Sunday 27 September 2015

Musical A-Z - T

Sorry I've been a bit quiet. There's been some 'real life' stuff going on that's eaten into my time and motivation, and it's going to get worse before it gets better so I'm afraid posts are going to be intermittant and of dubious quality for a little while at least. I'll get back on track as soon as I can, so please bear with me till then.

One of the joys of these musical posts has been that I don't have to think too hard - and I get to listen to music I often haven't properly listened to in years.


Another from my teenage years who, listening to now, I want to get back into. A friend of my friends was a really big fan - I  think he knew their bassist - so I listened to a lot when he was around. It was also he who introduced me to Pantera and reinforced my love of Fear Factory. 

Taylor Davis

This is a collaberation with Lara on the piano. I've shared my favourite of Taylor Davis's pieces (Cosmo Canyon) recently, so picked this instead. She's done a lot of fantasic covers of music that will be familiar to geeks of most ages, but it was her FFVII covers that I discovered first, so they will always be most special to me.

Third Eye Blind

Another somewhat angsty-whiney band I like anyway. My little sister thinks I'm obsessed with this particular of their songs because it's on basically every mix disc I made after I bought the album, but I think I like Ten Days Late best. Giving this song to other people was my clumsy attempt at saying "if you're standing on a ledge, you're not alone and I'll try to help if you need me to, even if it makes you hate me."

I love this song. I love their voices and I loved singing along loudly and with little understanding with my younger sister. And now I'm older, I love that there's a pop song saying it's ok to say no to guys you wanna say no to! I like others of their songs, but I love this.


Transplants are one of the bands I've found to be fantastic driving music, so I knew I wanted to include them. Diamonds and Guns was my introduction to them, and California Babylon was my first choice for song to put here (although it was close between that and most of the rest of the album...) but this won out because a lot of people who matter to me have lost children and this song makes me think of them. 


I have this memory that Coldplay would release a song, then fade away, then Travis would release a song, then fade away, then Coldplay, then Travis... They're similarly nasal and droney but I always preferred Travis so was disappointed when Coldplay appeared to 'win'.


These guys are fantastic and if you don't already know them you should definitely check them out. Their videos generally tell fun little stories; this video doesn't show their incredible skill to its fullest, but does have Steve Vai in it and I'm feeling guilty for forgetting him when I did S. 


My big sister used to go to a rollerdisco every week. 8 years younger, I was too young to be there but she used to bring me along anyway. They'd let me rollerskate up and down at the end of the hall, and every now and then one of the staff would take me for a couple of circuits of the main floor. This song was one that played there often, and brings back very fond memories of my brief flirtation with minor rebellion.


Viking doom metal! What's not to love? 'Twas my friend Troll Luke who first got me to listen to this, and now he's run off to another part of the UK and I haven't seen him in years, which sucks.  

Friday 18 September 2015

Musical A-Z - S (updated)


This is one of my very favourite bits of music.

Savage Garden

I know, terribly uncool, but I really like Savage Garden. Having said that, I've not listened to them in a very long time... 
They were one of very bands my younger sister and I both liked as teenagers. Her favourite was the one about chica cherry cola ('I Want You', I believe), but this one was mine because most of the lyrics were things I believed. And I vaguely recall using 'To the Moon and Back' to torment our younger brother...


More teenage summer songs. I was torn between this one and 'Secret Smile', but when I listened to 'Secret Smile' it was a lot whinier than I remembered, so 'Closing Time' it is.

Sepultura (UPDATE)

Just had it pointed out I missed these guys! This song is one from the club I worked in. Reminds me of collecting glasses, the stink of sweat (in a good way!) and friendly moshpits. 

Shakespears Sister (UPDATE)

I'm also disconcerted that I managed to miss this! The first song I owned: a birthday present from my big sister (along with Michael Jackson's Bad album). Oh, and another pick where I only know one song...
Smashing Pumpkins

The first of three today where I really only know one song, but have listened to it enough that it needed inclusion. Again, teenage angst! I do have an album of theirs, I just never got into it the way I have with other music.

Snake River Conspiracy

My friend Arthur (he of the spiked bracelet) had their album on in the background when I was drinking tea round his (he's largely to blame for me drinking tea: he'd make me a cup before remembering I didn't drink tea, so I'd drink it to be polite until I acquired a taste. I now really like tea - but I'm very fussy about how i drink it!). I really liked it - he knew I liked one of their songs (a fantastic cover of The Cure's 'Love Song') from RocSoc and was pleased i liked the rest of the album because it's one of his favourite and they're not well known (he also reintroduced me to Mr Bungle, whom I accidentally neglected on M).
They only did this one album, Sonic Jihad, before splitting, but I did have a very old tweet mentioning them recently favourited, so I understand there may be similar music to come as Mojave Phone Booth.


This song is on one of the mix-disc's I rediscovered to play in my car. I really ought to check out more of their stuff, because I keep grabbing that disc out for this song (making this the second pick where I only really know one song). It makes me think of the friendly moshpits of the rock/metal nights I've been out on. I dunno, I just really like it. And watching the video, cannot get over how sleek the singer's hair is!


Yep, this would be the third. This song feels like a good metaphor for depression, somehow. I know someone who made cd's where it was every 3rd track so she didn't have to keep skipping back to it. I like it, but not that much!


In my defense, I wouldn't have even thought of Steps if I hadn't mentioned tormented my brother earlier (we used to sing 'Tragedy' as "Will's hair's a mess and he's in a stress; he's hard to bear; with <lyrics I forget> he's going nowhere". Siblings can be very cruel); and Faye from Steps is a metalhead. Let's just ignore that I used to know all the moves to this song, and focus on how funny it is when my West Country friend Jon sings this at karaoke in his thickest Somerset accent.

Sublime (UPDATE)

This update makes the 5th pick where I only know one song. I like ska punk but don't know loads. It may sound weird, but what I like about this song is that it shows the rapist to be a bad guy - that his behaviour deserves punishment, not applause. Feels like an "I believe you" moment.

System of a Down 

I wasn't going to pick this track to represent SoaD, but I've discovered they are my preferred driving music and at the end of a looooong week where I'd spent a fair amount of time stuck in traffic, my GM made the mistake of setting a scene as "You wake up. What do you do?" I don't often wear make up, and my character never does, which would explain his confused expression. It did at least help me wake up and engage with the game more fully...

Like I said, I'm listening to a lot of SoaD in the car. I could listen to digital music, but I'm loving having an excuse to go through my cds. Track 1 on the same album (Toxicity) is 'Prison Song', in which they speak out against the ridiculousness of imprisoning people for taking drugs when treatment and rehabilitation is proven to be far more effective... The logic there makes me think of arguments raised by Icarus Anne Riley, and you should all check out her blog because she is eloquent and pissed off and wants you to think. Also because she talks about music and gaming and other stuff you might like.

Thursday 17 September 2015

Intro: The Staff (Short Fiction)

She was born in the blood of her mother's love and became the wings on which her father flew.


They walked in the woods when she was 3. The tree was as old as the world; its branches as long as the oceans.

"That one," she pointed.

He laughed. "It's too tall for you" in his voice that was the world, but cut the branch cleanly and carried it home.


People would travel to their hut from far and around, seeking the help of her father. They would speak to him privately, then often pat her head as they left, as though for luck.

Some brought food, some clothes, some tools and after every visit, her father would be quiet. He would leave her to play on the rug by the hearth, trusting her to be safe whilst he worked in the shack of a shed she could not enter. And after a few days, they would walk into town to find the person who'd come, his footsteps echoing the joy or anger or sorrow with which they had approached him.


The staff lived in the corner by the fireplace. Sometimes, she would collect it, carry it to him, and he would laugh in his love and tell her not yet. She would show him the pictures and he would carve them out with shick, shick, shicks of his sharp whittling knife in the light of her dark eyes.


She grew (as children will) under the sun and the stars of an open sky. Each time she took the staff he would smile and say "Not yet," but the laughter grew sadder as the lines around his eyes deepened. Until one day she held it and his deep voice trembled "Not yet. But soon." And a tear fell.


It was cold, the day the ghosts came. The two were warming by the fire, but he saw the path of the ghosts and hid her in the roots of a tree that grew by their home. She curled small in her fear, but didn't whimper as the ghosts and the men with dog-heads passed.

She found she could see without moving as they entered the cottage, but no sound as they threatened her father seated in his chair by the fire. No sound as the first drew his sword and slashed at the one she loved most, just the spray of his blood and she squeaked and withdrew so missed the fire they set in the shed.

They left and she raced to the shell of her home.

The life of her father was leaving, blood through his skin, but he pointed and said "It is now. It is yours". And she grasped the staff and fed it with her tears, but it had no power yet and could only take in the blood of her father's love.

She left for the village.

Not a real post, just an update

I'm pretty stressed at the moment, for various reasons. This is exacerbated by not having had time to write for several days and feeling very behind, which is making me more stressed and making it harder for me to start writing. So rather than writing what I wanted to be writing, I'm giving a quick synopsis of what that would be to try and kickstart me.

Still with me?

I now have 3 Blood Bowl tournaments to write up - Gert, Thrud and Exiles Open. The World Cup is coming up and I've still not decided which team to take: I was torn between Dark Elves and Ogres; now I'm struggling to decide between Ogres and Halflings... (I'm going to do badly whichever team I take, and I'd rather lose with a poor team than get frustrated with a good one. Also, the halfling/ogre models, whilst in dire need of repair, are much nicer than the dark elves).

I've got a short story I've been working on on and off for months. I think I'm going to share the abridged intro either later tonight or tomorrow, depending how long it takes to tidy, as motivation to do more work on it. I know roughly how it goes, I'm just struggling to find the words.

On the fiction front, I appear to be accidentally writing a children's story... I like Jack the Giant Killer folk tales and had half an idea to combine them up with Jack and Jill (of 'went up the hill' fame) and tell adventure stories about a giant-killing duo. And today at work I realised I've got a length together, but it does feel more like a children's story than anything I've written before. Goodness knows if I'll get anywhere, but I'm going to try. 

Turning to roleplay, I desperately need to write up Aberrant before I've actually forgotten it all - but because it's on a break I'm a bit reluctant to because that will make it feel like I'm letting go and I'm not ready to. I do want to finish the write up before I start on Exalted, though, so I need to do it soon so I can capture our characters as they were right at the start (we're having a bit of an Ocarina of Time length timeskip, having completed the 'prologue'). 

Generic characters: I really want to write up Bethany and Eric but again am lacking time. I spent ages trying to draw the image of them I have on my tablet, and then my tablet died. Fortunately, it was recently resurrected and I think one of the earliest drawings (on the basic drawing software that came with the tablet) survived, so that might help motivate me. I've also got a couple of Cyberpunk characters clamouring for attention, and a Deadlands' Huxter, triggered by my recent thoughts of cards as weapons - on which note, I have two more decks to finish writing...

And finally circus! I want to go through old photos and videos and compare to new so I can really show off how far I've come over the past 18 months. I'm really pleased with myself.

As a random question, does anyone know what halflings call themselves? It was annoying me earlier. I could think of hobbits and nothing else. I thought maybe they called themselves man, and us halflings because we're halfway between man and giant, from their perspective. But I'm sure there are other names in other fantasies (kender are like halflings, but not exactly the same).

Friday 11 September 2015

Magic Item - Throwing Cards (Basic Deck)

During a recent bout of insomnia, I was thinking about how a magic deck of cards would make an interesting and unusual weapon for a sorceror-rogue archetype character in a game, but I couldn't think of an example (although Husbit has pointed out that it is something Huxters will do in Deadlands). Of course, in our world using Cards as Weapons has been debunked, but access to magic changes things.

You'd need a minimum (manual) dexterity or sleight-of-hand equivalent to be able to use cards as a weapon, and if picking them up in game, you'd need to spend a bit of time learning to throw them. I've got ideas for more complicated decks to follow, but here's a beginner's deck.

The Basic Deck

This deck comes in the form of a single card. Each time it is used, the face changes to another in the deck. Without an owner, the back of the card is plain. Decoration that is distinctive and personal to the owner appears once a connection has been established, although the decoration might not identify the owner to a third party.

With this card in your possession, an easy sleight-of-hand (or equivalent) check will enable you to manifest a standard deck of playing cards that can be used for games or card tricks. The cards last until you choose to dismiss them, requiring another sleight-of-hand check.

In combat, the deck enables you to manifest and throw a card. Where range or other is assigned through strength, instead use dexterity. The cards do (slashing/piercing) damage equivalent to eg a light throwing dagger. The cards can be used to attempt a ranged disarm. Thrown cards disappear in a manner akin to vanquished enemies in a computer game.

Thursday 10 September 2015

Svetlana's Bedrooms

I really miss playing Svetlana at the moment. She's in my mind and I wanted to write about her. I keep going back to a scene in our Interlude game - where Sam broke in to steal a stone - and I read or heard something about how a bedroom "obviously" shows a persons personality (I don't know how true that is - really don't think you'd learn much about Husbit or I from our bedroom, except maybe that I'm messy and like books). Mostly, I was thinking about how much Svetlana's life has changed since the start of the adventure. So please indulge me as I spew forth my ramblings.

The Peasant's Bedroom

The house was tacked to the side of the barn housing the cider press. Svetlana's 'room' was the smallest, a shelf in the rafters reached by a ladder by her mother's door. The bed was tucked against the back wall, a simple straw mattress. At the head end, a chest held her everyday clothes and a few knick-knacks: the doll her mother had made her, a wooden flute she'd never learned to play, a stone with a hole in it, other such things that had caught her eye. A candle holder and pitcher of cold water rested on the lid. A small set of shelfs sat beside the chest, holding the few books she owned, her school work and a small hand-whittled depiction of Erastil in his form as a Stag. The blankets on the bed were patched but plentiful, and the drips through the thatch were caught in buckets.

The room was clean and as private as any space could be in a small house.

The Baroness's Bedroom

The walls are bare grey stone, as thick as she is tall. They will be decorated with fresco eventually, but what plaster was there before has degraded and fallen away: for now, their only decoration is a picture of the Hunter Erastil, a sketch of the Baroness's mother and grandparents and thick curtains that can cover the door and the window alcove. The thickness of the walls help maintain a cool, even temperature: large shutters are fitted over the window to protect against storms.

The bed has a softer mattress, but is still basic and pressed into a corner. A small set of shelves hold her trinkets, a couple of books and a candle. A small wardrobe and a chest of drawers hold her clothes: a few sturdy travelling outfits, some simple working clothes as she'd worn growing up, and a few simple gowns.

The room is larger than the peasant's bedroom, but nearly as empty. The window seat is the area most lived in: cushions soften the stone base, and the sculpture of Stag-Erastil sits on the window cill, with a few votive offerings.

Overall, the room is stark and barren. This is not a room that time is spent in.

The Queen's Bedroom

The bed - four poster, sturdy yet elegant - is larger than the peasant's entire bedroom. It is old, has served its purpose for many decades. Its luxury is in its quality, rather than aesthetic opulence. This is true of the other furniture in the room: a large wardrobe; the cushioned wooden window seats; the chest at the foot of the bed, padded to double as a bench; solid shelves; a chest of drawers; a wash basin stand. The decoration in this room has been well cared for, but matches the furniture in its austerity: the plaster on the walls is pristine but undecorated. The portrait of Erastil is of better quality and is joined by sketches of family and friends from her home town. 

Again, she has made use of a window cill to create her own mini shrine to her unlikely deity, with the Stag carved by her grandfather at the centre. The other cill, however, has been kept free of clutter. A towel hangs from a peg by the window and scuff marks on the cill reveal this to be her secondary means of leaving and entering the room (hurray for spider's climb and mage hand to lock the window behind her!)

The wardrobe holds a travelling outfit, a couple of preferred gowns (one in crimson, another in dark blue, both gifts from Noleski when their relationship was secret; both made perfectly to her measurements), clothes for Court wear, undergarments and clothes to wear whilst waiting for her servants to dress her in her most formal outfits. Most of her other clothes are kept elsewhere.

The chest at the foot of the bed holds a masterworked rapier, basic leather armour, a lockpick and a length of rope. Above these and hiding them are the workings of tapestry-making, something she would be able to use were nobility her natural habitat. They are untouched.

There are a few more books on the shelves here - histories of the kingdom and guides to the noble houses for the most part, but tucked between are tales of heroes and adventures.

Her trinkets are in the chest of drawers. The top drawer holds shells collected from the beach of her honeymoon, a couple of stones with holes in and some with markings that remind her of the blood magic runes they found; a few have markings that look, from the right angle, like Erastil's bow. Others glitter in the candlelight or have the shape of birds and animals. One, jet black, stands out in simplicity: a simple oval shape, it matches the scar on her palm.

The drawer below holds mementos of home: the wooden flute, the doll, letters from her friends, the announcement that first set her on her path to adventure. Beneath that are more gifts from Noleski - jewellery, carved and forged animals; things that attract her inner magpie... and a dried leaf from the day of their first kiss; pressed flowers from their wedding day; a ribbon he used to tie her hair; a scallop shell. The bottom drawer holds the blanket her mother wrapped her in as a baby and a handful of hazelnuts and apple pips.

There is a scent of rosemary in the air: a small bush grows in a pot of the window cill dedicated to Erastil. It is tucked behind a picture, as though she is both afraid of it and afraid to be without it.

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Musical A-Z - R

Hello new people who've started reading since RPGaDay! Whilst I mostly blog about roleplay stuff, a mini-project I've been enjoying has been sharing my music tastes. We're up to artists beginning with R. Hope you enjoy :)

Rage Against the Machine

Having recently ended up with my own car and started driving regularly, I've really enjoyed listening to all my old cd's again. This track was on one I'd made up for dj'ing RocSoc at uni. I was stuck in traffic so whacked the volume up and rocked out. With care and respect to my surroundings.

I love RAtM. Again, a band I discovered as a teenager. I respect that they support the political charge of their lyrics with their acts.

I was going to pick the obvious Killing in the Name so I could share an anecdote about an old job. I may have shared it before, but never mind. I worked in a pub with night club attached. The night club was predominantly a metal club and had a main bar at the front and a small bar at the back that was only really big enough for one member of staff - usually me, because I could handle it even in a crush and very rarely had mistakes in my till.

The boss also headed up security, so he'd wander round from time to time to make sure I was ok - and he always came by when Killing in the Name played so I could scream "Fuck you I won't do what you tell me!" in his face. We had a great relationship: he really looked after any member of staff who worked hard. I'll miss him for a long time yet


When I was little, I learnt a tiny bit of German before visiting family there. And I really hated milk. Then years later, I (mis)heard this and was amazed to discover a song had been written about me! The confusion was dispersed when it was explained the lyrics are "You have me" and not "Du hasst milch".

Remember the friend I mentioned whom I met when he accidently thwacked me in the face with spikes? His name's Arthur and everyone should be lucky enough to have a friend as awesome as he is. Anyway, he's well over 6ft (I think 6'4") and I had another friend (Boyd) of similar height, and they used to stand either side of me in mosh pits and when skanking at uni, and this song in particular always makes me think of them.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

This was another band where it was nearly impossible to pick which song to go with... but this is beautiful. The Chili's were my favourite band as a teenager; each album having its own style meant I could find something to suit nearly any mood. 

Regina Spektor

A friend at uni introduced me to Regina Spektor as "she's weird, but good. Everything about her is weird but good." I don't listen to her often enough to be able to pick a song, so just grabbed one from Youtube. I wanted to include her, though, because she always makes me think of driving with Lou.


My brother introduced me to these guys, starting with The Sound of Punk to Come. This is one of his favourites, and I rather like it too.


Do you remember me mentioning that Awesome World of Darkness I played in when I was at uni? End of the World was one of the theme songs for that. But this is a song I sing to myself whenever I'm having a bad day, and it always makes me feel better.


This is another one that stands out... I don't actually like Rihanna's music (although she has an incredible voice), but I couldn't talk about Steve (my Late boss) without this song coming to mind. His girlfriend at the time he died  had very different music tastes to the staff and regulars, and used to put this on the jukebox over and over again to wind him up. It was a bit of fun but meant it was a long time before I could listen to this without crying. So I don't like it the way I like most of the music I share, but it has become a part of me.

Rob Zombie
I want this played at my funeral. Also, having recently watched The Cabinet of Dr Caligari  for the first time, I really enjoyed this video!

I may have made the mistake of asking Husbit and our friend Mazz (of Clockwork Wargaming), both former DJ's, for suggestions and they've pointed out many fantastic artists I've missed. Rose Royce, Rolling Stones and Richard Cheese nearly appeared, but I realised I was going to never end this post if I wasn't careful! There were many other music memories brought forth from their chattings.

Have I missed a favourite of yours? Any recommendations?