body and collected all the expensive jewellery he could find.

Meanwhile, as Mouse was clattering down the stairs, Chuck appeared next to the surprised mage in the teleport chamber, and blasted her out of the room. The Drow then appeared and also blasted her. She hit back at the Drow and Mouse who had just emerged from the stairwell, both of whom promptly collapsed. As she made a beeline for one of the other teleport circles, Chuck tried desperately to stop her while also feeding the Drow a healing potion. The fight then became an undignified bout of pushing, both magically and bodily as they scrapped over who got to stand on the wanted teleport circle. The Drow helped, while also going to get Mouse up, but got dropped again. The necromancer got onto the circle but paused to try and find a piece of paper, giving Chuck time to push her off and then trap her with a wall of fire. The desperate woman stepped into the wall of flames in an effort to escape but died before she could utter the keyword. Unfortunately, the paper she carried was burnt to a cinder.

Shortly after this,the Warlord made his way down to help patch them all up, and they decided to head down to the bedroooms and sleep before exploring the underground portion of the tower.

Monday, January 24, 2011

That Was The Weekend That Was X

Social life suddenly rather busy this weekend, with three friends coming round Friday for drinks and games, and then another two on Saturday. Friday night we introduced some people to Betrayal at House on the Hill which they rather liked, then played a few games of Dominion. Was all good fun, although I wish we'd managed more nights like that as soon there will be fewer chances. (People aren't allowed to leave York! It's a black hole for graduates...)

Saturday, we went into town as the Terror wanted to spend some of his saved up pocket money on a Bakugan Trap. Argos didn't have any in new catalogue, so he got a Super Assault Bakutremor Something-or-other. More cards we don't quite understand, and he doesn't have enough to play a game with us but he's less interested in the actual rules than in the Bakugan ball/figure/whatevers themselves. His money.

We then took the long way home, via Rowntrees Park and ended up dragging ourselves home and sending my SO out to get a very late lunch from the bakers. Afternoon was mostly spent watching Spiderman. Then C&D came over for tea (sausages, chips & peas) and 40K again. This time I got roped into playing, using my SO's tyranids. For my first ever game I think I did ok - I mostly know the rules, mostly, and the carnifexes and hive tyrant are at least difficult to kill. Things I'm bad at include judging distance and line of sight, deciding where to place things and what to attack, and remembering not to charge into cover. So yeah, maybe I'd do it again. C won, of course, being far better than the rest of us, although D came close to a draw but was just a little too far away. My SO's dark eldar got hammered early on, but they still managed to inflict some casualties. Wine, biscuits, and another couple of games of Dominion (C won again then went home to let someone else have a chance of winning something) rounded out the evening.

Sunday started ok, then I got down and anxious for no known reason and ended up going back to bed and falling asleep. My SO brought me breakfast in bed, which was nice. Then shopping and after lunch the Terror went round to friend's house and we went for walk into town to get birthday cards and to check out perfumes at Lush. Watched end of Stardust over tea, which finished just in time for the Terror's bedtime. I forgot all about new series of Top Gear, being too excited about new series Being Human, and BBC3 being actually watchable which it was thankfully. So I settled down with cake and whisky and watched episode one, which was wonderful despite a few weak moments (the vampires organising "dog" fights is a bit meh, and the Mitchell going to get Annie back was anticlimactic). George and Nina were great, the annoying character got staked, and the new house looks like it'll be a great setting with just the right level of quirkiness. Looking forward to more.

Friday, January 21, 2011

House of Mystery by Matthew Sturges & Luca Rossi (and others)

I originally picked up the second volume of House of Mystery on a whim, attracted by the title, cover art and some of the names ringing a bell (Bill Willingham in particular). I quickly got round to tracking down the first volume and have been waiting impatiently for each trade paperback release after that (resisting buying the monthlies for money and space considerations). I've just finished reading volume five, "Under New Management", which seems like a good time for a review.

The eponymous House is Cain's abode in the Dreaming - until it disappears from there (much to his annoyance) and turns takes up residence at a crossroads between worlds. It becomes an unconventional tavern where patrons pay with stories, staffed by those who find they cannot leave. Architecture student Fig Keeler is one of those trapped there, and the arc plot follows her discoveries about her life (which turns out to be far from ordinary) and her pursuit by a mysterious pair called The Conception, who want her for unspecified reasons. The latest volume introduces yet another twist into Fig's increasingly strange life with the re-emergence of a brother she'd forgotten she had.

Scattered amidst the ongoing story are all the tales told by customers and staff; shorts featuring guest artists and writers telling every sort of story you can think of - poignant, romantic, scary and often funny. They showcase the rich diversity of the situation - as the characters can come from any conceivable setting, there is a whole host of fantasy worlds that we just get snippets of. Short stories in just about any format (prose, graphic, film) are one of my favourite things due to the efficiency needed and the density of invention that can be crammed into a few minutes or pages, thus this anthology-eqsue series was bound to be one of my favourites. That it also touches on and expands the setting of the Dreaming (from Gaiman's Sandman comics) is just a bonus.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Campaign With No Name - Jan 19th

The party approached the half-sunken Bloodtower across dense marshland; the Warlord flew to avoid getting his boots dirty. From his higher vantage point he noticed something lying in the swamp waters ahead of them. A hydra emerged and was quickly held in place by Chuck,charged by the Warlord, peppered with arrows by Mouse and blatted with yet more damage by the Drow. Somehow it survived the initial assault, and attempted to bite the Warlord, and later, Cat and the Drow, but didn't pose much of a threat. Once slain, the Warlord proposed skinning it so they could disguise themselves as a Hydra. No-one else seemed too keen on that idea, so it was put on hold.

They decided to enter the Bloodtower via a gash in the wall rather than try to get to the window half-way up. The stench emanating from the hole warned them that a ghoul was in the area, so Chuck cast Thunderwave into it to clear the immediate area and cautiously stepped inside. As it was pitch black apart from dim light from the glowstone, Chuck also cast Light on a nearby stone slab which lit up the wretched stench ghoul hiding just behind it. The party crowded near the entrance and tried to stay away from the foul-smelling undead, again peppering it with damage from range until it ran in close. Once bloodied, it attempted to flee to a door at the far side of the room, but was pushed back and killed. The door then opened, and a skull lord cast a deathly ray onto the Warlord. A horde of zombies then attempted to enter the room, but the Warlord was ready with his spear and skewered each of them as it came close to him. Unfortunately, they then each exploded, showering the Warlord, the Drow and Cat with necrotic energy. But once they were all dead, the skull lord was easily dealt with. While he attempted to hide in the darkness of the other room, Mouse was still able to pinpoint his position accurately enough to destroy his last skull.

After a brief rest, the party decided to ascend the central staircase, ignoring the way down for now as they had no idea how many floors may be below ground. On the next level up they found an alter to an ancient exarch of death named Ometh, which they didn't desecrate just in case. There was little else on the floor, indicating that most of the furniture and any valuables had been taken a long time ago. Another floor up led them to two dormitories - the beds intact but no personal possessions in sight.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

That Was The Weekend That Was IX

Friday night (after QI of course) the SO and I ended up playing Tetris (or at least the latest Gnome clone) while listening to this. That's a good night in for us.

Saturday was unexpectedly spent in Nottingham. Not that we were inexplicably teleported there or anything, just that the SO had a plot meeting (for larp) she'd forgotten about and it was moved to Saturday morning. So we got up early and went to Nottingham for breakfast. As you do. Then the boy and I had to leave while plot happened. Thankfully, another plot team member's other half was on hand to escort us around the city centre. We window shopped and laughed at the Terror getting bored and discovering that picking on someone two feet taller than you isn't a good idea. Then we went home, while others went to a faction meeting and IC social. Now I'm craving larp, although I know I never get as involved as I wish I could. Damned social phobia. How did I end up so emotionally involved with a hobby I'm so ill-equipped to deal with? Bah.

Then in the evening I discovered Dropquest, and rapidly got annoyed with myself for not being able to do it. Today I finished it, mostly by looking up the answers or by my SO telling me what to do. Briefly considered getting back into ARGs, then thought better of it.

I also managed to apply for a job that I actually liked the sound of, and am trying not to get my hopes up too much. Another admin assistant job, but for a start-up based at the science park that didn't specify someone with experience. These days I'm just overjoyed to notice the absence of "must have experience of a similar role" in job descriptions. But still no guarantee I'll even get an interview, so, yeah, mustn't get hopes up.

This evening was once again spent watching Misfits - finished first season now. As I probably won't get round to writing a review, let me just say this: I'd sell a kidney to able to write something that good. Probably both kidneys in fact. Have also been drinking cider, and realising that I may have had too much. Not in a "rolling around drunk" kind of too much but just starting to feel a bit melancholy. Which is not the way to end a week, but hey.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Other Plans for 2011

I didn't really make any resolutions, although you could say my Big Crazy Idea was one, but I still have a few ideas and plans for the year. Which I may or may not get round to doing.

We really do need to de-clutter the house and get rid of some of the baby things. The baby bath and fireguard are taking up too much room near the back door, and if we clear out the closet in the Terror's room we could a) possibly make some money from selling stuff and b) have room to store stuff we do want to keep, like magazines or old artwork or other things of nostalgic value. But I've got a feeling we'll still be saying this in ten years time....

I'm going to learn to program. I've put it off for too long, and my SO will probably quite happily get me understanding Python so I can follow her code if nothing else. I also need to learn more about *nix...and I don't think the idea of me as a sysadmin is any dafter that me as a shop assistant (which unfortunately is where all the jobs are). So employability increase, maybe. Maybe.

I'm also going to try and write more. I've been trying to update here more frequently, and hopefully not just about gaming or whining about life. I want to try and write better reviews of the books I read, TV I watch, etc, not just for here but maybe even try and get some published. If I can get myself into the habit of writing and writing to deadline, the idea of being a freelance writer would be a bit more plausible. And people keep telling me I'm good. I've also been thinking about another crazy project that, frankly, is so daft that I don't want to tell anyone about it other than the couple of people I've already mentioned it to. So, sorry, but all I'll say is I've downloaded a copy of Celtx again....

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Campaign With No Name - Jan 12th

Having dealt with time-travelling undead ogres, the party headed south to the Bloodtower, politely ignoring the Warlord's suggestion that they institute a "scorched earth" policy.

While most of the journey was uneventful, as they were passing through a wooded area Mouse spotted several figures lying in ambush ahead and called a halt. The Warlord immediately charged into the trees and flung a large Dragonspawn into the open for the others to attack. Several Dragonborn warriors and a mage emerged to fight them, but Chuck drew off most of them with an illusory pile of gold they were compelled to stay near. While the soldiers were bombarded with area attacks by the two arcanists, the martial characters dealt with the Dragonspawn and its friend, and the Dragonborn mage who found his fire spells ineffective against many of the party. Cat took the brunt of his attacks before retreating, with the wall of fire he threw up barely hurting the Drow at all. His attempts to flee were curtailed and the Warlord finished him off. The three remaining soldiers were easily dealt with, being still too attracted to the magical treasure to provide much of a fight.

Chuck found the mage's gloves to be of great interest - increasing the range of teleportation effects on others as well as providing an additional repulsion effect. The party pressed onwards.

OOC notes: The first was actually quite long and felt like it dragged a bit, but the players at least dealt with the not-particularly-a-threat effectively. For easing us back into gaming after the break it did well enough.

Monday, January 10, 2011

That Was The Weekend That Was VIII

Saturday started with brunch at Wetherspoons - necessitated by the lack of food in the house for breakfast at home. Honest. It's not that we enjoy it, we just had nothing else to eat. Then we went to town to fetch a couple of things - like a cafetière for Nana's birthday and something to unblock the drain with. Barnitts sells everything, so we were able to buy both there. I'm sure they're used to people buying odd combinations of stuff...

So the afternoon was spent being slightly scared of how much the sulphuric acid bubbled when poured down the drain, but it seemed to do the job as our yard no longer has a small flood every time we empty the sink in the bathroom. I, of course, kept well clear, and let my SO be all manly and do it all. Then she cooked a chili for the first time in ages, and we had C and D round for 40K and booze. Extra booze was bought at the Beer & Wine shop for the rest of Nana's present. I ignored the geeks playing toy soldiers and read Linux Format instead, but once they'd finished we had a couple of games of Dominion.

On Sunday, we took Nana her presents and then took her out for food. Our first choice was closed, much to the Terror's disappointment, so we went to a carvery which we hadn't been to for a while. And ate too much, of course. Then back to Nana's to play with Benjy, who's getting big and learning to stand up on back two legs, and try out her new cafetière.

That evening, once Terror was in bed and SO out at D&D game she keeps going to despite not seeming to enjoy it (maybe that's just my impression), I watched the last two episodes of Peep Show and another Misfits on 4oD. And ate too much Christmas cake. Think I may need to keep a closer eye on what I eat....

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Defying Gravity, AKA My Crazy Idea

At the end of last year I mentioned I was making Plans for 2011. Well here's the big one.

Every time I am asked on a form (or in person) for my sex or gender and the options are to pick one of "male" and "female" I'm going to refuse to answer and explain why.

Why? Partly because I'm still thinking hard about my gender identity (although I'll not go into that now), partly because I don't see why everyone needs to know (I'm a person, deal) but mostly because I know people who can't honestly answer that question and I think it's about time society started to recognise that. It won't, of course; I'm far too much of a cynic to think anything will actually come of this. But at least I can say I have tried.

Gender isn't a binary. There, I said it. Some people will go further and claim gender doesn't even really exist, but having met people who are fairly sure they have a gender (usually, but not always, one different from that assigned to them at birth) I'm not so sure. What I am sure about is that not everyone fits neatly into one of those two boxes that we insist on putting people in, and even those who do can have good reasons for not wanting to reveal which one. Thus, if nothing else, we ought to have the right to keep that information to ourselves in most (if not all) circumstances. It's considered reasonable for people to decline to give their ethnicity, age, religion - why not gender? Better, of course, would be more options for filling in gender fields - even just "other" would be a step in the right direction.

Some points. Firstly, I am not trying to appropriate anyone's identity. I don't consider myself transgender (I really must blog about my gender identity soon) and I am all too aware of the cissexual privilege I have. I'm not going to actually try and live as non-gendered, I don't think I'm capable of doing so and I'm not sure it would achieve anything. Secondly, I will inevitably capitulate. I'm willing to make life a bit more awkward for myself, for a bit, but I have neither the money nor the mental energy for protracted battles with bureaucracy. All I want is at least some acknowledgement of my point. Thirdly, I suppose for any chance of making an impact I ought to recruit others in this insane campaign of mine. Maybe once I've written up draft letters I'll investigate creating a Facebook group. Maybe some of those feminists that keep going on about smashing the gender binary would like to help. I dunno. Fourthly, I have no idea whether this really is a good idea and whether I'll be able to keep it up.

It may or may not have escaped your attention that 2011 is a census year. That, in part, is why I'm choosing to do this now. Although the census asks for each person's sex, for population projections, what it actually collects is gender and in principle the ONS is both aware of this and of the potential need to collect data on gender identity (only document I could find is this pdf). Maybe a small act of civil disobedience can help nudge them towards doing something about this in future.