Wednesday 30 April 2014

Creating Characters

I will soon be starting in a new Aberrant campaign, run by my Pathfinder GM. Very excited, because I’m very much enjoying what he’s doing there and, from what little I’ve gleaned of Aberrant, I think this will be something he can excel in. I also don’t know much about Aberrant so am looking forward to it unfolding around me.

I thought I’d use this to show the flitty way I build a character.

The brief:

The year is 1998, January. In recent history, Tony Blair’s Labour won ‘an historic’ General Election against John Major’s Tories the previous summer. The first sheep was cloned successfully in 1996. Hong Kong has transferred back to China. Princess Diana has died. Basically, it’s the world we know and (to greater or lesser extent) remember.

Players are normal, everyday folk as found on the streets of London at that time. We need to consider relationships and aspirations as part of who the person is.

My initial thoughts were a policeman or an A&E nurse, but the comment about aspirations tempted me towards a call centre monkey – someone in a soul-destroying job, dreaming of miracles. I think most people have been there. I quickly dismissed the policeman – it didn’t maintain its appeal and also I’ve got a Cyberpunk character who’s a copper who interests me a lot more than my as-yet-unnamed Aberrant copper. I will be studying an Open University Human Biology course starting in September and this is ultimately what swung the decision for me: I’ll be able to make use of (some of) what I’m learning if I play the nurse.

So, a bit more flavour needed.

I like a lot of different styles of music, but my heart lies in metal and punk. Unfortunately, Husbit and I have had to compromise between that and his preference for dance (hardcore, house, anything that gives me a headache), which means I periodically go into a metal-deprived misery. What better way to cure that than to play a metalhead? Husbit is not in this game, so won’t have to put up with the music and the other players don’t have to live with me. Perfect.

Now, nursing is stressful so I need to give my character a way to de-stress. Cigarettes, drugs and alcohol don’t seem to suit – she takes health seriously and in A&E has seen too often where excess leads. Exercise, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense: she needs the strength and stamina for her job and the endorphin rush is just the thing to ease the stresses of the shift. It also works well with the ‘dancing-like-a-maniac’ aspect of her metalness. I figure she probably jogs and gyms… only I’ve never been to the gym and am not sure what that’s all about. So maybe she uses the children’s play equipment at the park instead – that would certainly work with being on a budget and I have in my mind that she is (well, a young nurse living in London is not going to be rolling in it).

She also likes the thrill of extreme sports like hand-gliding and climbing, but can’t afford to do them often enough to be good. It’s more an experience than a lifestyle but she won’t turn down an opportunity to do something exciting.

She probably needs a name. Qualified for a year or two probably makes her 22/23 and it being 1998 means she was born around 1975/76. Being an ordinary person from the streets of London, I did a quick search for popular names of that era and after much deliberation settled on Christina Walker – ‘Chrissie’ to her friends.

Family… I don’t want to be worrying too much about family. I’ve got some ideas for colleagues and friends but family hasn’t really come into my mind. Probably one sibling – maybe more money-obsessed, less ‘alternative’ than she to explain why they aren’t close (Peter, 6 years older. Successful in business or banking). And then a lack of time resulting in a drifting apart from her parents.

Friends – well, she’s got some drinking buddies and some nursing buddies, gets on well with some of the doctors and other staff at the hospital. She’s a good nurse, particularly under pressure so one of the more senior sisters has taken her under her wing but one of the GPs is threatened by her and as her confidence improves this situation is going to worsen (I once heard someone say “beware the person telling you they have 30 years’ experience. They probably mean they have 30 lots of one year’s experience”. That’s how I picture this GP – he’s been practicing for many years but hasn’t kept up his CPD and cannot admit to being behind the times).

‘Mentors’ is something the GM asked us to consider. The Matron who looks after Chrissie is an obvious one, but maybe she has a friend who runs a bar. Maybe they’re friends because he runs a bar, or maybe they were friends first and she owes her music taste to him… Perhaps he was friends with her brother originally but ended up closer to her and now she sees him more as a brother than she sees Peter.

‘Enemies’ is another… well, there’s the GP above and maybe she stole someone’s boyfriend (or someone stole hers – or maybe she’s gay and they just thought she was stealing him) and whilst they don’t actively seek her out any more, there is still antagonism between the two. They tend to ignore each other, but are quite happy to spoil the other’s reputation given a chance. It’s petty, but so are many people.

She lives in a small one-bed flat that is messy as anything – she’s so neat and exact at work that she doesn’t have any neatness left by the time she gets home! She uses public transport to get around and most money that isn’t going on rent/bills goes on gigs and adventure holidays. She does have some savings against a future she’s unsure of.

‘Motivations/Aspirations’ is another key feature the GM wants us to consider. The ‘where do you see yourself in 10 years’ question doesn’t entirely help: Chrissie is doing a job she loves and has a busy social life so she’s pretty content with her lot. She kinda figures she’ll probably be married with children because that’s what people do, but it’s not something she’s actively seeking. For now, she’s living for the now (this is not unusual for my characters. I imagine it’s because it’s very opposite to me and I’m a little jealous of people who can do this. I’m always making plans and being frustrated when they haven’t come through. Some of my characters do have epic goals, though, so it’s not restrictively defining of how I play).

And that’s the basis from which I built the background I posted to my GM this morning. He will see several differences, no doubt (most notably that I’ve named most of the people mentioned above), but this is the thought process that lead to Nurse Chrissie Walker’s arrival in the world of Aberrant.

Sunday 27 April 2014

Crumb Bowl 2014

Crumb is one of my favourite Blood Bowl Tournaments. It is designed for people who haven’t played in many tournaments to come along without being intimidating – and several of us more experienced attendees are on hand to help out those who are entirely new to the game. Glowworm manages to create a lovely atmosphere, friendly and welcoming, and the venue itself is open and airy.

As someone who’s been to many tournaments, I like to use the lower tier teams. I took Chaos Pact (‘Pactthetic Worms’) last year and did pretty badly with them. This year, I tried my hand at Goblins for the first time.

Naming my team is something I normally really struggle with, but as I normally stick with Halflings when I go stunty, this time it was pretty easy to settle on ‘The Green Flings’. Unfortunately, there was neither a printer or projector so no one saw team names. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll have another good name another day ;)

One of the things I like about Crumb and one of the reasons I went for Goblins is that Glow offers the SCHWING Award (apologies, I cannot remember the spelling) for the person who inflicts the most casualties-that-don’t-count-as-casualties – so causing a casualty with a stabbing weapon or fouling or a bomb or crowd-pushes or throwing a team mate (even if it’s your team mate who dies rather than an opposing player). Failed dodges and go-for-its still don’t count, but I think it’s a rather nice award. I was quite pleased to score four – two with a chainsaw, one from a foul and one by throwing the ball carrier into the ground… The winner of the award had eight, so he rather thrashed the rest of us!

Game One was against Loki (who ran Bubba Bowl a few weeks ago) bringing Underworld in the shape of ‘There’s No F in Gutter Runner’. Game started well – he had fame but I got kick-off and chose to receive. He set up carefully to protect his blitzers, troll & Morg from my chainsaw – who promptly ran forward and slew his thrower. Blood and guts flying everywhere, his only re-roll left the pitch. A positive start, but the fanatic and Fungus danced around for the entertainment of the tougher members of his team.

My inexperience with goblins shone through and Loki quickly dispatched the chainsaw and scored on turn seven, forcing the bribes. No chainsaw and I believe only one ball and chain made this an easier decision, but not enough goblins meant he had to play. One out of three bribes was successful. To be honest, Loki should have won by a lot more than he did! He just got very unlucky with armour rolls.

Final score: TD 1 or 2 to 0; CAS Lots to Less (both in favour of There’s No F in Gutter Runner)

Moral victory to the Green Flings with the successful slaughter of the thrower.

Game Two was against Mawph, someone I hadn’t played before. This was absolutely my most enjoyable game of the weekend, although I couldn’t say exactly why. He had Chaos: ‘Morghaar Vortex’. I don’t remember much of the game (I should probably start taking notes!), but not a one of my bribes was successful.

Final score: TD 2 or 3 to 1; CAS Some to Fewer (both in favour of Chaos)

Moral victory to the Green Flings for kicking the minotaur to death.

Game Three and my first new tournament player, Tordallen and his team, ‘Da Green Gits’. Time for some Goblin on Goblin violence!

And violence it certainly was, with fewer than a team’s worth of players left on the pitch at the end of the first half. He managed to kill one of my trolls very early and the regen failed, but he hadn’t taken any so it remained fairly even. The score ended 2-1 to him: I think I could have held it to a 1-1 draw if I had held my nerve and moved my goblin with the ball in one square to not be on the sideline and only given him one turn to get the winning score, but I didn’t and then I failed the dodges needed to slow/stop his pogo’er as it ran down for the win.

Final score: TD 2 to 1; CAS Many to Several (both in favour of Gobl… Da Green Gits)

The Green Flings cannot find a moral victory in this one.

Only 2 or 3 of my 9 bribes over the day were successful!

It was great to see some of the Caterham guys again as well as many of my usual Darling Lovelies.

See you at the NAF Champs! J

GM Tips - Raising Suspense (Coffin Rock)

Raising Suspense (Coffin Rock)

I am not a good GM – I haven’t the discipline to put in the effort outside the game or to keep players from taking over inside it. I have played with some very good GM’s so I think I need to work out what about their style was successful for me.

Husbit ran the Deadlands’ scenario ‘Coffin Rock’ for us. He says he would be interested to have someone else run it for him to see how different it is (mostly, he doesn’t think the original text is especially creepy but that is how I describe it to everyone, based on how he ran it).

The scenario is fun and interesting and I don’t intend to spoil it for you here.

What I want to talk about are two of the tweaks Husbit made to ramp up the terror level. Husbit is good at creepy – Ravenloft is one of his favourite games to run and has given him lots of practice!

The first was subtle and he’d forgotten he’d even done it until we were watching the ‘Bloody Mary’ episode of Supernatural. He was admiring the use of mirror-play to build tension and commented that you couldn’t do that in a roleplay game. I reminded him that he had done exactly that.

It was clever. Every time a player walked past a reflective surface – a mirror or a window – he asked for a perception roll. A good result, one that looked like it might be a pass, would result in a comment along the lines of “you thought you saw… but no, you probably didn’t” or something that would encourage the player to look more carefully at the surface. We’d roll perception again and if we rolled well we’d be told there was nothing and if we rolled badly we’d think we see something. Our imaginations filled in the blanks, very effectively.

The second was a much larger part of the game that successful got right into our heads and was rather fantastic – we were very surprised when he admitted he’d made it up and it wasn’t part of the scenario.

He played with time.

Two of four players missed the week we arrived in town, so when they joined us the next session Husbit told them they were about a week behind us… and us that they arrived later the same day. That was a little confusing but we didn’t worry too much about it – GM’s make mistakes from time to time. Husbit isn’t the only GM I’ve known use this OOC knowledge against players.

Certainly in our games, players often respond to the question “what do you do?” with “what time is it?” and then there may be some bickering as we try and work out how long previous tasks had taken. Whatever time we settled on, Husbit would correct us and if we argued he would remind us of Rule One.

It actually took a couple of sessions before we twigged that time was messed up, OOC. At that point he ramped it up and started telling us that we didn’t remember when we came to the desolate mining town, that we’d always been there, hadn’t we? Or had we?

He had the benefit of a group that works well together, and soon we were arguing amongst ourselves about how long ago things had happened – “that guy we spoke to this morning” “that was last week” “no, this morning” sort of thing. It actually became very confusing to keep track of where we were and that was the icing on the creepy cake.

Monday 21 April 2014

Elz Bellz

Elz Bellz

Cyberpunk – I played her briefly as a cameo/NPC when I was home from uni for a weekend, but because I designed her really as an NPC I couldn’t play her beyond that. Also I think the Cyberpunk game had finished by the time I got back properly.

Elz is a party animal. Players who meet her will probably do so in a nightclub, where she will be hogging the dance floor regardless of the music – she has a built-in personal stereo so if she doesn’t like the song she can just listen to another. Her outfits tend to the barely decent; not because she craves attention or is seeking the male gaze, but because she dances so hard she tends to overheat. She smokes coloured cigarettes that match her outfit (usual pink, black or silver) and often wears coloured contact lenses. Petite, with very pale skin and platinum blonde hair in an ear-length bob.

Elz is moneyed, and this is probably her advantage to the party. Her parents are wealthy and she supplements their generous living allowance by dealing in drugs – recreational, for the most part, but she can get her hands on most things including some more experimental items.

Talking about the job near her may attract her attention and she may offer her assistance at this point if the job sounds interesting. She’ll join them for the thrill of it – like the girl in Pulp’s Common People, it is a game to her. She’ll use her friends as source to track down exotic equipment the party may need in return for them allowing her to accompany them, as well as bringing her interesting supply of drugs. In terms of weaponry, she has a small handbag pistol and various variants on pepper spray and she will wear a high quality armoured catsuit in black or dark grey.

A sensible party is likely to want to do a bit of research before letting someone tag along. A quick nose around social media (or if someone she likes asks her) will reveal her as Elizabeth Bennett, a psychology student at the local university.

Your party are more paranoid than that? Well, if they check the university enrolment lists, there is no Elizabeth Bennett but there is an Eleanor Barnett, whose accompanying photo looks a lot like our Elz. If asked about this, Elz will acknowledge this is her, but her parents divorced and her mother (a fan of Jane Austen) had always wanted her to be Elizabeth after the character in Pride and Prejudice, so that’s what she tends to go by. A bit more digging will reveal her fees are being paid for by [suitable mega-corp]. Her father works for them, she will explain, now can we get back to having fun before I’m tied down for the rest of my life?

Of course, that’s not all there is to it. Her parents are chemists and use her party lifestyle to help test some of their new drugs ‘in the market’ as it were. Spend too much time with Elz – or accept too many of her kind donations of combat stimulants and healing drugs – and you will find yourself seeking her out for a fix more and more often, sometimes suffering unusual and unexpected side effects. Elz is smart and likeable, but as morally doubtful as her parents and the companies they work for.

Friday 18 April 2014

Elfie Maggot

Elfie Maggot

Lead singer and fiery frontwoman of the Filthy Rotten Dolls, Elfie uses her vast income to pay for the gadgets that enable her to fight crime and injustice Batman-style.

Cyberpunk: would suggest primary rocker, secondary solo

Shadowrun: would suit street sam or adept; human or maybe elf/elf poser (probably go for elf if adept)

City of Heroes: Blaster (this is the medium in which she has existed)

I like Elfie so want to use her as a background character in some cyberpunk novels until I’m confident writing and have a decent plot for her, when I’ll give her her own story.

Elfie Maggot as she appeared in City of Heroes

Appearance: muscular, broad-shouldered but slender – an athlete rather than a weight-lifter. Her charisma is such that people remember her as taller than she is. She is usually described as ‘African American’, which she thinks is fair enough, being part African and part Native American, but she thinks it would be more accurate if her European aspect was also included.

In terms of style, Elfie is punk rock. Her hair sticks up in a tall Mohawk, coloured to complement her outfit. She has some tattoos across her exposed scalps – tribal-esque doodlings – that are set to match the colour of her hair as closely as the nanites are able. She tends to wear biker-style leather jackets over tight, often slashed t-shirts, matched with heavy boots and either leather biker-style trousers or cargo pants. For accessories, she has a pair of cyber-goggles with exchangeable trims and usually wears fingerless leather gloves, with or without studs. Colour-wise, she tends to pair black with bright turquoise or pink, or bright or dark purple. Her left ear was bitten off in a fight with an ex (so the story goes) and the stump has been tattooed to give the distinct appearance of a writhing mass of maggots. Her right ear is tailored into an elven point and has been pierced several times.

“Elfie Maggot” is, of course, a stage name. In many ways, it is far more than that; a whole persona that the woman who has become Elfie has put on, become absorbed into much as an obsessive method actor would. Not much is known publicly about Kelly Porter – occasionally people try to reveal the big secret of her name and her comfortable upbringing, but a lot of people don’t believe the story because it seems so contrary to everything Elfie stands for. Many of her fans imagine that the corporations she rails against are the ones spreading false rumours. Elfie stays quiet and lets the rumours die down by themselves.

Kelly had a privileged upbringing; her education and opportunities taught her how lucky she was and Elfie grew from the anger she (and some of her friends) felt at realising these were not universally available to everyone. Her parents were comfortably employed by a powerful corporation and were able to nurture Kelly’s early interest in music – as well as being able to sing in several different styles (not just the punk rock for which she is known), she has a deep grounding in the theory and mathematics of music and can play several instruments including guitar, piano, violin, flute and saxophone.

When not touring or recording new material, Elfie has been known to strap a gun to her back, pack demolitions in her bag and head off to help those less fortunate that she with as much violence as required.

Monday 14 April 2014

Svetlana Leanne Chekhov

My current Pathfinder character – a chaotic good half-elf, presently level 4 Sorcerer, level 4 Rogue, level 4 Arcane Trickster, tier 3 Mythic Trickster. A pleasure to play in a massive campaign with a story arc that appears to far exceed what we as players know/have so far affected/been exposed to.

Svetlana grew up in a small farming community. Her family are primarily brewers and barkeepers – her mother’s cousins run the local inn, The Burning Tree, whilst Svetlana’s mother and grandparents manage the cider orchard. Svetlana and her mother (Natasha) are both only children, but her grandparents are part of large families so her mother has many cousins around the area.

Natasha had Svetlana when she was very young – younger than Svetlana is now. The story goes that her parents discovered she was pregnant but no one could work out how, until Natasha remembered some vividly erotic dreams she’d had, involving an elf. When Svetlana was born, her half-elf nature confirmed the supposition that these dreams were more than they had seemed.

Svetlana has met her father on one occasion, but as no one else would believe the human-appearing tinker was an elf and dismissed her claims as wishful thinking rather than accept his powers of manipulation, she tends not to talk about it. He taught her the beginnings of controlling the magic that tended to fly from her when she wasn’t paying attention, and left 3 nights after arriving.

Growing up, Svetlana was bright and popular with her peers. She became particularly close to a small group of children close to her in age and, for the most part, ability. Piotr, the second son of a dairy farmer, was the eldest of the group and considered himself the leader because he couldn’t see how easily the others (particularly Devin) manipulated him. Devin had been born in a foreign land – his mother had run away and joined a merchant caravan, only returning when she heard her brothers had been killed and someone needed to return to tend her family farm. Her husband and other children have settled into village life well, but Devin has inherited his mother’s restlessness. He can sing beautifully and speaks many languages.

Anya is a similar age to both Svetlana and Devin. Daughter of the blacksmith, she is brave, funny and fast. Like Svetlana, she enjoys the discipline needed to pick locks and perform similar sleight of hand tricks but her love of the wilderness led her, ultimately, to marry the elder brother (Maksim) of the youngest of their group (Misha) and become a hunter with him and his father. Misha is unique in the village in that from the earliest age he could make the decision he has refused to eat meat – especially striking as his family are hunters. He is quiet but not shy so much as thoughtful. Svetlana very much views him as a younger brother and is protective of him as such.

The campaign began with a call to reclaim the Stolen Lands to the south of Brevoy. Before leaving her village, Svetlana had asked her friends to come with her. Piotr was strong and brave and hadwanted to be a soldier, so she was surprised when he told her that he had grown out of ‘those childish games’ and wanted to settle down and raise a family. Svetlana got the distinct impression that he was hoping she would settle down with him (they shared a first kiss as children, and had had something of an on&off relationship since that never went anywhere or meant more than play to Svetlana), and she simply wasn’t ready for that. Anya’s marriage kept her from leaving – the last Svetlana heard, she was pregnant. Misha had recently been given the opportunity to become a druid. Of her friends, his reasons for staying are those she most respects: she suspects he was born to be a druid.

Devin was very keen to accompany Svetlana, but his parents were firmly against the idea. He told her to leave as per the arrangements she’d made, and he would join her. No one has heard from him since.

Saturday 12 April 2014

Bubba Bowl 2014

I should have typed this up sooner, cos now I can’t remember it as well as I’d have liked. Also, if you don’t play Blood Bowl this probably won’t make much sense.

We were running a bit late because parking in Bristol is expensive if you don’t know the area. This meant we were announced as we ascended the stairs to the venue as though we were attendees at a posh ball. That was nice, like being famous. It was also nice to have Hawca hand me an ipad full of new baby photos as we crossed the threshold.

I took Dark Elves – 2 witches, 2 runners, 4 blitzers, 3 lineys, 2 rerolls and an assistant coach. Having started my Blood Bowl career with Wood Elves, I prefer that extra square of movement over the armour so tend to take both runners when I can afford it. Witches and blitzers come first. Skill-wise, I went for block on both witches (rather than wrestle on one like I normally do) and guard on a blitzer.

My first game was against Maverick’s Necro. I wasn’t sure how the game was going to go – Necro have been a bit of a blindspot for me in the past because I tend to underestimate the werewolves. However, I think we were fairly evenly matched: the game could have gone either way and I worked hard for a very satisfying draw. An enjoyable game to kick off the tournament.

My next opponent was Husbit’s Skaven. This didn’t go so well and was more frustrating (bloody gutter runners!) resulting in him beating me 2-1. Still, my next league match is against him and I have faith that the Shin Kickers will defeat his Underworld. Or hope, at any rate.

Third game was versus one of the Caterham School lads, FFF. Dark Elves vs Dark Elves, although our teams were fairly different (unlike that time against Ceetee, when he and I had identical teams and the two halves were mirror images in what remains the most knackering game of Blood Bowl I have ever played). Taking out my guard player early was a good move on his part, and enabled him to hold the game to a draw. I would have liked the win, but watching him learn and adapt as we played made up for it.

Finally, I faced the Glow-father. He brought Norse – another bane of mine, although one I think I am finally getting the hang of them. Glowworm won the game in part because of an ongoing problem my Dark Elves have with not being able to pick up the ball that, fortunately, hadn’t resurfaced this tournament until the last game (he also won by being a better player than me, but this is Blood Bowl and we can’t admit that!)

All in all, a very enjoyable tournament :)

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Lizbeth Hunter

Lizbeth Hunter (Deadlands Gunslinger – the character I have played in the Deadlands campaign we may one day get around to continuing. Also, typing this I’ve realised 2 of my Deadlands characters are orphans. This was not intentional.)

Lizbeth’s elder brother raised her following the death of their parents when she was young enough to barely remember. Nearly 10 years older than her, he was her world and taught her the skills he thought she would need to look after herself: fighting, talking and above all shooting. He himself became something of an acclaimed gunman, famous enough that people would challenge him for the hell of it; for the notoriety of facing him. For the most part, this didn’t matter too much; it meant they had to move from town to town more often than they would have liked but he usually tried to make sure his opponents were left bleeding but alive.

One day, in a backwater whose name Lizbeth does not even remember, they were accosted by another young man. Her brother was by now in his early 20’s, Lizbeth her early teens and this man somewhere between them. His challenge was met with some reluctance – a reluctance Lizbeth had seen growing in her brother over the past year or so – but her brother agreed to the terms, which would involve the sun being in his eyes for the shot. Misfortune fell, and the boy he faced died. Lizbeth and her brother fled.

The dead boy had family with means and connections. It wasn’t long before the siblings realised they were being hunted, meaning they had to move even more frequently than before, but eventually they were caught. A fire fight ensued, with both Lizbeth and her brother being shot and left for dead before the marksmen left. A local bonesaw did his best and managed to bring Lizbeth round, but not her brother.

Lizbeth was devastated – her world collapsed around her and she knew things would never be the same again. A new steel entered her veins and she swore revenge on the men who’d killed her brother.

She has made steps to track them down: the last she heard they were heading west. A job as a bodyguard for a scientist travelling on the Hellstromme Express would help her on the way.

And the game begins.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Solomon Blackbird

Solomon Ruth Blackbird (Deadlands - character for part of a large campaign. The idea is to have 4 characters for the overall story; Solomon is my favourate of the ones I've genned but I've not yet played her)

The orphanage in which Solomon was raised was really for abandoned boys, but Solomon had been left there and they couldn’t very well turn an unwanted child away just because of her gender.

She came there without a name. The Rev’d Barkwell, who ran the orphanage, had a system for dealing with boys in this situation: a ‘lucky dip’ of first names from the Bible. Being a bit stuck in his ways, he didn’t create a new set of female names, but just drew hers from the existing bag and ‘Solomon’ she became.

The only other woman in the orphanage was Nancy, the cook, cleaner and general maid. She nicknamed Solomon ‘Blackbird’ for her raven hair and because the child often sang as she played or undertook her chores. It was also Nancy who gave her the middle name Ruth, because the world could be too ruthless at times.

Solomon was happy at the orphanage. Life wasn’t easy; she and the boys were expected to undertake a lot of chores and housework/gardening to ensure the place ran on its low budget, and the Reverend and teachers were strict and fond of discipline. All the same, she and the boys managed to find time for games and ways to not get caught when breaking the rules, and Nancy  told wonderful stories and taught her to play the guitar. It was all she was used to and she never felt an outsider because of her gender – until her periods began.

Nancy had intended to sit down with her before her periods began to warn her, but Solomon started younger than Nancy anticipated and was terrified. She screamed and screamed and it was decided that the orphanage was no longer a suitable place for her. Nancy offered to take her in and look after her with Nancy’s close friend Marjorie, but as much as both Nancy and Solomon liked this idea the Rev’d Barkwell did not think it would be appropriate and sent Solomon to live with his sister and her husband.

Thus began an intensely unhappy period of Solomon’s life. She was cut off absolutely from all the people she knew and cared about. The Rev’d Barkwell’s sister, Honoria, and her husband Peter Drake were not used to a girl who had been raised no differently to a boy, and expected her to play quietly. They felt ‘Solomon’ was a terrible name for her, but rather than accepting her suggestion of ‘Ruth’, they tried changing it to ‘Sally’ and made her wear dresses. Whenever she rebelled, they blamed the bad upbringing led by the Rev’d Barkwell and made remarks about Nancy that Solomon didn’t understand but knew were meant to be unkind.

She ran away.

There are not many ways a young teenage girl by herself can earn a living, and Solomon knows she is lucky that the Pony Express were recruiting in the first town she came to. She enjoyed the job and loved the solitude that came with it as much as the people she worked with at either end.

Solomon has grown into an attractive young woman with straight black hair that she cuts short when she is in town but lets grow long when she is out on the trail. Her skin is a mid-brown that darkens easily in the sun. She seems strangely wreathed in shadows on even the brightest day.

As the game begins, she has recently had to leave her job because a puma attacked her on her route, killing her pony and nearly killing her – she escaped with her life but lost her eye. She has a mind open to the supernatural because of some of the things she has seen (or thinks she has seen) whilst trekking across the country, which have lead to nightmares. Her shadowed appearance can be offputting, but she uses her love of tale telling, her guitar and fine singing voice to inspire hope in those around her.


Husbit has asked, in an effort to get more hits on the Exiles League website, that I move my blog to be hosted there. So, what I'm going to do is retain this blog for the full deal and have an 'edited highlights' over here. This way, I can keep posting what I want without worrying about Husbit (who generally plays in the same games as me these days) getting spoilers on characters and stories.

It'd probably be more sensible just to move the whole thing there, but I'm stubborn and started here first ;)

Sunday 6 April 2014

From the Beginning

When my brother turned 11, like a lot of boys he got into Warhammer. Whilst he was now old enough to go to the store by himself, our Dad preferred someone to accompany him. Having less concern about social standing than my younger sister, this usually fell to me. Eventually, my brother grew out of his interest in Warhammer and I had to find a new excuse to go down.

The thing is, I'd become fond of it myself, and had made good friends with the staff and other regulars. I was no longer chaperoning my brother but instead attending in my own right. And that was ok - maybe being female gave me a protection from the bullying that geeks are meant to go through in the regular world, but most of my non-gaming classmates thought it was pretty cool (or at least perfectly ok) that I gamed.

One day, one of the staff members asked if I fancied joining his roleplay group - they wer playing a game based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and he knew I was a fan. I agreed and have always been glad of it: the game itself was a simple introduction to roleplaying - we were playing ourselves under strange circumstances - and it has opened doorways to so many friendships that I treasure but may otherwise never have made.

Playing myself - a bright and attractive but slightly awkward teenage girl who dreamt of magic powers - was kinda fun. It was nice, too, to get to know the other players in another light. After a while, one of them offered me a place in his Shadowrun group (third edition), a more serious game in which I played an elven adept, min-maxing slightly (through inexperience rather than malice) by having her half-Japanese/half-Native American. The other players were not at all surprised by the chocie of elf, but had anticipated I would be a shaman. This was a darker, often more intense game where actions had consequences I wasn't always happy about - but I have fond memories of the game and would go back to it in a heartbeat if it were ever resurrected.

I was introduced to Blood Bowl at the only Games Day event I ever attended - I enjoyed the light-hearted nature of the game but didn't play very often for lack of opponents.

It was through Warhammer that I met my Husbit. Girls are a less common sight in Games Workshop stores, and I think my store wanted to show off they had female regulars (there was myself, another regular's mum who was an ex-staff member and a young girl who played the recently released Lord of the Rings game) so they convinced me and the younger girl to go to a 'South-West Region Tournament'. The coach started from my local store and also collected a group from a store in Bournemouth, a town nearby that I didn't very often go to. The next leg of the journey was a lot longer and boring, but I could hear the Bournemouth boys behind me playing some sort of tongue in cheek roleplay - so I introduced myself and got absorbed into the game to pass the time.

The young man running the game was very good looking, so I went down to the Bournemouth store a few times after this event. Being shyer than I come across, I had no idea how to ask for his number so set up another roleplay game I was going to run in order to have an excuse to get it. My Shadowrun game was far less compelling than the one I had played in, but it did the trick and Husbit and I have been together over 10 years.

My roleplay horizons broadened further whilst at university and exposed to a whole new group of people, and on returning home I found regulars at the pub I worked in also played which in turn introduced me to more games and more friendships. These days, I'm playing in one group, meeting once a fortnight to play a Pathfinder campaign that I am enjoying immensely; it was whilst writing character background for this game that I decided to start this blog.

With Blood Bowl, Husbit runs the local league and also hosts 2 annual tournaments. We try to make it to as many of the local tournaments as we can reach/afford, and again have made many valuable friends this way.

Being a geek is awesome.

Friday 4 April 2014

Ballgowns and Battleskirts

Hello and welcome to Ballgowns and Battleskirts.

As much as anything, this is a place for me to store character backgrounds for various roleplay characters, including NPC's and characters I want to play but haven't had a setting that would suit.

I don't know about other people, but sometimes when I get really invested in a character or game world, I write effectively fan-fiction based there, usually using my characters. These will also be put up here, because it's something I enjoy doing, it helps me relax and it helps me learn to write.

I'm also going to use it as a place to develop characters, settings and themes for the various novels I'm probably never going to actually get around to writing.

Contrary to what the Big Bang Theory may believe, I am one of many women in what does remain a male dominated hobby field (both roleplay and Blood Bowl) and from time to time will discuss this and other RP/BB/geek issues that interest me, but mostly it's a place for fiction.

Hope you enjoy!