No, I’m not talking about my dream date, but what’s been spinning on my stereo of late. Not sure what possessed me, but I loaded up both discs of Radio Birdman‘s Under the Ashes anthology and both discs of the Saints‘ Wild About You 1976-1978 Complete Studio Recordings anthology. Then I hit shuffle and let 70s Aussie punk rock wash over me as I worked. If you like punk rock and you haven’t heard Radio Birdman or the Saints, I encourage you to check them out. Some really great stuff on both anthologies. The Radio Birdman one has one version of every song they recorded and the Saints one has their first three studio albums and a bunch of singles, B-sides, and so on. The latter includes one of my favorite cover songs of all time, the Saints’ rendition of River Deep, Mountain High. Even when I’m in the midst of writing, when that song comes on I want to jump up and pogo (not generally advisable in my book, game, and miniature stuffed office). Good tunes make me want to go a decent show, but it has been months since I’ve had the chance.
I’m not usually a one for blog memes, but I couldn’t pass up Ten Things I Have Done That You Likely Haven’t. I have…
- Gotten married in a castle.
- Had my neck slashed open by a maniac in Brooklyn.
- Roadied for a French punk band (Scraps) on a two-month tour of Europe.
- Gone on a business trip to Skywalker Ranch…twice.
- Enjoyed a five-hour dinner at a private club atop the tallest building in Seattle.
- Had my writing translated into French, Spanish, and German and soon Polish and Italian as well.
- Gotten Susan Sarandon angry by charging her late fees for her videos (hey, they were late…).
- Been the lead singer for two obscure punk rock bands (Ex-Teenage Rebels and Adverse Possession).
- Shared limousines with Sophie Aldred (“Ace” on Dr. Who for you non-nerds) and Jello Biafra (former lead singer of the Dead Kennedys for you non-punks).
- Designed the new edition of one of my favorite roleplaying games of all time (Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay).
Just got back from Conquest LA and thought I’d post a quick update. The con was a lot of fun. Very well organized and attendance was good for a first year show. I actually got to play some games too, which was nice. Marcelo introduced me to a WWII minis game called Panzer Korps and we played a Battle of the Bulge scenario with my 101st Airborne vs. his Panzer Lehr. That was pretty fun. On Saturday I sat in on Jim Pinto’s World’s Largest Dungeon session. I ended up playing with a group of gamers that all knew each other and had a style of play I didn’t particularly care for. As I was also beat after getting up at 6:30 am and working our booth all day, I bowed out around 11 and went to bed. The next day Nik was nice enough to handle the booth in the afternoon so I could play Pat Kapera’s Spycraft game. That was a blast and I’m glad I got a chance to finally give Spycraft a shot.
Yesterday afternoon we rented a car and drove around LA a bit. They only had convertibles and of course “sunny LA” was rainy the whole time we were there so that didn’t help us at all. Kate was particularly amusing during the drive. Here are some choice quotes:
- “I don’t want to put my dinner on my breakfast!” Kate’s reaction to hearing about LA institution Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles.
- “Arggh! Shield your eyes!” On seeing the window displays of the Hustler Store in West Hollywood.
- “Mommy, I don’t like it when I wake up and the first word I hear is fuck.” This after Nik swerved sharply into a gas station (waking up the napping Kate) only to find it out of business.
After that ride around we met Jeff Tidball and his lovely wife Stacey for dinner at El Cholo in Santa Monica. It’s always great to see them and I’m glad we were able to get together. Today we had time for little other than a quick trip to In and Out Burger and then the airport. Now crazy catch-up time begins.
A few random tidbits:
- Nik and I are off again tomorrow for another con. We are guests of honor at a new one called Conquest LA happening this weekend. If you are in the LA area, come by and see us. Miss Kate will be with us, so cuteness will abound.
- I am happy to report that the Old World Bestiary for WFRP has finally wrapped. Came out looking great to, thanks to the graphic design stylings of Mr. Hal Mangold. This is the first of WFRP’s full color support books and I think it sets a nice standard. Next up on my plate is Paths of the Damned: Ashes of Middenheim, the first adventure of our new epic trilogy. No matter what we do, this is going to be compared to the classic Enemy Within Campaign. In other words, we have some mighty big shoes to fill.
- In just a few weeks we’ll be heading down to Vegas for the GAMA Trade Show. It’s hard to believe it has already been a year since the last one. Hopefully, this year’s show won’t have an atmosphere as poisonous as last year’s. Of course, the hilarious post script to the 2004 brouhaha is that the folks who tried so hard to take control of GAMA have done just about nothing since taking power. Really has to make you wonder what that was all about. They were willing to do just about anything to take GAMA over and since then there’s been a deafening silence. And new elections are only five months away…
- I’ve been reading a book I picked in England, Rifles by Mark Urban. The American title is Wellington’s Rifles: Six Years to Waterloo with England’s Legendary Sharpshooters. The book profiles the 95th Rifles, the unit made (more) famous by Bernard Cornwell’s highly entertaining Sharpe series of adventure novels. Urban uses private letters, journals, unit histories, and period newspapers to construct a fascinating portrait of the 95th, starting with Wellington’s Peninsular Campaign. His ability to draw portraits of the various personalities of the unit makes the book absorbing and highly readable. The period detail, as you’d expect, is also excellent. If you have an interest in the Napoleonic era, I recommend this highly.
The last several months have been brutal, as Hal and I have been working seven days a week to get the first five WFRP products done and at print. Although Nik and I received Knights of the Old Republic II as an Xmas gift from Ray, I hadn’t touched the game at all. I knew I’d get sucked in and I just didn’t have time for that. I put the final few touches on the Old World Bestiary today though and I decided I could downgrade my schedule from “on fire” to merely “hectic”. I finally popped in KOTORII (Nik finished it nearly two months ago) and started playing. And so far, it’s pretty fun.
It did get me thinking about sequels though. In nearly any medium, the sequel is a hard thing to pull off. You need to identify the elements that made part one good and replicate them in essence but not fact. By which I mean the sequel should have a similar feel but not ape the original in every detail. This is a tricky business. One need look no further than the original Star Wars Trilogy to see why. How do you beat blowing up the Death Star? Why by making an even bigger Death Star and blowing that up in part 3? Not the most ingenious of solutions.
KOTORII is doing a good job for the most part. The game play is similar, but the designers clearly listened to feedback and made many improvements to the basic interface. No complaints there. I didn’t feel it was strictly necessary to give the main character the same sort of journey of self-discovery that featured in the first game. In KOTOR, your character had a big dark secret and the reveal was indeed quite cool. I don’t really feel KOTORII needed to ape this aspect in order to be a good sequel though. Now the main character is once again a mysterious stranger with a cryptic past and more questions than answers. I really would have been happy with something else, as long as it was cool and fit the flavor of the universe. My feeling (and maybe I’m wrong) is that they are going to try for an even cooler reveal and then fail to deliver. And when sequels make you realize that the original was superior by forcing you to draw a comparison, that’s when they fail.
I was downtown the other day, having a bite at the falafel joint I mentioned a little while back. There were three young nerds in line in front of me. One of them had just bought one of those pricey light saber replicas and as he was ordering he kept stealing glances back to their table to make sure no one was absconding with it. I got my food and was reading the newspaper when I heard one of them start whooping. He rushed out of the restaurant brandishing his weapon, and ran down the street shouting at passersby. Stunned pedestrians stopped and stared, while his two friends nearly fell off their chairs laughing. The young Padawan returned a few minutes later (mission accomplished?) and they calmed down a bit. As I was walking out the door, one of the other guys said, “When I get my Jedi robe…”
I didn’t stick around for the end of that sentence. Imagining the possibilities is much more entertaining.
I am back in the US of A. It took Nik and I a solid 20 hours of travel to get from the Clapham apartment of James Wallis back to our own house. The 3-hour layover in Chicago wasn’t too bad, but the final plane ride was sure tedious. I managed to make it until 9 pm that night (that was 4 am to me, having gotten up at 6 am the day before after 4 hours sleep) and then collapsed into bed and slept for 10 hours. It was lovely to sleep in my own bed again.
I would have liked to have spent Wednesday recouping but duty called and I jumped right back into work. That afternoon I took the bus downtown so I could FedEx some WFRP proofs to the printer. On my way home I started making a mental list of good things and bad things about England. I present this now for your entertainment.
Good Things About England
Breakfast. I’ve become a real fan of the classic English breakfast and ate this far too many times on the trip. I’m sure my cholesterol is soaring at the moment.
History. You can’t spit without hitting something of historic interest. Walking through the Southwark part of London with John Kovalic (who also happened to be there and is British-born) was a history lesson in itself.
The RAF Museum. Based on an old aerodrome, this museum has a huge collection of vintage planes and some reconstructions. The breadth is most impressive, the exhibits are well done, and it’s free.
The London Tube. More proof that Seattle’s transit options suck.
Friends. We have some great friends in the UK that we see far too seldom. Though perhaps with the exchange rate so in their favor now (see below) they’ll come across the pond more often.
Bad Things About England
Home early. Pubs close at 11 pm. Nuff said.
Nostalgia gone awry. Someone has exploded “the 80s bomb” over Nottingham. College girls were wearing giant furry boots and huge white vinyl belts while queuing up in front of a club called the Reflex that’s apparently owned by a member of Duran Duran. The horror, the horror…
The exchange rate. Wow, this is simply brutal right now. It’s basically 2 dollars per pound now and that really cut into our spending money.
So close…and yet so far. This was my third trip to GW HQ and I have yet to play a minis game while I’m there. It’s like going to a winery and drinking coke.
While I’m at it, I should also mention the strangest thing from the trip. That was the first ever GW Pantomime. The day I got there, one of our BI associates told us about this impending event and asked if we had “pantos” over here. All I could think of was the Python episode with the pantomime horse, so I said, “Well, no, not really.” The show was Friday night in Bugman’s pub and it was a full on stage production with costumes, programs, and so on, all put together by GW staff. It was largely an exercise in making fun of themselves, so there were a bunch of in-jokes that had to be explained to us. We got the gist though and some of it was pretty funny. The evil Goblin King orders his foul minion to kidnap a young gamer from a GW store so he can be turned into a monkey (don’t ask). A band of heroes (including “Will Wanka’s Pussy”) must brave the various departments of GW to get to the “ivory tower” where he’s held and rescue him. There were several musical numbers, with lyrics thoughtfully provided in the program book. “Every Sprue Is Sacred” was done to the tune of “Every Sperm Is Sacred”, while “Space Marine Fights” was done to tune of Grease’s “Summer Nights.” All in all, quite wacky. I wonder how much the program book would fetch on Ebay. 🙂