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Aeons ago the BBC wiped various tapes, including Dr Who, to save money. I just found one.

I'm cataloguing old David Attenborough quarter inch audio tapes - mainly from Zoo Quest and Tribal Eye. And I've just come across one which has this crossed out on the box: 531 DR WHO "F Episodes 4 & G" The F and G are my best guess, since those have been overwritten at least twice! The words A Little Machine, 7 1/2 IPS overlap on side? may also refer to Dr Who.

After that, the tape seems to have been used for something called Lost Peace. And after that for Zoo Quest - recordings of indris in Madagascar.

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Fun with Coreldraw and RPG maps

I have a new addiction - mucking about making contour lines look more 'realistic' on maps I'm drawing for military science fiction RPGs. I want game maps which look like proper topographic maps, not like fantasy novel frontispiece maps. I'm using CorelDraw and making the initial pile of contours is dead easy. But then I can spend DAYS titvating things! :-)

This one unexpectedly developed a canyon and a delta...

map_crash_largescale_screengrab

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Boardgame-tastic Christmas

The Hairy Brother has just departed back to the frozen north, after a Christmas of gaming goodness.

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Context for those not already in the know: I've been running Night's Black Agents, which is spies versus vampires. I'd been doing a certain amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth, because the player group is so risk averse that they'd managed about half a dozen sessions without actually finding out that vampires exist. They've seen some weird supernatural stuff (bloke on street who could be seen thru camera lens but not with the naked eye) and had a fight with a couple of ghouls. But they steadfastly refused to speak to anyone who had the potential to be even moderately threatening. So after that first supernatural encounter they haven't even talked to the non-vampiric NPCs who have a direct link to the Big Bads or Medium Bads... such as gang members, or security guards at a fur farm, or bodyguards for a Russian mobster. They've talked to rival gang members and to corrupt cops who are turning a blind eye to drug dealing, but not to any of the main conspiracy.

By the way, the first thing the PCs were sent to do was to retrive A SUITCASE NUKE from a minion of the Russian mobster. I keep prompting them with "You still don't know why the Russian mob stole a suitcase nuke from Iranian terrorists" but they (with the exception of one player) won't do any investigation which might involve them actually bloody TALKING to people. They'll hack bank accounts, they'll sneak in when the NPCs are out and bug their office, they'll sit on a church tower a mile away watching people through sniper scopes. Me having them find dead bodies of people hidden in the office basement... or indeed the 'still alilve but won't be for long' body of someone being bled out in a secret lab STILL didn't trigger a desire to grab a minion and use any of the spy interrogation and intimidation skills they have coming out their ears to ask "What the hell is going on?"

So I moaned at them they were being risk averse.

The response? They start planning to kidnap the Russian mobster. Hurrah! At last! I think. But barely into the planning session it morphed into 'let's assassinate the Russian mobster'. Two of the players took my moaning about them being risk averse to heart and met the mobster, saw vampiric powers, got into a knife and sidearm fight with his minions, etc. Great.

Unfortunately the other 2 dialled the risk aversion up to 11. They positioned themselves 1000 yards away from the action - so no risk of having to engage in a physical, mental or social conflict with an NPC. They insisted on using long range weapons (sniper rifle, explosives on remote detonator) - so they can damage the NPCs but the NPCs can't damage them. They got rid of their perfectly adequate sniper rifle & explosives, and replaced them with uber damage versions... and whinged when I wouldn't give them anti-tank weapons.

Night's Black Agents is supposed to be James Bond/Spooks versus vampires, with schmoozing rich NPCs, going undercover to infiltrate organisations, having punch ups in dark alleyways, parkour pursuits across the rooftops and car chases thru city centres. However, these players apparently want to play some sort of combination of American Sniper and Nuke The Whole Site From Orbit. So I've canned the campaign and asked them if they want to play a military science fiction game instead. I have tons of stuff where claymores and anti-tank weapons will advance the plot rather than derail it.

Random Update

Life seems to be very busy at the moment. Previous few weeks have included:

  • Armadacon

  • Visiting Stockport to see keith_martin, then a day trip to Manchester.

  • Seeing various films at the cinema: Dr Strange, Arrival, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them. (Interestingly the cinema in Manchester was much cheaper than the ones in Bristol by several quid).

  • Playing Only War RPG. I have re-done my character, as it is one of those games where you have to have played it to understand how to create a character who can walk and chew gum at the same time.

  • Running Werewolf the Apocalypse RPG. Missing a couple of players due to floods and transport woes.

  • Running Doctor Who RPG. The players stole the engine of a centuries old, decrepit void ship from the cybermen. What could possibly go wrong?

  • Playing Waggle Dance the boardgame. I really like it. My friends also like it but don't like the 'random special ability' cards. I'll be playing the 2 player version with my brother when he's here over Xmas, so we'll see how that works.

  • Wrestling with the new Bristolcon website. This year there is a new interface for paying by paypal and a 'registration' process, which is supposed to capture all the data we need. So far in testing it has done weird things (like refusing to give membership numbers if 1 person buys 2 memberships). I'm not convinced that this new system will be less work for me when maintaining the membership list. e.g. all the people who pay by cash or cheque now have to be entered manually on 2 webpages AND added to the spreadsheet, instead of just the latter.

  • Adding random bits to various writing projects (mainly the RPG stuff), but not actually finishing any of them!

Meanwhile, the BBC's promise to tell everyone if they have/haven't been accepted for voluntary redundancy by 30th November might have slipped to 8th Dec. I say might, because no-one will actually confirm or deny this, but it was kind of implied in an email about something else entirely. 

Armadacon 28 - con report

Thoroughly enjoyed Armadacon last weekend. I admit that I usually go to Armadacon mainly to see the other regular attendees. I liken the con to a family wedding, where only the relatives you actually ENJOY talking to have turned up.

But this year the guests were also terrific. The panels with Nev Fountain and Rob Shearman were fantastic Dr Who themed geek outs, while both Colin Baker and Michael Jayston entertained us with tales of shenanigans from the theatre and television. It was also interesting to hear actors' perspectives on the way television has changed in the last few decades (no rehearsal time any more!). David Wake was also as entertaining and informative a speaker as usual, and he won the Masquerade by simultaneously appearing as both Colin Baker's Doctor AND the Valeyard. And Andy Lane did a great presentation on writing, with an ongoing in joke that Stephen Moffat never writes or calls him any more.

Following on from it's success last year, Friday night was Armadacon Unplugged, organised by Roz and David. This year I recited 2 poems (The Horses by Edwin Muir, and The Ambulance Down in the Valley by Joseph Mallins), read an excerpt from my short story in the Para Animalia collection and led the singing of Alien Encore by Leslie Fish (the plot of the Alien movie to the tune of What Do We Do With A Drunken Sailor).

I rediscovered The Horses by Edwin Muir when it was read on Radio 4's Poetry Please. I recognised it as something I'd heard at school, and I think it is probably the evolutionary ancestor of my Horse Chosen roleplaying game.
I remember ranting about Dream Sequence a while back, so I guess this is rant number 2!

Imagine a viewpoint character in a novel has, or knows, a Secret. For instance:
- I am the True Heir to the Kingdom, living under a false identity so that my evil usurping Uncle does not hunt me down and kill me.
- I have the mutant superpowers and must keep them secret from the Government or they'll hunt me down and kill me.
- I know that the CEO of my company has stolen billions from the pension fund. If he suspects I know he'll probably hunt me down and kill me.

I don't object to the character having the Secret. I DO object most strongly to them having viewpoint scenes where they think about The Secret as a concept, rather than thinking about the facts/actuality of the secret as they do with any other bloody thought in their head. Basically, the author is trying to conceal the Secret from the reader, presumably so they can have a big reveal later. But it is REALLY ANNOYING when character think things like "If my wife knew my secret, she would leave me" rather than "If my wife knew about my mutant superpowers she would leave me".

Authors - stop constructing your damn books like a TV series! If we're in the character's head, tell us the damn secret.

Summer Stabcon 2016 was fun

It felt a bit weird that Keith wasn't there to natter to at length on geeky topics, but nevertheless I had a great time at Summer Stabcon. I ran three RPG sessions:

1. Gentle Ladies' Tea, Monstrosity Destroying and Quilting Circle. They were doing fine until they accidentally got Queen Victoria turned into a vampire...!
2. Hammer's Slammers: A Billion Tons of Watery Death. The PCs missed a couple of the saboteurs, so their Cunning Plan was blabbed to the enemy. But they applied excessive force to the problem and it went away.
3. Hammer's Slammers: Rescue Run. This is the 3rd time I've run that scenario and these guys were definitely the most efficient party. They even cleared the rebels out of the tunnel system. Other parties haven't bothered.

I played:
1. A zombie apocalypse scenario set in the Trafford Centre. Our main weapons were office chairs.
2. Agricola. Enjoyed the game, but one player took FOREVER to take his turns, so the predicted 90 minute game took over 3 hours.
3. Suburbia. Liked this. Might buy it if it is not too pricey.
4. Mysterium. I think that's the right title. This was intriguing and bonkers (in an intellectual way). Would play this again.

I've uninstalled Windows 10

Among its annoying bugs and features were:

1) It uses peer-to-peer file sharing to enable other folks to update to Windows 10. It doesn't actually TELL you it is doing this. First clue I had was the PC grinding away when idle, and then an email from my service provider saying that I was about to exceed my monthly bandwidth limit!

2) There is NO way to tell Windows 10 you have a metered ethernet connection. You can inform it your wifi is metered and thus set it to 'piss off, this is costing me money'. But you can only sort the ethernet version by (a) stopping ALL updates or (b) doing things with registry keys. Option (a) was the one recommended by Microsoft Tech Support.

3) It lost the Start Menu. The official tech support solution to this is to create a new user account. And then presumably an even newer one when it does it again...?

4) It turned the Menu Bar on CorelDraw into white font on a white background, which is less than useful...

So frak off Windows 10.

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