Friday, 23 June 2017

Manuscript 1856 Northern Lights 1.1 nib Review



Some names in the pen industry have been around for a very short while, some have been around for ever and make the same things every year, and some...

Some Innovate...

So it is the case with the latest offerings from Manuscript.  I have a Manuscript pen from years ago, unremarkable but reliable would be how I best describe it, it doesn't form part of my every day carry because it's too light, and the nib doesn't flow the way I like, so it was with some interest that I agreed to review the new model, just to see if things have been improved.

I chose the Northern Lights colour scheme, with the 1.1 italic nib, which would not normally be my choice to use, but it was the only way to get an objective comparison with the existing Manuscript pen that I have.

The new pens are light, but solid, the description indicates that they're made out of Italian Resin, and I'm not enough of a materials specialist to speak of what that might be.  In practical terms, it feels like thick Acrylic, the patterns are a little different every time due to the setting process, but as I don't have several on stand by, I can't speak for that either.  What I can say is that it's a very attractive pen.


Solid in feel, but not heavy, coming in at 20g, but with the thickness of the barrel, it feels as if it should weigh more than it does.  The cap is a screw top, as is the rear of the pen, and it's here that I have an issue, the screw is made from the same acrylic, and it doesn't always seat in the thread first time.


It's not a massive inconvenience, but whereas with a metal screw, you wouldn't worry about damaging the thread quite as much, with this, there's the concern that if you pushed a little too hard, you might crack or wedge it in.  In comparison with the solid nature of the rest of the pen, this seemed out of place.


It takes standard international cartridges and comes with a convertor, the nib is a Jowo with the Manuscript logo etched on to it, so the flow is as good as you would expect.


It's a comfortable size for someone with larger hands to write with, the barrel is wide all the way along and while you can post it, it does effect the balance with some significance due to the overall lightness of the pen.

When it came to writing with the pen, I have no hand for italic writing, so I handed over to my wife, who was gracious enough to put this down.


It flows well, and while thirsty due to the size of the nib being used, it has a well controlled flow and doesn't blob on the page at any point, something very useful when I came to write the second sentence in my slower handwriting.


It comes in a good, solid box with a letter explaining all about the history of the pen and everything else to do with it, but the excellent quality of the box only had me thinking that they could have spent the time and effort on finishing the pen in the same way, and they'd have had a true contender.

The ML1856 retails at £125, which puts it in the same price point as Platinums #3776, Cross's Century II, Pilot's Capless, and Diplomat's Excellence.  The feel of it is similar to that of the Namisu Nova, only half the weight (and almost twice the price), and as I'm many will have guessed, I don't feel this to be in the same league as the pens at the same price point.  If you like large pens that don't feel like dumbbells when you pick them up, this is excellent, it's a good nib, and the distinctive colouring of it makes it stand out well from most other things, for me, it's a little style over substance.

As always, I didn't buy this pen, it was provided so I could provide a review for it.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Notebook Reviews - Silvine Originals


A short while ago, one of the notebooks I was given to review struck a chord on a number of levels, this was the Silvine Pocket notebook, impressing me with the combination of superb paper, excellent binding, and reasonable price point.

It turns out that the Pocket is not the only Silvine notebook out there, there’s a whole family, and they come in a range to suit anyone. 

As always, in advance, I did not pay for these notebooks, they were given as a sample in return for an honest review.

The thing about Silvine notebooks, whichever size they come in, is that the paper is excellent, it’s just absorbent enough to bite, but it doesn’t drink the pen, and as those who know me will attest, paper than can hold the ink without having the whole cartridge is very important to me.  To demonstrate this, I had friends over the weekend, and as the lady in question needed a new fountain pen, I decided to carry out the consultation on one of the notebooks given. 

This is the Project Notebook

Light blue five millimetre squares on one side and blank on the other to allow a combination of illustrations, diagrams, and writing (in whichever orientation you prefer), I let the lady loose, and as she is an enthusiastic bunny (Sorry H, but you are), she proceeded to try all the pens and many of the colours.

With the following results



And the page after



Bleedthrough, even when using the Kanji brushes, is minimal, and if you’re looking at the page rather than photographing it under high light, it’s almost non-existent.

This for me is at the core of the Silvine appeal, the paper is almost without equal, thicker and more resilient than Tomoe whilst retaining the tactile quality that allows writing using any width nib with equal efficiency.

That said, the notebooks I use tend to come in two different sizes, huge, and tiny, and Silvine do a number of others.



This is the Exercise book, harking back to the days of school (At least when I was a kid) when most books came with a margin built in, or had one drawn in biro to split the page up. A5 in size, same quality paper, perforated down the edge and coming with a backing board to let you write on any surface just in case you don’t have an old style desk handy.  Not to be confused with the lower quality books that we got to use at school, just in case anyone remembers the cheap and cheerful silvines we had to use back then.



This is the Notebook, 190x125 mm, it’s just a little smaller than a moleskine notebook, same perforations in the side and while blank (not a bonus for me), it’s a good size to carry around.



The Pocket I’ve already gone into on another review, but it remains part of my every day carry, just for jotting things down and storing them in the Fauxdori for use later.

All of these are available from www.silvineoriginals.co.uk, they are more expensive than most notebooks, the Pocket is £6.50 for 3, the Memo is £4.50, the Note is £6, the Exercise £7, and the Project £14.  However, other notebooks don’t have the level of quality that these books do, and getting fountain pen quality paper in a regular notebook is a rare enough occurrence, getting it in the larger sizes is all but impossible.  The only one of the notebooks that I’d hesitate in buying again would be the Project, and that’s because for the same price, I could get a new Leuchtturm, and I have a thing for hardbound notebooks.



The last thing is the Story book, which isn't actually a notebook to write in, but a written history of the notebooks, where they came from and where they're going.


Fascinating to read through, but ultimately not a notebook, however, I am cheered by the notion that even with so long out of circulation, they're back and going strong.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Because Poetry should adapt, with apologies to Kipling...

If you can run good games when all about you
Are dropping out and abandoning theirs
If you can trust your vision when all else doubt you
But understand why they don’t share it
If you can watch the door and not be tired by watching
Or have promises broken, while keeping your own
Or deal with jealousy, from those who did nothing
And yet still invite them back time and again

If you can dream, but not forget that dreams are just that without work
If you can think, and know that more than thought is needed
If you can see both Triumph and Disaster
And know that only your volunteers make the difference
If you can bear to hear the advice of others
Who’ve never stood where you are, but think to comment anyway
Or watch the things you give your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em again with worn-out feet:

If you can make one heap of programmes
And hope that everyone takes one, so you don’t have to take them home,
And finish each day, and start again the next
And never breathe a word about the sleep you never got;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your attendees before and after they are gone,
And hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the drive that says to you: 'Next Year…'

If you can talk with Traders and keep your patience,
Or walk with Directors - one step back and to the right,
if neither Umpires nor Cosplayers can faze you,
If all Volunteers count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of crowd control,
Yours is the Convention and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be an organiser, of gamers…


Sunday, 14 May 2017

And following New Inks, New Notebooks...Part Two...

And following on from Part One, here are the other notebooks that came across to review.

First on the lineup is the Story Supply Notebook

Because everyone should have a supply of stories...
Thick card cover over thin lined paper, and I do mean thin lined, this paper was designed for those who write small (like me), it's double copper stapled, and the inner front cover contains a small plaque that lets you write your details, what's in the book, and in the event of loss, return to...


The paper itself is a little thirstier than many of the other books, but it's pleasant to write on and I do like those thin lines.  Given the thickness of the card cover, it's a sturdy journal, little bit stiff for the back pocket, but if you're using it for every day carry, very good.

Which brings me to the journal that got the most intensive testing, the Clairfontaine Retro Nova

Not all colouring on the front cover comes with every journal.
This requires a little explaining, whenever my nieces come over to visit, they want to have a go with the pens and practise writing and drawing, and I can't just give them any paper to work with, I have to give them something that they won't have any problems with, and one that can stand up to occasional hard wear and tear.

So...


Not only did it survive, but it did so with style, as with most Clairefontaine, it's 90gsm, but with a slight Ivory tint to it, threadbound for extra resiliency and with only minimal bleedthrough even through every nib known to me had been applied to the other side of it.  Same solid construction as the Story supply, so maybe a bag book rather than a back pocket book.

And that brings us to the Dark Horse in this particular set of reviews...

This is the Silvine Pocket Journal


Deceptive on first glance, it's a small (110/72) notebook with a stiff card cover.  The paper within is fine (feels like 80gsm), but it has a curious texture to it, slightly rough to the touch, not enough that it distracts from writing on the page (unless you can only write on Tomoe River), so much so that I was inspired to write with several different inks on it, just to see...


But most impressive of all was 


No bleed through at all, and while I appreciate that I write with thinner nibs, several of the other notebooks had the same inks on them and bled through.  The binding is sewn and bound properly with matching thread, and all the pages are perforated for easy removal when you want to keep an idea elsewhere.  The utility of this journal is unparalleled, small enough to fit in any pocket, solid paper that doesn't bleed but doesn't need blotting, and as solid a binding and cover as any of the other Journals.  

Without question, in the context of every day carry, my choice is the Silvine, surprisingly good notebook in a very handy size.  Not quite wallet sized (which would have rendered it perfect), but close enough to add to a passport sized fauxdori without bulking it out at all.  

Thanks again to Stuart from Pocket Notebooks, it's good to see that notebooks are still evolving and better yet, still in demand.

And following New Inks, New Notebooks...Part One...

So last week it was new Inks, this week, courtesy of Stuart from Pocket Notebooks, curiously enough...

It's Notebooks...

I've been given a whole bunch of Notebooks to have a look through and review, as always, no payment received, but nor have I paid for the books in question.  The initial thought was that one or two notebooks might come through, so imagine the surprise when just a few more came through...

And they range from cheap and cheerful to very specialised notebooks indeed.  So in no particular order, I'm going to start with the California series, which come in two different versions, The Back Pocket Journal, and the Back Pocket Tomoe River Journal.

If you gonna be a bear...

Be a Grizzly...
The upper notebook is the Tomoe River version, 48 sheets of Tomoe River paper string bound and tied, my own proclivities regarding Tomoe River paper are well known, it is the best paper in the world for writing with a fountain pen, bar none, and the paper here is exactly that.  

The quandary I had here was that while I always carry a fountain pen and I always carry a notebook, I found myself wondering if I'd actually use this particular Journal because TR tends to need blotting paper to ensure that you don't end up copying your writing to the next page, and it's no different with this.

The other Journal I liked a lot, with 105gsm paper and a very smooth finish, the ink test went like this...


Some bleed through, it's a thirsty paper, and despite being 105, it's not thick enough to hide most inks that were tried on it.  That said, it's a nice Journal with good binding and a solid cover, which would make for a very good pocketbook.  I would use this more than the Tomoe River version, but both are reasonably priced for a set of three books.

Next up was the Inky Fingers notebook

Because which one of us doesn't have Inky Fingers...

Interesting this one, the cover (as can be seen) is glossy cardstock.  The paper within is something else though. 80GSM wheat straw paper that resists feathering and bleeding quite well whilst being very tactile to work with.


As evidenced above, the bleed through was significantly less than the California 105, and with the feel of the paper itself (not quite silk, not quite satin), it justifies its higher price tag.  Binding on the book is twin staple, and the ruling on it is 6mm, which is larger than I tend to use, so of less interest to me, but anyone using a broader nib will certainly find use in this.

Next up is the Darkstar Nomad

Because everything should have an EPIC name...

Name not withstanding, Darkstar are some of my favourite notebooks and for good reason.  The Nomad is no exception, the cover is plain cardboard, the paper within is 100gsm dot gridded in blue rather than black, and as I use a Darkstar for my regular Ink testing, I can attest to the quality of the paper within.


There is some bleedthrough, but it doesn't drink the pen and it's got a nice feel to it when writing.  The pages are slightly larger than most of the pocket books, which allows you to write without fear of taking up all the pages, and the notebook itself is twin staple bound.  I am biased due to previous experience when it comes to Darkstar, but this is a lovely notebook.

Which brings me to the end of part one...

The other notebooks (and my conclusions) are in part two...

In case anyone's mind is already made up though, all of these can be found at www.pocketnotebooks.co.uk

Monday, 8 May 2017

New KWZ Inks

So...

I've been away a while again...

This I find is something that happens periodically, in particular when you're building up to the biggest and best games show (I don't count Essen, you can't sit down and play games there) outside of the States.

But I find myself with time once in a while, and recently, I got given a whole bunch of KWZ sample inks to try for free from Pure pens.  As those who know me understand, just because I got it free doesn't mean that I'm going to say good things about it, the things have to be good as well...

Cheerfully however...

So there were four inks in the sampler, Honey, Gummiberry, Brown Pink, and Azure.


With each one I've taken a bit of a different step to how I used to do ink reviews, because I know that my writing and favoured pens are often too fine to let the real colour shine through.  So in each case, I've also took a shot of the tissue that I used to clean the pens up when I'd finished refilling them, which gives a much broader spread of the colour in question and lets everyone get an idea of what the ink looks like on a broader pallette.  All the writing samples are on a Darkstar notebook, which incidentally is my favourite for using as an ink journal, just the right blend of absorbency, doesn't drink the pen, doesn't leave the ink sitting on top of it for an hour.

We'll start with Honey


This is one of the less viscous of the inks I tried, far lighter than it seems to be in the bottle, and though I suspect it would be far lighter on less absorbent paper, on the paper I was using, it looks excellent.


I don't think the colour would hold as well on something like Tomoe River or similarly non-absorbent paper, but on Darkstar it works really well.

Then I tried Brown Pink, and I have to say with this, there was a certain amount of head scratching when it came to the name of the ink.  I mean, it's either Brown, or it's Pink, the two aren't exactly compatible...


Or so I thought, because while the sample here (to me) looks more purple than anything else, when you get it on the paper and start writing, it's something a little bit special...


The problem here is that the photos don't really do this particular ink justice, when you're looking at it, it does have that rich brown hue, and the edges come up lighter, almost as if the ink separates when you're writing with it.  Now I know that that's not something most people look for in an ink, but in this particular case, it works really well.  It's not my favourite of the inks that I got to try, but it's a very close second.

So then I came to Azure


The closest comparison of inks that I could have to this is Diamine's Deep Dark Blue, but this ink has a richness of colour that shines through even on a finer line.  It's easily the most viscous of the inks that I tried here, and that comes through on the writing test.


I don't use dark blue's too much, too close to black for this man's eyes, and whereas things like Deep Dark Blue have a strange sheen to them when they dry, this stays the same colour you wrote with from Wet to Dry.  I like this one, it's the best of the deeper blue's that I've seen in recent times.

And that brings me to my favourite for this bunch, this is Gummiberry...


Because everyone knows I'm a sucker for a good purple, and this is the most interesting one I've seen, in the bottle it looks like Imperial purple, on the tissue test it looks like Tyrian Purple, but on the page...


And I should point out that this is a Sailor EF nib, one of the finest nibs I own, and prone to jamming with many inks.  In this case, this wrote smooth and easy from the off, dried well, but covered well, and I like that it had a faint scent to it as well as being a nice ink to work with.  Easily my favourite of the samples that I've tried, and one I'd consider picking up a full size bottle of.

KWZ inks are available from Pure Pens at http://purepens.co.uk/acatalog/KWZ-Ink.html

Friday, 17 March 2017

And following on from yesterday - Readers Required...


I need to get back on track with what I was doing before all the delays occurred, so I'm looking for readers again, I've got several books where I'm looking for first impressions, more to see if the story holds interest in the first place than anything else, most of them are nearly completed (2014 was a good year), and wouldn't take much to finish off.

What I've got is as follows

In Iron Clad -

I don’t remember the sun…

I hadn’t been born when the lights went out, but mum used to tell me of the days when the light was free for everyone, not rationed by the guilds and fed through failing bulbs and dynamo’s

All I know is the darkness…

And the work…Always the work…

Alone in the world with nothing to look forwards to but the endless breaking of ships in the dark of the Umbralux docks, Green knows she has nothing coming, death comes for everyone, and she’s no exception, the only question is how long she has before it comes to her.  A ship returns from the far east of the Cold dark, it’s crew missing, it’s cargo plundered, nothing left of value on board to anyone, but a means to make a new life on the waves for those who have nothing else to look forwards to. 

With a crew consisting of a Onceman, three Milrats, a fellow docker, and a Rat Nav, Green sets out into the darkness, there to search for the person who owned the ship, a man she’s never known.


Her father… 

---

Ocean of Stars -

A routine scavenging operation in the Tyrannous stars becomes a journey to the other end of time when they encounter a derelict in space.  Torn from the raiding lanes, the crew find themselves in a world where ships roam the stars on sails of solid light, and the universe is no longer the place they thought it to be. 


Pressed into service on the pirate frigate Unbroken Dawn, the crew find themselves at the mercy of Captain Morgan, a woman hunting the mythical treasures beyond the incandescent death offered by Argents Breath, willing to sacrifice anyone and anything to get what she wants.   As the Unbroken Dawn nears the object of the captains obsession, the crew have to decide if they want to follow her to untold riches (with a side order of death), or consider mutiny (and a side order of death) to take the ship and return to their own time.

---

Regiment B -

There was a world where science had overcome all ills, where technology had an answer to almost everything, and the dawn of a brighter tomorrow was on the horizon…

This is not that world…

On this world, the machines rebelled against their owners, and the Cult of the Pure rose to show mankind of the folly of making use of technology, they promised safety and security in return for not using the technology that had caused all the strife.

But the cult never mentioned that the machines were still out there, and the only ones with the power to stand against them were the deviants who they preached hate against, those who had suffered grievous injuries in battle or in life, and only through the aid of forbidden implants did they exist from day to day.  These are the last chance of humanity, reviled by those they protect, they form humanities last defence.

Regiment B


Struck down by the machines, Vincent Emerson is given the choice between the restricted life his injuries will allow him, or service in the Regiments at the cost of the life he once knew…

----

Let me know if any of them interest...

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Rejection, something all writers must come to deal with...

So today, after 14 months waiting for a response, a card, anything to acknowledge that there was a chance that I was still in the running, I got the rejection through from Gollancz.

Not on a card (I'd had one of those before), but on their website listing the books that they are still considering, with a note that indicated that if you hadn't had a card for your book, it must have been lost in the initial cut when no cards were being sent out.

I can't easily articulate how much that particular line hurt, especially when the previous updates had said that everyone who hadn't received a card or notification was definitely in second reading, and then in third and so on.

Interestingly enough, I was at the London book fair yesterday, and I went to the Hachette stand (Gollancz owners) and asked if there was any news, said I was willing to wait, did wait, and was told no one was available.

Today the confirmation comes out...

I'd like to think that the appearance of someone asking at the stand prompted them to actually tell people what the score was, but I'll never know on that score, I said yesterday that I'd have been happier finding out yesterday in person rather than two months later on a card, today, I'm at least released from the wait, and my spirits are lighter as a result.

It's the waiting that kills us, not the refusal...

Understand me when I say that in my heart (as in the heart of all writers), I didn't believe I'd get through, but there's still the gleam of hope within, and to be told that you could have been getting on with things rather than hoping that things could be on the way, well, it's a sharp taste of life.

I'm not discouraged, I still write every day, and now I can submit the books to others, because while I was thinking there was a chance gollancz would want it, I didn't, because the last thing a large publisher wants to hear is that you sold it to someone else while they were looking through it.

So two of the books that I'm most proud of stayed sealed for fourteen months...

And that's down to me and I know it...

No more...

Be aware all agents, there are submissions coming your way now, and if you want them, don't wait, because you're not the only one's who've got them now...

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Needing GM's and Volunteers for UK Game Expo and Airecon


Just a brief note about upcoming conventions, in particular Airecon in the new Harrogate Venue, and the UK Games Expo.  In both cases, we're needing a number of GM's, and in the case of Expo, we're also needing general volunteers as well.

With Airecon, there's a small RPG section being run alongside the main convention, and while there's already a number of Pathfinder games available, we're needing more generic roleplaying games, ideally along the lines of shorter demonstration games and things that can get beginners and those less familiar with roleplaying in general to try the games out.  The website for Airecon is at https://airecon.uk/ It's being held in March, between the 10th and 12th, anyone interested in helping out in the RPG zone should get in touch with me directly.

With Expo, growing pains continue, the problem with being the largest games convention in England is that you need the most volunteers of any convention in England, and each year, it gets harder to convince people to come and help out at the show, rather than just turning up and enjoying it.

www.ukgamesexpo.co.uk

So, in no particular order, we're needing a number of general volunteers, at least one more heavy lifter, and a number of general stewards/ambassadors.  The rewards package is, as always, one of the most generous of any convention.  18 hours volunteering gets you a hotel room, breakfast, and vouchers for use at the street scoff.  For general volunteers there's no heavy lifting, but we'll need you at various points through the running of the convention, mostly for door watching and assisting the public in showing them where things are and what's going on.  The lifters tend to work at the beginning and end of the convention, with the rest of the convention theirs to enjoy, but they do have to put the sweat in when on shift.

Anyone interested in volunteering for Expo should contact Heather and Simon at volunteers@ukgamesexpo.co.uk

We're also needing more GM's for Expo, because as numbers grow, so we need more people to run games so we've actually got things for people to do when they're not going around the trade hall.

We're premiering a RPG on demand games area where shorter games of 1-2 hours can be played for those who don't have the time for full four hour slots, this area has several very experienced GM's who can run a variety of different games depending on what the groups want to try out.

Of course, we've also got the regular games, from Call of Cthulhu to the 100 player D&D Epic World Premiere, and we've got more open gaming space than we've ever had before, but we're looking for more GM's to run games for us across the weekend.  Rewards for running games range from free entry for the day to full hotel rooms with meals paid for, and we're not just looking for the bigger game systems, it's not the system that makes the game good, it's the person running it.

Anyone wanting to offer games should get in touch with me directly, either on this post or at John@ukgamesexpo.co.uk

Any questions on any of these, please get in touch, there's a few more conventions coming up in the next few months, and we'll be covering those tomorrow.

Friday, 3 February 2017

RPG special events and submissions for Expo

With us going live on the RPGs for this Sunday evening, we wanted to make a few announcements regarding special events that will not have been made live at the point at which we make every other RPG active.

The first of these events is the D&D World Premiere Epic, a 100 player event that has been given to UKGE following the successful D&D premiere from last year.  This event will be running on the Saturday night in the evening slot and will be going live as soon as the full details of the scenario are made available.

The second of these events is the Cthulhu Masters, a popular event every year, we’re currently setting the scenarios for the event, which will start with the qualifiers on the Friday afternoon, with one player from each of the qualifiers going forwards to the final on the Friday Evening.  One of our most popular events, the Masters has always featured handmade, unique prizes for those who make it through to the final, ranging from perfect copies of the Grail Diary from the Indiana Jones films, to a bound and sealed copy of the Necronomicon.  As soon as we have the scenarios finalised, we will be making an announcement and then setting the masters live.

Finally, there is an indication that there will be a Pathfinder society special event, but we are waiting on details from Paizo regarding the event and will announce the full details as soon as we have them ourselves.

We’ll still be taking submissions for RPG’s after this Sunday, but we would like to stress that with the unprecedented levels of rooms that have been required for Expo this year, we will be prioritising those who get their submissions in earlier when it comes to allocating rooms. 


If anyone has any questions regarding submissions or games that will be coming up, please contact me at your convenience...

www.ukgamesexpo.co.uk

Sunday, 22 January 2017

On the subject of Punching Nazi's...

I’ve been watching the various things about punching Nazi’s today, in particular something that came through in form of a soliloquy on whether it was right to punch Nazi’s, ending in the conclusion that yes, you should punch Nazi’s whenever you should and if you happen to hit a bystander who just happens to have short hair or a bad moustache, it’s unfortunate, and that’s life…

No…

I don’t play politics, never have, I’ve got a strong moral code and I stick to it, but that governs my behaviour, not that of others.  What I read today was an easy justification for punching Nazi’s or anyone who holds similar views to them.

And that’s not how it should be…

I have no sympathies with Nazi’s, nor any extremists, but their views are theirs and their own, it doesn’t give me the right to punch them out any more than their views give them the right to beat down on anyone who disagrees with them.

And you don’t get to justify it by saying that your grandparents bombed Nazi’s in the War, because if we say that it’s alright to hit something because your grandparents hit it, everyone’s a target, you don’t get to say that we need to fight fire with fire, because that just leads to everything burning, and you don’t even get to say that your perspective is right…

Because to the world, it’s not…

It’s just yours, it’s right to you and those like you…

Newsflash…

Their perspective is right to them and those like them…

Does it make them right…?

Only to themselves…

We live in a world where too many people are too eager to lash out, to scream at the things they don’t like, that they don’t want, to scream at the injustice of the world around them...

Because there’s so much injustice in this world…

But that won’t make a better world, what makes a better world is every one of us doing what we can to make it better.  You think punching a Nazi out makes it better?  You think that a sound beating will cause them to question their beliefs and consider that perhaps they got it wrong?  Ask yourself the question.

Would a sound beating make you question your beliefs?

Or will it just reinforce their opinion that they’re right, and that they’ll use the example a hundred times over to show that everyone’s just as violent…?

Because they will…

You don’t change a world with violence except for the worse, them hurting us, us hurting them, whoever them and us are. You change it with ideas, you change it with the hope of a brighter tomorrow, you change it by working every day to bring what you want to the world, without having to beat people to do it, because you know what happens when you try to beat an idea out of something?

You drive it deeper…

Every hit you take, it roots the idea that bit stronger, because whatever that idea is, that’s the thing that’ll free you from the beating, because the person doing the beating can’t think of any other way to get the idea out of you, so they’re resorting to something that will never work…

I got bullied when I was a kid, I was absolutely different to everyone else. I knew it, and sadly, so did the rest of the world, so I ended up fighting people all the time just because they didn’t like who and what I am, and sometimes I’d win…

Sometimes I wouldn’t win…

And I had my books damaged, ended up running home from school sometimes, and never had a chance of fitting in with anything because I wasn’t the same as everyone else.  I remember being chased home from the army cadets and beaten up, till one day my Dad came out and caught them in the act, gave them a dose of their own medicine, and showed me that I was never to give up, no matter how bad things got.  Did it stop the bullies? 

No, they just got sneaky about it…

So, those two never got caught giving me shit any more, but their friends took up the slack, and that’s what happens when violence is on the table.  The second you’ve escalated it past words, the other side is justified in a similar escalation, and it takes years, if ever, to come back down with neither side having won.  I listened to my Dad’s words, I never gave up, and thirty years later, the rest of the world has caught up with the realisation that playing games is okay, and even stranger, it can be a perfectly grown up thing to do…

Have I done my bit for it?

Yep, I’m a bloody evangelist when it comes to getting people into games, into writing, into doing what they want to do without fear, but I’ve never hit anyone to get my point across.  I’ve thought about it a few times, sometimes the ignorance you face is staggering, sometimes the dumb fecker screaming at you makes it seem that the whole world is against everything you stand for, and a solid beat down is well overdue for all the injustice that many in the world suffer for.  But it won’t work…

Because it never does…

Yesterday people marched the world over, and the world noticed, and whether you’re for or against what they marched for, you noticed…  And that’s where ideas come from, when you see that people feel so strongly, when you know that you can speak up for what you believe in, and someone out there will have your back, then it becomes easier to speak up for what you believe in, and as it becomes easier for you, then it becomes easier for everyone, and when you’ve managed to convince everyone that you’re right, without pointing a gun or raising a bat…

That’s when you win…

And I know a lot of people are having a good laugh at all this, white supremacist got beaned on national TV, but it’s not funny, and that where everyone made the mistake before, they thought it was, they didn’t take it seriously, and we are now where we are.

Doubts?

Four years ago, Trump was a by line for “That’s never going to happen…” He was a bad joke (I know, I know, still is) to his own party, but no one took him seriously, and all the times people were laughing at him, he wasn’t laughing, he was working towards making all the people laughing at him, stop laughing

And he made it, enough people stabbed at him, so he stabbed back, and there’s no one laughing anymore…

Someone hits you, hit them back and harder, not a problem, everyone has that reaction and rightly so…

But we should never be laughing at the notion that someone just got hurt just because what they think is different to what we think, it doesn’t matter that their perspective is different, it doesn’t matter that what they say makes us howl with anger and want to punch them, because they say the same about us, and if it’s alright for us to do it, then it’s alright for them to do it…

And It’s not alright, is it…?


Ranting about games resumes tomorrow, promise… 

Friday, 20 January 2017

On being a writer…

I just found out that two of my novels are in for the third round of last years Gollancz submissions, and the thought filled me with both hope, and dread…

Hope because if I make it much further, there’s a distinct possibility that Gollancz might want one of my books, Dread, because if they say no at this point, it’s been a whole year I’ve been on tenterhooks, just waiting for the note to drop through the door that tells me I didn’t make it...

There’s a lot of people out there who want to be writers, and to be honest, you can see why, all you do is turn up at your desk, welcome the muse to sit beside you, type for a few hour, and then enjoy the rest of your day while the awards flow in one side and the money the other.

But you know something, I don’t believe that people think that’s what it is anymore, I don’t believe that at all, that was the popular theory ten, twenty years ago, and now…?

Now I think everyone’s getting the idea of just how hard it is to write things and make them good.  Anyone can write and get it published, there’s a million websites out there and all you need is a word processor and an idea that you’re willing to write up.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing…

In the past, and to some extent today, the publishers and agents were the ones that held the keys to the doors of being a writer, a “Real” writer, one who made money from their creation, but no longer.  These days anyone can publish a book, but to be recognised as a writer needs something else, and I see this in many places where I find other writers.  It’s not enough that we’ve written a million words, ten novels, a few hundred articles, two or three RPG’s, that’s not enough to qualify us as a writer, what we want is the respect of our peers.

Yeah, you’re not a writer till someone else calls you one…

Oh and did I mention pay?

Yeah, you’re not a writer till you get paid for it either…

And shelf space?

Yeah, you’re not a writer till you’re on the shelves at WH Smiths and Waterstones…

Is this all sounding familiar to the other writers out there?

I write every day, other people call me a writer, I get paid for what I write, and I’m on the shelves at Smiths and Waterstones, but somewhere in my heart is the eternal doubt that I’m just pretending to be a writer, that everything I write is no good and someday, someone will come along and tell me to grow up and do something important with my life…

And every day I ignore that voice in my head and keep writing…

Every day…

And if you're a writer, so must you…

Writing is like any other craft, you don’t learn it overnight, and those who think they’ve got it in one with no redraft, no edit, and no doubt…

Good luck to them, they’ve either already spend the ten thousand hours learning the craft, or they’re being wildly optimistic…

We all get the doubt, doesn’t matter how well or much we’ve written, doesn’t matter what we’ve achieved, where we’re published, or what we’re paid (although I suspect those who’ve earned millions might disagree that notion), we still doubt that anything we do is any good.

But it is…

And I thought about doing something for the Kickstarter Make/100 campaign on how to write a million words in a year, but I fear that most people wouldn’t be interested, because the core tenet of the whole project is just keep writing…

And I’m not sure if the world is ready to be told that…


Thoughts? 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Elite Dangerous RPG – How it differs from Traveller


In advance, I’ll admit to being an unashamed Elite Fanboy, loved it back when it first came out and enjoyed the various incarnations leading to the here and now.  For me the problem was always how you’d turn something that was very much a one player game, into something that you could play with many friends around the table.

I have to say, the solution made is quite an interesting one.

Characters are all created even, there are no random elements to how you make a character (unless you want to randomly determine what you were before you took to the stars), and so there’s no possibility that anyone will be complaining of unfairness.

Good start.

The next step is in choosing backgrounds, each of which will give the character a number of bonuses to their existing skill base, or an increase to starting funds, attributes, or implants/cybernetics.  There’s a broad range of previous careers, from Accountant to Secret agent and everything in between.  There’s a skill cap on starting characters, so people can’t super specialise from the off and it encourages a broader range of abilities to work with.

The next step is Karma Capabilities, which are special abilities that modify skills or give other special bonuses such as being able to use medkits more often or avoid target locks on your ship for a short time.

After this follows the round up points and filling in the scores, then choosing your starting equipment and ship.

What makes this interesting is that this system actively promotes the use of an NPC for each character, being the partner that helps them fly their ship.  It isn’t necessary to have a partner, but there are a number of rules for the creation of them, and it’s here that the game takes a significant diversion from Traveller.

Traveller for me was all about a group of people in a single ship forging their way out in the universe and trying to keep together whilst all about them was falling apart.  This game is very much about you being individuals who just happen to be flying the same stars, and that makes for a very different group dynamic for me.  I like the idea that you can have your second standing by in the ship while you go investigating a wreck, or that as a unit, you can approach a problem in space from (quite literally) several different angles all at the same time. 

While invariably as the game goes on, ships will change, equipment and loadouts will vary, but with all of you having your own ship, you can all continue in whatever direction you want to, without having to fit in with the rest of the party.  It’s possible to craft the entire of the party towards the sorts of missions you want to be doing, whether that’s combat support, heavy trading, or espionage, or have all of you remain as individuals who just happen to work together.  It also means that if you happen to lose someone in an adventure, bringing in a new player is as simple as putting out a call and having someone answer it.

How this changes things for me is that it’ll give the players a lot more choices over what they want to do, and correspondingly it’ll work the GM that much harder as a result, but if they’re up to the challenge, the rewards will be that much more as well.


Really looking forwards to this… 

Kickstarter can still be found at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/edrpg/elite-dangerous-role-playing-game

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Good Opportunity for anyone wanting to work in RPG's



Just a signal boost from this end, Ed Jowett, head man down at Shades of Vengeance, is looking for someone to act as Line Developer on a new project

And yes, you heard that right, not just make art for it or write for it, but take control of the line and develop it in the way you want to.  Understandably he doesn't want to put the whole details for everyone to see, but he was looking to spread the word as far as possible.

For myself, I've known Ed a while, and he's one of the most driven people I know in the industry, he's always looking for the next game, the next book, so when I say that this position won't be the easiest in the world, I know what I'm talking about, but I do believe that anyone who's looking to work hard in the RPG industry (and if you're not, look elsewhere, this industry is harsher than Mega City One...), this is a really good opportunity to work with a well established studio with a good work ethic.

Those interested can talk to Ed direct at ed.jowett@shadesofvengeance.com, and the current works on offer from the studio can be found at http://www.shadesofvengeance.com/

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Possible lack of service on the convention front...



And if updates are a little late, or blog posts lack images for a short while, you can merrily put the blame down to BT, who seem to think that twenty days is a suitable timescale for someone to be out of internet.  Perhaps they think that if they just tell us not to complain enough, we’ll actually listen to them…

It’s not likely really, is it…?

Either way though, I have other sources of internet, normally less reliable than the one I’m presently paying for and not receiving, but they’ll do for now.  However, if the game you’re putting in for Expo isn’t immediately approved, don’t worry about it too much, it probably means I can’t load the page because I’m on pre 1996 levels of service, downloads in bytes, rather than KB or MB…

Although I did like the response they had to the initial query, which was “Have you tried looking on our website…?”

Look on our website…

When you haven’t got internet…

I did wonder if they were trolling me, but then figured that it’s (like all things BT) a standard response written on a script that someone was typing as an automatic response, but then you’ve got to wonder who thinks to put a standard response on like that…

And maybe this is the problem, I’m used to delivering a good level of customer service, both at my day job, and at the other jobs I do, I know what it’s like to be waiting for something and not getting it, and the worst thing of it is that most customer services treat it like it’s an inconvenience to them…

So, There’s an understanding here, and BT will likely find out about it shortly, because as I said to the person on the phone yesterday, it’s not them I’m annoyed at, nor the fact that they have to give the automatic responses (and by the way, note to consider here, telling me that I must be happy with the line you’ve just fed me is a really dumb line to get people to read out…), but I am annoyed at the company that requires those responses to be read out.

I like to think that the conventions I run, run on the best customer services. If there’s a problem, we get it sorted, if there’s an issue at any point, before, during, or after the con, you can bring it to any member of staff and they’ll deal with it, or they’ll escalate It to someone that will.  I believe that in all aspects of life, people respond to good efforts with good nature.

And it’s not easy, it never has been…

But the second you tell a customer that you don’t care, and that this is what it’s going to be, not that you’re going to try and do something, but that you’ve already decided they can put up with your lack of service, then you’ve lost the customer, whether immediately or in the weeks to come, you’ve lost them, and if they don’t show normal british reserve (which I’m about to abandon), and decide to tell the world about the lack of service, then you’ll find that the one client might not be all you’ve lost…

But then maybe you’re not bothered…

Maybe you have to lose a lot more people before you start to pay attention...


We’ll see…