Friday 23 December 2016

Longcon 3 Games Announcements

So four years ago I had an idea for something that would hark back to the days of all weekend gaming, I tested it at smaller venues for two years, then moved up to a full convention for the next one.  The first year only attracted four games per day.  Of these, two of them full weekend campaigns, one of the One Ring, one of the Dresden files. In the other slots we had Original D&D and Firefly on the Saturday, then Cyberpunk and Ravenloft on the Sunday. 

It didn’t quite sell out, but it was a first year, so I wasn’t disheartened and tried it again.

Longcon 2 was something else entirely.

This year had four full weekend campaigns, Dresden returned with the same players to occupy the first cell again, On the large table topside was a wide campaign of Symbaroum, just outside the cells was a crusade against the reptile god to the strains of the Black Hack, and in the terrace was the epic telling of the Dracula Dossier that started on the Friday night and was the last to finish on the Sunday evening.  The single day campaigns on Saturday were another Dresden fate game set in the Hangover City and a Call of Cthulhu haunted house tale, with the Sunday to have one of the first long games involving my new game, Quest.

Suffice it to say that while I took a hit in year one, year two went so well that we allowed some of the attendees to pay in goods rather than money, and both chocolates and dice trays were well received by all.

This year I’ve opened submissions for the games and we’ve had a number of offers thus far…

Six full weekend campaigns

The Watch making three for three years for the massively popular Dresden fate game.

An Abridged version of the Rage of Demons campaign for 5th Edition D&D

An epic tale of superheroes for Squadron UK

A massive sandbox campaign created with the players and run with the Black Hack RAW

A return to middle earth with the One ring

An inquisitorial campaign with Dark Heresy in the footsteps of Eisenhorn

On the Saturday only, we’ve got a Cypher system fuelled adventure into mysticism and magic in the Occult investigative unit of the South African Police Force.

And finally on the Sunday only, we’ve got a Vortex powered game with high school students trying to keep space and time together whilst not missing their exams.

There are a few more games to be put up, and I’m going to be opening booking in mid January, so this is more a taste of the shape of things to come…

Find out more at

Thursday 15 December 2016

Kickstarter Arrived: BoB Case

I do back a lot of Kickstarters, but I don't always back them for myself, certainly in the case of this one and one that has yet to arrive, I look at things that are interesting in a utilitarian sort of way, and wonder if someone else in my life might like them...

In the case of this one, a glasses case that can also hold pens, and can be used as a tablet rest.

Or a Book rest

With most size books

And that can carry four large pens and a set of glasses comfortably with a magnetic seal on it...

Pictures talk louder than words in this case, I present the BoB case, available from Bang Creations

Peninsula Pens - Barron Fountain Pen

I wrote a piece a short while ago on the Tactile Turn Pen, something that had been designed with a certain feel to it.  I got one of my Christmas presents yesterday and found myself thinking about the nature of the materials that we use in fountain pens.  This particular one is something I'd never had considered getting myself, but luckily I have the best of friends and they have a more adventurous palette than I do.

This is a Peninsula Barron fountain pen.

Wood isn't a usual material for fountain pens, most modern ones being made from plastic or metal of various types, but there's a particular feel to wood that makes it interesting to use.  With Plastic and Metal, the material is hard and unyielding, your hand adapts to the shape of the pen, with wood there's a more natural feel to it, the very tactile sensation that the Turn pen was looking for, but without having to engineer it.  This feels soft and light even though when you weigh the pen, it's easily as heavy as anything else in my collection.

The cap can be posted, and there's a screw fitting at the top and the bottom to ensure that it's secure, the nib is Iridium, plated with gold, and writes a line equivalent to a European fine nib, there's a converter included with it, but it can take any size of international cartridge if that's your preference.

Took a little priming to get the nib flowing, but once flowing, no burps, no drops, just a good easy flow that can keep pace with whatever speed writing you're doing. the thin barrel leading into the wide wooden upper makes for an interesting feel, the thin barrel easy to grip, but with the wider upper resting in the hollow of the thumb comfortably.

And then the last thing, something that I've not encountered with any other pen...

The scent...

These pens are made from old whisky barrels, and while the scent is slightly taken away by the crafting process, there's still the warm smell of old whisky from the pen, and being one of the few spirits that I actually drink, that's quite pleasant.  So there's a new pen in my every day carry, and I'm rediscovering the pleasure of writing with a wooden pen.

Available from

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Longcon 2017 submissions open

Earlier this morning I sent out the early invites for the GMs who have done scenarios before for Longcon, I know that several of them may have intentions of running things this year already, and I believe in lettin
g those who've helped in the past be the first to help in the future.

That said, I'm also looking at expanding Longcon, it started a few years back as an experiment that I was willing to take a bet on, and it's proven worth the gambit, as the games that we've had there have been some of the best that any of the people who've attended have had.

So, I'm be taking submissions for Longcon effective immediately, those offering a game should get in touch with me here, or at any of my email addresses, let me know the following:
Game Title
Brief write up of game being run
System being used
Number of players

Include with the submission if you already have players you'd like to assign to the scenario so I know to make the necessary amendments.

Details on Longcon can be found at

Last years Gallery can be found at

Tuesday 13 December 2016

On the subject of friendships...

There's always a curiosity when someone unfriends you, that particular human need to go ask them why they no longer like you, what have you done to upset them, is there anything you can do to get their friendship back.

However, today I find myself in a different position...

Literally a different position, today I got my full range of movement back, I'm sitting (yep, actually sitting) typing this update with no pain at all, and as I looked over a list of people that have unfriended me in the last year, I thought for a second and came to the conclusion that I believe everyone in the world should do when someone unfriends them...

Their Loss...

Because I'm not a false friend, I don't have to make up opinions, I've already got them, and they're formed by being true to myself, not true to whatever is trendy at the moment.  I don't desert those who need me, I never back down when I believe I'm in the right although I will listen fairly to all other opinions and I'll consider them on their own merits. If you can bring your opinion to me with reason and consideration, I'll listen wholeheartedly and debate with you, even if, especially if I don't agree with you.

And you may not agree with me...

That's fine too, I don't need to agree with you to be your friend, in fact, some of the closest relationships I've got are with people I've argued my whole life with (With a big hi to my little brother there...), who also have strong opinions and will stand for them.

I'm a fierce friend, I treat everyone fair, I'll help everyone who needs help, I don't care the odds or the fight, when a friend needs me, I'm there.  I don't go looking for people to help anymore, and it took me a while to understand that, but now I wait for people to come to me if they need help, rather than offering to sort things out for them, because that never works out as well as you'd hope it would.

Damn all those 80's tv shows with proactive heroes...

Because in the 80's, a bad perm and worse shirt with no buttons could solve anything...
But here's the thing, I don't do drama, not anymore.  I used to, I knew a lot of people who made a staple diet out of it and spent my early years careering from one crisis to the next trying to sort things out, never realising that by sorting the problem out I was giving the person free reign to start another crisis.

Like trying to diet by only eating a few after eight mints every day, you'll feel great for those ten seconds or less, but then spend the rest of the time feeling s***.

And I'm done with that.

I'll fight the world for a good cause, and it won't concern me the odds or the fight I've chosen, if it's the right thing to do, I will not stand down.  Of course, if you're my friend and you're being an idiot, it's my duty as your friend to point out that you're being an idiot.

Because fighting for an idiotic cause isn't what friends do...

So to all those that have unfriended me, I don't understand why you have, and if you choose one day to come and tell me about it, I'll listen, and I'll happily debate with you, but you will not find me coming to you to ask why you chose to no longer be my friend.

Because it was your choice...

And I respect that...

Sunday 11 December 2016

So every once in a while, the world makes you evaluate things...

So the news is out, I wasn't at Dragonmeet last week, even though I'm supposed to be the floor manager of it.  In my place a team of very capable individuals led by my one and only, Jude Dodd, made sure that all the work I'd put in for the six months prior didn't go to waste.  So before I go any further, in no order at all, the following people were instrumental in making that con work.

Rachael Hodson, Richard Evans, Graham Palk, John Wilson, Matt Nixon, Garry Harper, Lloyd Gyan, Sam Webb, Rob Silk, and of course, Chris Birch.  There are others in the form of the volunteers who actually turned up (and we'll come to that in a minute) who I also thank, but it's the core team that make the difference, and these are mine.  Those who were there at the midnight +30 signing off call that I made know that they're more than just a convention team, they're a part of my clan.

But enough of me being sappy, what happened....?


Sciatica happened...

No doubt some of you will have heard of Sciatica, it's when the nerve in your back pinches and renders you in utter pain until someone can physically manipulate the nerve back into place.

What do I mean by utter pain?

Well, it's not as easy as ...

And in fact feels a whole lot more like 

Not least of which because they have to give you pain medication to get over it, and that pain medication invariably causes constipation...

Did I mention that the sciatic nerve runs right through the back, through the bum, and down the leg...?

They treat something that causes excruciating butt pain with something that blocks everything up...

Historically not awesome...

That said, I have an excellent physio, who does (thank the good lord) home visits, and so managed to move from the bed where I had been stuck (literally, could not move from the position I was stuck in) and to my own bed, and in the last few days, came to visit me again and now I can walk, sit (20 mins at a time), lie down (if I'm going to sleep, otherwise bad idea), and have limited mobility.

I'm going again this week to see my physio (We call him the Wizard of West Yorkshire, anyone needing anything to do with physical pain, I would recommend him without hesitation), and I should be back to work for next weekend.

But it gets you thinking...

Mostly it gets you thinking that life is too short, as it did when it happened last time and I was down for two weeks in the middle of the million word challenge, so it has again, and now I'm looking at where I want to go with life.

What's important to me...?

Me personally?

Writing and gaming, writing more than gaming if I'm honest, gaming I love, but writing is my first and foremost passion, I game when I can.

I write every day...

But, there will be those that remember that earlier this year I put out a call for people to help get others into gaming, I've moved on that, there's a number of conventions and stores that are now looking to join up with getting more GM's into gaming, and if anyone knows of more, please get them to get in touch.  As you'll see from the website, we're also building content for people to learn more of the craft, and we'll be building up on that with online lessons and coaching sessions.  

For now, take a look at, under gamesmastery, there are a series of links there to the conventions and stores that are joining in, and over the next few weeks, there's going to be a lot of content going up about how to run games and how to get involved.  All those who volunteered before, I didn't forget you and there's going to be a mail out shortly to all of you to see how we can get things working.

Anyone else interested in helping, get in touch.

Super 5 05 Fountain Pen

In advance, as always, I did not buy this pen, it was provided free of charge in return for an honest review.

I always wonder when it comes to the naming of pens, some have model numbers like most of the Hero and Jinhao ranges (Probably to avoid any comeback on copyright), some have grand names that speak of grand purpose, such as the Graf Von Faber Castell Catherine Palace, named for the building of the same name.  Some...

Well, Super 5 has the feel that the creator might have been watching Battle of the Planets when thinking of the name, couldn’t get past the idea, so counted up the heroes and then added “Super” to it...

Cheerfully, the pen isn’t anywhere near that derivative...

The Super 5 I was given to try came in an all black finish, with a 0.5 mm “calligraphy” nib.  Immediate question posed on those dimensions would be how can you do calligraphy with a nib that’s leaner than most medium ballpoints? 

The answer...? 

You can’t...

That said, what you can do is a lot of writing, and that’s what I’ve been doing.  The construction is interesting, plastic cap and back with a solid metal nib and barrel.  The net result of which is that the pen is very base heavy, almost as much as the average desk pen when it comes to trying to find the balance point. This in turn provides a very stable grip because all the weight of the pen is in your fingers, and because it’s metal, you can apply as much or as little grip as you like and the pen is good for it.

The flow is good, fast enough to write at a good pace, not so fast that you end up pooling it and having to drain it out.  The nib is absolutely firm, no give in it at all, similar to the regular LAMY nibs, but with a leaner profile to them.  It takes international standard cartridges, was supplied with one containing blue ink, and a curiosity in the form of an international cartridge with no base on it.  Bemused, I just fitted the standard Blue cartridge and got to work with it.

Nice lines, good feel to the pen, and while it’s not as cheap as most entry level pens, the weight and construction of the barrel gives it the feel of a much more expensive pen.  For me, it was very comfortable to use, no weight in the back of the pen and no resistance when I was writing.  The speed of the flow suggests that the pen is set up more to use the Super 5 inks that I got with it, inks that are thicker than regular fountain pen ink whilst being very wet at the same time.  I’m going to give them a try in the next few days and see what comes of them.

Overall though, I like this pen, very comfortable to use, light enough that long writing sessions won’t cause fatigue, and cheap enough that if something were to happen to it, I wouldn’t be able to get another one.


Saturday 10 December 2016

Super 5 Ink review

In Advance, as always, I did not buy these inks, I was given a few small sample bottles in return for an honest review.

The Super 5 fountain pen I tried a while ago was an interesting piece of kit, something that performed above its cost and proved to be a pen that I’m going to continue using for quite some time.  When I got samples of all the different ink colours, it has to be said that I wasn’t sure if I was going to like all of them.

The first curiosity was the naming of them, like the Super 5 itself, the names were a curiosity.  I have samples of Dormstadt (Black), Frankfurt (Grey), Delhi (Orange), Dublin (Green), Atlantic (Blue), and Australia (Red), and while some of those names I feel are appropriate to the colour, some of them (Frankfurt?) I couldn’t quite reconcile. 

That said, it’s all about the ink, not the name of it, so I took a dip pen and set to.  The inks are very thick, very strong colours, but they flow at the speed of a normal fountain pen ink.  I’m not sure that I’d trust them not to glue up my finer nibs, but I think they’d be good in a broader nib, where colours as rich as these would be best to flourish.

All the inks were very wet, some moreso than others, and it was difficult to differentiate with some of the colours when writing with the nibs I normally do, which is why I’ve included a swipe of the ink colours beneath the writing.  All of them take a while to dry on good fountain pen paper.  On worse quality paper, there is still very little feathering with the ink, and the colours are vibrant on whatever paper you use.

Writing samples of all six colours, all written on Izods dark star collection paper (which I’ll be reviewing at a later point) for comparison.  The inks aren’t the cheapest I’ve seen, but they are mixed by Rohrer and Klinger, they’re waterproof, and the colours are excellent.  The thing for me here is whether or not they’re in range of the inks I normally use and if I’d consider using them over the regulars.

Well, my regulars are Heart of Darkness and various diamines, so they don’t compete with HoD on blackness, and they’re nowhere near Diamine on price, so it’s unlikely that I’ll be going back for more, but they are interesting, and they’d make for excellent calligraphy if you found the right nib for them.

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Tactile Turn Gist Pen Review

In advance, I would like to state that I haven’t purchased this pen, and that the copy I’m using was provided free in exchange for an honest review.

The TTG (Because I don’t want to type the words out a few hundred times) is an interesting innovation, taking the form of a regular piston refill pen and then making subtle changes to the barrel and weighting of it to give a unique feel and heft to it, things which we all know are essential in the enjoyment of a pen.

This is the first pen I’ve encountered where the actual feel of the pen has been considered to be an element in the selling of it, I know that I’ve spoken in the past of the feel of a pen, the requirement of it to feel right on the page, so the nib doesn’t scratch, and it sits comfortably, but this is something new.

This was engineered this way...

To put that in perspective.

The TTG has the feel of being made up of several concentric rings of carbon fibre, I don’t know what the actual construction of it is, but I know the feel of carbon.  The rings are small, each one less than 1mm in depth, not enough that they distract from the use, but equally not so small that they feel like a file on your fingers.  It’s a screw top with a copper top, and both the cap and the back of the pen are very light.

Very light.

I suspect that this is because the pen couldn’t be too heavy to use, and given the weight of the nib and barrel of the pen, they would have had to save weight somewhere, and it certainly wasn’t there...

Which brings us to the nib and barrel...


Real Copper from the feel of it, heavy, cold, solid.  Again with the same ribbing to the construction, machined perfectly to a fine barrel, the piston at the back is a very good size, and the nib is a genuine Bock steel.  When writing, the weight of the pen at the front gives inclination to press harder, which in turn increases the flow and so on, so writing with it is very easy, there’s no fatigue to be had even when writing for long periods of time, and that’s where the feel of the pen comes in.

Copper is a good conductor, and I suspect the metal wasn’t chosen at random, when you’re writing with this, there’s a feeling, almost like rubbing two pieces of cloth between your fingers.  I can’t describe it any better than that, your fingers hold to the barrel, but there’s no give in it, so you can grip it wet, dry, doesn’t matter, it still feels sturdy and well mounted.  The curious thing is that if you have an unyielding grip when writing (so your hands stay in the same position and you don’t fiddle with the pen), then you’ll be fine.  If, however, you do fiddle with the pen, the grip caused by the barrel causes the pen to ride up into your hand with every movement, which means that within seconds, you’re holding the nib and not the barrel.  Not an entirely unpleasant sensation, but certainly one that needs some working with to get used to.  If you’re a heavy writer, this pen will be perfect for you, if you prefer something lighter, give it a test before you buy it.

When you’re writing, you have to write fast, the nib and barrel flow fast, in the way that a train does, you can’t slow down with it, and you certainly can’t rest the pen on the paper.  I suspect that given other, thicker inks, you might get a finer line with more detail, but given what I was working with (and more on that paper later), this just wouldn’t stop writing.  The ink laid down thick, no gaps in the line, but that meant it was very thirsty, and I wouldn’t use this on anything less than good quality paper, on even slightly absorbent paper, it would drink the cartridge dry in no time at all.

And you need that massive reservoir...
Overall, I like the pen, it wouldn’t form part of my every day carry, but it makes for an interesting occasional writer, I could easily see it being used as a journal pen, but the way the barrel has been designed doesn’t make for everyday use.  Aesthetically, it’s beautiful, seamless lines and strong construction all the way through, the refill seats perfectly, and there’s no leakage from the nib if left upside down.

Bold experiment, I’d be interested to see what they try next.

The Sheffield Pen Show

It’s not often that I get to take a look at all the different pens out there, and it’s even rarer that I get chance to look at them all in one place, so it was with some interest that I finally got to one of the regional Pen Shows, and the last one for this year.

Held at the Copthorne Hotel in Sheffield, on the 20th of November, I went with my wife Jude (who also loves pens) and we went over for first thing in the morning. 

First impressions were that it wasn’t huge, but I’ll come to that in a moment, it was three rooms in the conference area of the hotel, with the dividing walls removed to make it into a single room.  There was a presence from the writing equipment society there, a number of traders, both familiar and new, and a few manufacturers making their presence known.

The first stall that I went to was Onoto, which is a brand that I’m not intimately familiar with, but it was an excellent start to the show.  I spoke at length with the director of the company, Feng Li, and one of the engineers who put the pens together.  They’re billed as an all English pen, so the immediate question was...

Is it...?

The response?


But with provisos...

The engineer that I spoke to was very clear about the materials that the pens are made from being from other locations than England, the nibs are Bock, the feeds are Schmidt, and the materials from which the pens are constructed are drawn from wherever they can be found, but the craftsmanship...

All English...

What struck me most was the direct manner of the engineer, here was a man who looked only to make pens, and to make them as best he could, he was both engaging and reasonable in his comments, pointing out that if the best nibs were English, they’d buy English, if the best feeds were English, they’d buy English...

But they’re not.

I handled a few of the pens, no images I fear, couldn’t write while photographing things, but the pens were very well balanced, the design of them seamless, no errors, no blemishes, each one of them made to the highest standards and presented with pride.  This to me was all that is required of someone making pens, the pride in what they’re doing and the desire to make everything better.  They do commissions, and speak honestly when they say that a simple amendment to an existing design will take a few weeks, something wholly new make take several months.  I was impressed by their honesty and their products, many of which I took a photo of so you can get a look at the full range of things.

The second stall was made up of spares and parts for all different types of pens, nothing in particular and everything in general, the stall holder wasn’t much interested in talking to me, but was happy for me to be putting their wares up on the blog, just not discussing them.  This attitude wasn’t uncommon at the fair, and I’ll come to that in a moment, but I didn’t bother with the images and free publicity if they couldn’t be bothered talking to me for more than a half second.

The third stall was the most interesting of all the people I talked to today, a man selling everything from high end pens to things you could use every day without worrying about walking around with a kings ransom in your pocket.  He introduced himself as Ray Walker, a man interested in the use and design of pens, we talked for a short while, and it became quickly apparent that he is very much a man who enjoys the use of pens, rather than just the selling of them, he gave me a number of contacts, recommended several fairs to visit, both for purchase and for use, and talked to me about what he liked most in pens.  He deals with the very top end of pens, and carries out both repairs and valuations.  He, of all the people at the show, was the one that I felt I had most in common with, and to that end, I’m including all his contact details at the end of the piece.

The other parts of the show had a variety of things on sale, varying from spares and bits to very, very expensive pens (the comment made was “Are you sure they haven’t misplaced the decimal point...?”), pen cases, notebooks, and more inks than you could shake a stick at. 

Particular case in point to the northumbrian pen company and their excellent stand of cases.

I spoke to Pure/Niche pens while I was there, good stand, doing more trade than everyone else as a result of their prices having the decimal point in the place where most could afford it.  We discussed the monopoly on noodlers inks that they have and how they were planning on increasing their range and product lines, and we found that we also shared a love of writing in general.  

Very approachable and knowledgeable, many interesting stories of inks and the people that make them (ask him about hunting sharks in canoes...), and made me certain to buy more from them than I had in the past, good suppliers are hard to come by, interesting and friendly ones even harder, so this was one to keep.

And that brings me to the last part of the show review, and perhaps the most disappointing of all the things that I encountered whilst I was there. 

The attitude of many of the traders there...

If you weren’t there to buy, you weren’t there, and while I understand that, and I understand that the show is there to make a profit, I also understand that if you don’t have a good shop front, no one’s going to spend money with you.  If you aren’t willing to talk to anyone, you’re not likely to sell that 2k pen that’s sitting there, and it could be that a lot of the traders figured that there wasn’t anything to be done there, because most people don’t wander in off the street with a suitcase of notes wanting to buy a pen, but you never know...

And this too was something encountered with some of the people at the show, pens were very much a bragging item, not something to be written with, not something to be used every day, but something to be carried in a case and shown off as a means of how much wealth you have.  

Those without the pens to be in the club, weren’t welcome in the club, when I was taking notes with the Lamy I take everywhere, I could have pulled out a turd and had less revulsion I suspect...

Ah...A Lamy...clearly can’t afford a real pen...

Or certainly that was how I felt by the time I got out of the hall.
So I got at least one of these...

I have to say that for me, this is the exact wrong reason for having a pen, and having walked around the entire hall, I found more people interested in putting pens in cases and displaying them than actually writing with them, so I think it may just be that we were from different worlds.  I’ll be doing another pen show at some point in the future, and chances are they’ll know I’ll be coming, but that won’t make any difference to me, I’ll seek out the people like Onoto and Ray Walker, who have the same interests as me and don’t mind talking to everyone.

And that’s why there’s a lot of photos of the pens on offer, and no contact details for any of them...

But those that did talk to us...?

Northumbrian Pen Company,  Good range of pens and accessories, best cases of the whole show

Onoto Pen Company, Beautiful pens and within the price range of those without swiss accounts, will take commissions, very friendly.

Ray Walker,  Excellent range of pens from every day carry to antiques in cases, very knowledgeable and approachable, recommended as a contact point into the world of higher end pens.