Monday, August 3, 2020

#RPGaDAY2020 - DAY THREE: "THREAD"



#RPGaDAY2020 is now on Day Three, and the prompt is THREAD

We're playing a couple of games at the moment (Things from the Flood and Changeling: The Lost), both with different GMs, but both of them are running the games with a brilliantly open-world way of managing the plot-threads. Both of our GMs have said that plots are ticking away at their own speed, progressing and advancing with or without our intervention. Something I really love in these games.

Of course, I'm sure our GMs thought we were a lot smarter than we really are when they started weaving all of these plot-threads through the games. There have been a few occasions where we've missed something completely, a plot has been resolved by an NPC because we've become distracted by a different element of the setting, or just gone off for a meal or a date - accidentally forgetting about the coming apocalypse in one case!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

#RPGaDAY2020 - DAY TWO: "CHANGE"



Day Two of #RPGaDAY2020 is the word "Change", and I've decided to take that as a quick look at the change in my gaming tastes. It's weird, but recently I've gone back to playing 1st edition AD&D, back with my old D&D group from many, many years ago - the same group that introduced me to gaming back in the mid 80s. 

Looking through the rulebook I have to admit a complete change in my tastes. I love the way that games have become works of art, with amazing illustrations and design. They've become simpler, and faster. Quick to pick up, especially for new players, and leave you free to enjoy the storylines and the drama rather than having to constantly flick through dozens and dozens of rulebooks. 

Probably why my favourite games of all time (Ghostbusters, WEG Star Wars, Buffy, Tales from the Loop) are all super fast and quick to learn. 


Saturday, August 1, 2020

#RPGaDAY2020 - DAY ONE - "BEGINNING"



Day One of #RPGaDAY2020 and we start at the very BEGINNING. 

I'm going to interpret this as how did I start playing tabletop RPGs? Well that goes back many, many years to the mid 1980s. The usual Saturday afternoon and I headed over to see a friend of mine who had the unfortunate nickname of Crud, expecting the usual afternoon of programming a ZXSpectrum to enable us to play the most basic of Light Cycle games. Instead, Crud said "we're not doing that, we're going over to JR's house"... 

We trekked over to his house, the far side of the city, and there I was introduced to my first tabletop RPG. Traveller...


Those little black books had so much information in them! I created a character, who was well into his 50s by the time he'd finished his military service, and played for a bit but wasn't really sure what was going on. It was all very new to me, but I was intrigued and very keen to try some more. It was only a matter of time before I was asked to come along to the next game, something very different - Dungeons & Dragons...

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Exploring #RPGaDAY



With #RPGaDAY looming ever closer, I thought it was time to share the alternative version of this year's prompts graphic. The prompts are the same, don't worry, but the graphic you can use is very different.

Last year when Anthony Boyd and I were discussing the new format for #RPGaDAY, changing it from full questions to single word prompts, the concept of producing the list as a map came up. Will Brook's awesome graphic has become the "board game" or possibly even the outside terrain map of the month's prompts - produced on a cool hex-grid. Especially as this year's colours really make you think of those old terrain maps from the 80's.

This year, however, we thought we'd go all in and produce a dungeon map. It's a simple dungeon, with one route through it that takes you through the 31 prompts as locations. I set out to have a go at doing it myself, but I haven't drawn a dungeon map in decades and it was awful. 

So I called in my very good buddy Simon Miles from Dunromin University Press. I've known him since I was about five, so that's *cough* years... He was also one of our regular Dungeon Masters back in my teens, and I've started playing 1st Ed AD&D again recently with Simon as the DM after a break of thirty-five-odd years. Just like old times with the old D&D group!

Simon's never really stopped DMing and creating, and you can find his publications and dungeons on DrivethruRPG through the Dunromin University Press website.

Awesome map. And it adds a new element to the experience of #RPGaDAY... you could use the prompts to act as inspiration for encounters within the rooms of the dungeon, and even run a room a day as an actual play! Fab!

Remember, if you'd prefer the old graphic, you can find that below, along with translations of the prompts.


#RPGaDAY2020 Prompts

1    Beginning
2    Change
3    Thread   
4    Vision
5    Tribute
6    Forest
7    Couple
8    Shade
9    Light
10    Want
11    Stack
12    Message
13    Rest
14    Banner
15    Frame
16    Dramatic
17    Comfort   
18    Meet
19    Tower
20    Investigate    
21    Push    
22    Rare
23    Edge
24    Humour
25    Lever
26    Strange
27    Favour
28    Close
29    Ride
30    Portal
31    Experience


The RPGaDAY2020 Prompts in Spanish, translated thanks to Roberto Micheri.
  1. Comienzos
  2. Cambio
  3. Hilo o Enhebrar
  4. Visón
  5. Tributo
  6. Bosque
  7. Pareja o Par
  8. Sombra o Sombrear
  9. Luz
  10. Deseo o Necesidad
  11. Pila, Apilar o Montón
  12. Mensaje
  13. Descanso
  14. Estandarte o Consigna
  15. Marco o Esqueleto
  16. Dramático
  17. Comodidad, Consuelo o Alivio
  18. Satisfacer, Cumplir o Reunirse
  19. Torre
  20. Investigar
  21. Empujar
  22. Raro o Extraño
  23. Borde, Ventaja o Límite
  24. Humor
  25. Palanca
  26. Extraño
  27. Favor
  28. Cerrar
  29. Montar o Paseo
  30. Portal
  31. Experiencia

We've also had the prompts translated into German by ShineShadow and Michael L. Jaegers, many thanks!!

1 Anfang
2 Veränderung
3 Verlauf  
4 Vision
5 Tribut
6 Wald
7 Paar
8 Schatten
9 Licht
10 Wollen
11 Stapel
12 Nachricht
13 Ruhe
14 Banner
15 Rahmen
16 Dramatisch
17 Komfort  
18 Treffen
19 Turm
20 Nachforschen  
21 Drängen  
22 Selten
23 Grenze
24 Humor
25 Hebel
26 Seltsam
27 Gunst
28 Ende
29 Reiten
30 Portal
31 Erfahrung 

And translated into Swedish, thanks to Rickard Falk! Thank you again!

1    Början
2    Förändring
3    Tråd
4    Vision
5    Hyllning
6    Skog
7    Par
8    Skugga
9    Ljus
10    Vilja
11    Stapel
12    Meddelande
13    Vila
14    Baner
15    Ram
16    Dramatisk
17    Tröst
18    Möte
19    Torn
20    Undersöka
21    Trycka
22    Ovanlig
23    Kant
24    Humor
25    Spak
26    Främmande
27    Favör
28    Nära, Stänga
29    Rida
30    Portal
31    Erfarenhet

And translated into Italian, with many thanks to Daniele Di Rubbo! Awesome!

1. Inizio 2. Cambiamento 3. Filo 4. Visione 5. Tributo 6. Foresta 7. Coppia 8. Ombra 9. Luce 10. Bisogno 11. Catasta 12. Messaggio 13. Riposo 14. Stendardo 15. Cornice 16. Drammatico 17. Conforto 18. Incontro 19. Torre 20. Investigare 21. Spinta 22. Raro 23. Margine 24. Umorismo 25. Leva 26. Strano 27. Favore 28. Chiudere 29. Cavalcare 30. Portale 31. Esperienza

Translation for into Portuguese(BR) by Richard ‘Bat’ Brewster and Eric Souza.

  1. Começo
  2. Mudança
  3. Discussão / Fio 
  4. Visão
  5. Homenagem
  6. Floresta / Bosque
  7. Casal / Dupla
  8. Sombra / Tom 
  9. Luz
  10. Desejo
  11. Pilha (de coisas)
  12. Mensagem
  13. Descanso
  14. Estandarte / Bandeira / Insígnia
  15. Moldura
  16. Dramático
  17. Conforto
  18. Encontro
  19. Torre
  20. Investigar
  21. Empurrar
  22. Raro
  23. Limite / Borda
  24. Humor
  25. Alavanca
  26. Estranho
  27. Favor
  28. Fechar
  29. Montar
  30. Portal
  31. Experiência
With many thanks to Maciej Jesionowski, the prompts have now been translated into Polish. 

1.    Początek
2.    Zmiana
3.    Wątek
4.    Wizja
5.    Hołd
6.    Las
7.    Para
8.    Cień
9.    Światło
10.    Potrzeba
11.    Sterta
12.    Wiadomość
13.    Odpoczynek
14.    Sztandar
15.    Rama
16.    Dramatyczny
17.    Komfort
18.    Spotkanie
19.    Filar
20.    Zbadać
21.    Pchać
22.    Rzadkie
23.    Krawędź
24.    Humor
25.    Dźwignia
26.    Dziwny
27.    Sprzyjać
28.    Blisko
29.    Jazda
30.    Portal

And into French with many thanks to Sebastien Allard & Francois Letarte

RPGaDAY est de retour pour sa septième année! Ce mois d'août nous demandons aux rôlistes de partout de faire preuve de créativité et d'utiliser ces mots comme point de départ pour parler, peindre, écrire ou filmer quelque chose de cool, de positif, ou d'impressionnant à propos de notre hobby! Utilisez #RPGaDAY2020 pour rejoindre la conversation! Débutez ici! 1. Début 2. Changer 3. Fil 4. Vision 5. Hommage 6. Forêt 7. Couple 8. Ombre 9. Lumière 10. Vouloir 11. Pile 12. Message 13. Repos 14. Bannière 15. Cadre 16. Dramatique 17. Confort 18. Rencontrer 19. Tour 20. Enquêter 21. Pousser 22. Rare 23. Tranchant 24. Humour 25. Levier 26. Étrange 27. Faveur 28. Fermer 29. Chevaucher 30. Portail 31. Expérience Vous avez réussi!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Announcing #RPGaDAY2020


[Image Description: graphic looks like a classic tabletop RPG, in green and yellow colours. There are 31 hexagon shapes, numbered 1 to 31 with a word each. The list is in this post. At the top left there is the following text “RPGaDay2020. RPGaDay is back for a seventh year! This August we’re asking tabletop gamers everywhere to get creative and use these words as a daily prompt to talk, paint, write or film something cool, positive and awesome about our hobby!” on the top right it says “use #RPGaDay2020 to join the conversation!”. At the very bottom it says “presented by autocratik, with a graphic from @willbrooks1989″ with the small symbols for twitter and instagram next to it. /end ID]

August isn't too far away and that can only mean the imminent arrival of #RPGaDAY - an internet incentive to try and get the world talking in a positive and encouraging way about tabletop roleplaying games. 

Every day during August (remember, AUGUST, don't start yet) check out the cool graphic above designed by the awesome Will Brooks. See what the word prompt is for that day, and write, post, blog, vlog, podcast, draw, paint, sculpt, sing, interpretive dance... anything at all, about tabletop gaming inspired by that prompt. Keep it positive, remember we're all about positivity and inclusivity.

To inspire you (hopefully), Anthony Boyd, my co-host for the last five years of #RPGaDAY and I have made a little video to tell you more...



As we get nearer the time I'll upload the awesome dungeon crawl map created by Dunromin University Press as an alternative to the regular graphic. 

Below you'll also find the list of prompts in plain text, and I'll add translations as they come in.

See you in August!

#RPGaDAY2020 Prompts

1    Beginning
2    Change
3    Thread   
4    Vision
5    Tribute
6    Forest
7    Couple
8    Shade
9    Light
10    Want
11    Stack
12    Message
13    Rest
14    Banner
15    Frame
16    Dramatic
17    Comfort   
18    Meet
19    Tower
20    Investigate    
21    Push    
22    Rare
23    Edge
24    Humour
25    Lever
26    Strange
27    Favour
28    Close
29    Ride
30    Portal
31    Experience


The RPGaDAY2020 Prompts in Spanish, translated thanks to Roberto Micheri.
  1. Comienzos
  2. Cambio
  3. Hilo o Enhebrar
  4. Visón
  5. Tributo
  6. Bosque
  7. Pareja o Par
  8. Sombra o Sombrear
  9. Luz
  10. Deseo o Necesidad
  11. Pila, Apilar o Montón
  12. Mensaje
  13. Descanso
  14. Estandarte o Consigna
  15. Marco o Esqueleto
  16. Dramático
  17. Comodidad, Consuelo o Alivio
  18. Satisfacer, Cumplir o Reunirse
  19. Torre
  20. Investigar
  21. Empujar
  22. Raro o Extraño
  23. Borde, Ventaja o Límite
  24. Humor
  25. Palanca
  26. Extraño
  27. Favor
  28. Cerrar
  29. Montar o Paseo
  30. Portal
  31. Experiencia

We've also had the prompts translated into German by ShineShadow and Michael L. Jaegers, many thanks!!

1 Anfang
2 Veränderung
3 Verlauf  
4 Vision
5 Tribut
6 Wald
7 Paar
8 Schatten
9 Licht
10 Wollen
11 Stapel
12 Nachricht
13 Ruhe
14 Banner
15 Rahmen
16 Dramatisch
17 Komfort  
18 Treffen
19 Turm
20 Nachforschen  
21 Drängen  
22 Selten
23 Grenze
24 Humor
25 Hebel
26 Seltsam
27 Gunst
28 Ende
29 Reiten
30 Portal
31 Erfahrung 

And translated into Swedish, thanks to Rickard Falk! Thank you again!

1    Början
2    Förändring
3    Tråd
4    Vision
5    Hyllning
6    Skog
7    Par
8    Skugga
9    Ljus
10    Vilja
11    Stapel
12    Meddelande
13    Vila
14    Baner
15    Ram
16    Dramatisk
17    Tröst
18    Möte
19    Torn
20    Undersöka
21    Trycka
22    Ovanlig
23    Kant
24    Humor
25    Spak
26    Främmande
27    Favör
28    Nära, Stänga
29    Rida
30    Portal
31    Erfarenhet

And translated into Italian, with many thanks to Daniele Di Rubbo! Awesome!

1. Inizio 2. Cambiamento 3. Filo 4. Visione 5. Tributo 6. Foresta 7. Coppia 8. Ombra 9. Luce 10. Bisogno 11. Catasta 12. Messaggio 13. Riposo 14. Stendardo 15. Cornice 16. Drammatico 17. Conforto 18. Incontro 19. Torre 20. Investigare 21. Spinta 22. Raro 23. Margine 24. Umorismo 25. Leva 26. Strano 27. Favore 28. Chiudere 29. Cavalcare 30. Portale 31. Esperienza

Translation for RPGaDay Portuguese(BR) by Richard ‘Bat’ Brewster and Eric Souza.

  1. Começo
  2. Mudança
  3. Discussão / Fio 
  4. Visão
  5. Homenagem
  6. Floresta / Bosque
  7. Casal / Dupla
  8. Sombra / Tom 
  9. Luz
  10. Desejo
  11. Pilha (de coisas)
  12. Mensagem
  13. Descanso
  14. Estandarte / Bandeira / Insígnia
  15. Moldura
  16. Dramático
  17. Conforto
  18. Encontro
  19. Torre
  20. Investigar
  21. Empurrar
  22. Raro
  23. Limite / Borda
  24. Humor
  25. Alavanca
  26. Estranho
  27. Favor
  28. Fechar
  29. Montar
  30. Portal
  31. Experiência
With many thanks to Maciej Jesionowski, the prompts have now been translated into Polish. 

1.    Początek
2.    Zmiana
3.    Wątek
4.    Wizja
5.    Hołd
6.    Las
7.    Para
8.    Cień
9.    Światło
10.    Potrzeba
11.    Sterta
12.    Wiadomość
13.    Odpoczynek
14.    Sztandar
15.    Rama
16.    Dramatyczny
17.    Komfort
18.    Spotkanie
19.    Filar
20.    Zbadać
21.    Pchać
22.    Rzadkie
23.    Krawędź
24.    Humor
25.    Dźwignia
26.    Dziwny
27.    Sprzyjać
28.    Blisko
29.    Jazda
30.    Portal
31.    Doświadczenie


And into French with many thanks to Sebastien Allard & Francois Letarte

RPGaDAY est de retour pour sa septième année! Ce mois d'août nous demandons aux rôlistes de partout de faire preuve de créativité et d'utiliser ces mots comme point de départ pour parler, peindre, écrire ou filmer quelque chose de cool, de positif, ou d'impressionnant à propos de notre hobby! Utilisez #RPGaDAY2020 pour rejoindre la conversation! Débutez ici! 1. Début 2. Changer 3. Fil 4. Vision 5. Hommage 6. Forêt 7. Couple 8. Ombre 9. Lumière 10. Vouloir 11. Pile 12. Message 13. Repos 14. Bannière 15. Cadre 16. Dramatique 17. Confort 18. Rencontrer 19. Tour 20. Enquêter 21. Pousser 22. Rare 23. Tranchant 24. Humour 25. Levier 26. Étrange 27. Faveur 28. Fermer 29. Chevaucher 30. Portail 31. Expérience Vous avez réussi!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Chatting about Games



Yesterday I was kindly invited to chat on a fairly informal hangout on Twitch, chatting with Kalum from the Rolistes podcast. It was my first time talking live on a Twitch stream, but I think it went okay. You can watch the whole thing on Youtube - 


Anyway, during the video I talk about a lot of stuff. So I thought it would be best if I add links to the various things mentioned...

Star Trek Adventures - the RPG I was working on last time I talked to Kalum at Rolistes, which I had to drop out of. Check out the Modiphius page here.

#RPGaDAY - check out the Facebook page for RPGaDAY so you get the latest news and find out the prompts.

Doctor Who Roleplaying Game - what I'm working on at the moment can be found at the Cubicle 7 Games site.

WILD - The roleplaying game of dreamshare technology. You can check out the new site here



Qistina Khalidah - the fantastic artist who I'm so sorry I mispronounced on the chat - who did the amazing cover art for WILD. You can find Qistina at Qissus online, or the Artstation here

Aegean RPG - game of mythical Greece published by we evolve

The Gaslight Club RPG - game of Westworld like hosts by we evolve. 

Okay, take care everyone. 

Stay safe!!

Friday, June 5, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Books That Hooked Me (Part 10)


READY PLAYER ONE - ERNEST CLINE

The final entry in my ten books that have had a massive impact on me, and another one I came to rather late. I know lots of people who had read and loved Ready Player One but it wasn't until the film came out that I felt the need to satisfy my curiosity.

It was a weird one - there was that awful marketing campaign with the poster with Wade's leg being ridiculously long, and the 80's movie tie-in posters that were parodies of things like Back to the Future and The Lost Boys, but echoing at the back of my head was the constant voice saying "didn't people I know love this book?"

I was curious, but was no longer working in the book industry so I did what anyone did and I got the free sample 20-odd pages as a download on iBooks, just so I could check out the style and whether I'd like it.

It was great, but there was something weirdly familiar about it.

The film came out, and it was just as the local cinemas were having this realisation that attendance was down - no one wanted to pay £15-20 a ticket, and in order to get bums on seats they dropped all their prices to £5. Debs was at work, and I had a day off, so I paid my £5 and saw it one afternoon shortly after it came out.

I really enjoyed it. Far more than I thought I would. So much so, I told Debs about it and we went to see it together the following week.

The movie came out just before my birthday, and Debs always struggles to think of what to get me - and I really don't want or need anything. But that year I asked her to get the me book so I could finish reading beyond the sample, and see how it differed from the movie.

Didn't take long to finish the book, really enjoyed it (though I could see The Shining sequence working better for the movie than the repeating the whole of Wargames line for line...

But the thing that really stood out was the writing. Over the years, I've read so many books that have inspired me to write, and a few that have really heavily influenced my style. I mentioned my write like Chuck Palahniuk phase, that followed my write like Stephen King phase. But when I finally started writing for myself, especially for the NaNoWriMo novel I did, and the start of its sequel, I felt I stopped trying to sound like other writers and just be me... and that's what Ready Player One sounded like in my head as I read it.

It read like something I would write. Not just for its obsession with the 80s, but the language just felt like someone (Ernest Cline) was tapping into the way I thought and wrote. Really weird...

I read Armada, his follow-up book which is heavily influenced by the classic 80's movie The Last Starfighter. Probably owes as much to that movie as Ready Player One owes to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Tron.

But if anyone wants to know what my fiction writing style is, without actually reading any of my work, just check out Ready Player One and you'll get a good idea. It's quite uncanny.
--

That's it. Final blogpost about media for a bit. The dayjob looms ever closer, as the lockdown is easing (far too early if you ask me).

I'll post as often as I can, but until the next time, stay safe and look after each other.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Books That Hooked Me (Part 9)


THE MAGICIANS - LEV GROSSMAN

Okay, confession time. You know there have been things in these blogposts where I've confessed that there have been films, TV series and the like that I dismissed completely - only to actually check them out for myself and discover that they are fantastic. Well, Lev Grossman's The Magicians trilogy is one of those.

I remember the first one coming into the shop about the time I left the bookshop. The cover was trying to jump on that Dan Brown vibe that was big at the time, following on from Lev Grossman's previous book, Codex. The covers kinda matched - you know, keeping the theme for the author just like Dan Brown, and then I read the back of the book and the blurb made it sound like Harry Potter meets Dan Brown. And foolishly, I discounted it. Didn't give it another thought.

What a doofus.

Debs, being the massive Harry Potter fan, and fan of all fantasy novels, read the trilogy (she was still working in the bookstore) and really enjoyed them.

Then, along comes the trailer for SyFy Channel's new TV series The Magicians - based on the trilogy of books. The trailer looked brilliant, and Debs said to me "You should read the books, they're really good!!" and after the second season aired in the UK (at some stupid hour in the morning because UK TV has no faith in good genre TV) I finally did.

I honestly don't know why I didn't read it the moment it came in. I absolutely love them. The added advantage is that the novels kinda start the same with Quentin Coldwater going to Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy, meets Penny, Alice, Eliot and Margo/Janet, and learns about magic and the costs it brings. But, about a quarter of the way through it goes off in a different direction. Sure, there's Fillory, the Narnia that Quentin used to read about like an obsessive Potter fan, and The Beast, but it's very, very different in places.

There are huge sections that made it feel almost like you're reading a really cool Dungeons and Dragons game (especially the end of the first book).

Man, just thinking about it makes me want to reread it.

Maybe that's another one of its strengths. While I know the TV series really well, and love it, the books are different enough to make me want to reread them multiple times to experience a different timeline. (Something the TV series cleverly addressed, making it feel like the events of the books could be just another timeline up to a point).

Awesome.

Since the trilogy, and the TV series, there's been a graphic novel retelling the first book from Alice's point of view rather than Quentin's, and there's been a cool comic series of a new class going to Brakebills - a class of Hedges.

If anything, I actually think that The Magicians has even more potential as a tabletop RPG than Harry Potter. Certainly more possible. Especially when you think you have the "magical college" side of it, along with the non-academic magic users, and then there's the whole of Fillory - a whole magical world to game in...

Maybe one day...


Sunday, May 31, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Books That Hooked Me (Part 8)


JOHN DIES AT THE END - DAVID WONG

Onto part eight of my series of blogposts about the books that had an impact on my life.

David Wong's book, John Dies At The End, is a weird one in many ways, but the way I discovered it was a purely selfish one. Inspired by reading Chuck Palahniuk, I'd come to the stupid conclusion that I should give up on comic writing and RPG writing - I couldn't draw, so I should try to tell stories the traditional way and write a book. I didn't (and still don't) have a publisher for fiction, and I had a look online to see how the indies did it. After all, indie publishing was the way I went with comics...

One that really stood out was David Wong's web story. Published in instalments online, John Dies At The End had thousands upon thousands of readers, attracting the attention of publishers - which lead to the eventual book years later.

I read about this, and read the first handful of chapters online, and thought, "Hell, this is it! This is how I do it!"

Feeling full of renewed vigour, I started writing my awful fiction - The Case of Lost Possibilities - in instalments on a new blogsite (an offshoot of this one) and put up new bits every week. I figured, this was it - this was the way to attract the attention of publishers, show I can write fiction, and get my crazy-assed stories out into the world.

And you know what?

It didn't work.

I think the site had less than a dozen readers, and the story was a bit lame anyway. I liked elements of it, but I really should have had it all planned out beforehand. John Dies At The End always felt like it was being made up as it went along and I really enjoyed it, but I wasn't anywhere near the league of David Wong.


The book came out, and I was working at Ottakar's/Waterstones when it was released - I bought it first day it came in. I read it in a week, and loved it. It was crazy, strange, and sounded just like the weird s*** I would have written given half the chance.

It was the first book I read and got to the end, and then flicked straight back to the beginning and started the book again. That's how much I enjoyed it.

It has been very high on my "you must read this" recommendations list since then.

The movie adaptation is rather excellent too. Brilliant cast, great director (Don Coscarelli - director of Phantasm). It's well worth a watch. Just be warned, it's like watching The Lord of the Rings and the movie gets to Rivendell, then skips straight to Mordor. The movie's great, but to squeeze it all into 90mins it had to miss out a huge chunk in the middle.

Maybe one day they'll make it into a TV series, so they can continue into the crazy adventures of John and Dave in the sequel books...

The second book of John and Dave, This Book Is Full Of Spiders: Seriously, dude, don't touch it is just as crazy, and was recently followed by the third book, What The Hell Did I Just Read. All of them read like the sort of thing I would have written back when I was roleplaying a lot with the old game group in my tiny hometown of [undisclosed].

Very highly recommended.

Hell, just writing about them makes me want to reread them again. Or write a roleplaying game set in their universe...

Saturday, May 30, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Books That Hooked Me (Part 7)


HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE - J. K. ROWLING

Sorry I was late putting up a post yesterday for the books that had an impact on me. It was a combination of being busy with writing, and the timing after JK Rowling latest tweets...

I'm just going to post to say I love Harry Potter. I loved the movies first, then finally read all the books. But it was the sixth one - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that really struck a chord. Mostly because there is a lot of cool background in there, masses of story that they didn't have time to put on screen, detailing Tom Riddle's background and upbringing, that was fascinating.

I just wish that Warner Bros. bought Harry Potter off of JK outright, opening up the world to other creators to set stories (and games *hint*) within the Wizarding World.

One day I'll write a Harry Potter RPG...

One day...

Thursday, May 28, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Books That Hooked Me (Part 6)


FALLING OUT OF CARS - JEFF NOON

Part 6 of my little series of blog posts about books that had an impact on me, and we come to the book that has been on the top of my favourites list for quite a while now. Jeff Noon's Falling Out of Cars.

There is just something about this book that I absolutely adore. It's a surreal road trip as a group travel the country on a bizarre mission. Henderson, Peacock and Marlene are on a mission to recover fragments of a mirror that may be at the heart of a strange affliction that is hitting the population of Britain - images, information, and signs all start to become unintelligible. People get lost staring at mirrors, and the world is covered with fabric or paint to try to mask every reflective surface. In order to keep sane, the team take regular doses of a drug called Lucidity, but even that cannot hold back the weird effects of these mirror fragments.

There's an amazing sequence of them going into a building where a fragment is, but the text repeats as they are trapped in a loop of events, seeing themselves on CCTV repeating the actions. It's brilliant and mindbending.

I bought it back when I was working in Ottakar's, and since then I've bought many, many copies when I've found them at a good price so I can give them to people I think would enjoy it. I even bought the ebook of it so I can carry it around with me on my phone in case I'm stuck waiting for a train, or in a waiting room somewhere. It doesn't matter if I can't remember where I was on the reread, the fluid nature of the narrative means you can jump in at any point and it's still brilliant.

Recently I've been reading Jeff Noon's more recent work, a cool series of detective novels set in a weird 1950's. A Man of Shadows details the PI John Nyquist as he tries to track down a missing girl between two parallel cities - Dayzone and Nocturna. One where it is kept permanently day, the other permanent night. Really cool stuff, and I'm about half way through the second book The Body Library, where Nyquist is caught up in a city where narrative and stories are key, and writing can shape reality.

There was talk about Falling Out of Cars being made into a TV series, and I hope one day it happens. I always get the feeling of a darker version of 28 Days Later for the look (without the zombies) of them travelling motorways in a weird road movie.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Books That Hooked Me (Part 5)


HOUSE OF LEAVES - MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI

Another book that has seriously influenced my writing style is Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves. I was working in Ottakar's, looking after the SF/Fantasy/Horror section, and there was this awkward book that was just huge. Not just a thick book, but in all dimensions. There was the usual debate over whether it should be shelved in Horror or in General Fiction, but as there was supposedly an element of weirdness it usually ended up in my department on the Horror shelves.

I remember flicking through it and thinking "WHAT?"

It's in the inside of House of Leaves that really makes it stand out as being something different. The book itself is a book-within-a-book. It tells of Johnny Truant, who is reading the manuscript of an academic study of a documentary film called The Navidson Record that he found in the apartment of a recently deceased elderly man.

The Navidson Record is a film about a family living in a house whose interior dimensions do not match the exterior. The dimensions change, and then a door appears in a wall that leads into an impossible hallway... which leads to a labyrinth, and a hall, and an impossibly deep chamber down a spiral staircase, and...

Well. It's a bit crazy. As you read Johnny reading the Navidson Record, it's kinda like watching The Blair Witch Project. As close to a found footage movie as you can get in a book. Especially as you can't entirely trust Truant's account.

But it's the layout that makes it special.

Each character's section is written in a different typeface so you can tell which section is which. As the family investigates further into the anomalous room, the more bizarre the layout of the book.

There are weird sidebars of nouns, spiralling passages, footnotes, and pages with single words spinning in the void.

Out of curiosity I ended up buying it, and read it about about a week. It was actually seriously unsettling and left me looking at the walls of our house with a new level of uncertainty.

Seriously cool.

I did some internet research and discovered that there was a different edition of the book - the American edition of it was in colour! Nothing major, but to add to the weird typography, every instance of the word "house" was in blue, and there were another couple of words like that in there too...

In addition to that, Mark Z. Danielewski's sister, who records under the name Poe, recorded an album called Haunted, inspired by House of Leaves. The album has tracks that directly relate to the book, including 5 1/2 minute Hallway, something they call the mysterious new hall that appears in the Navidson Record. Never heard any Poe before, and I took a chance. What a brilliant album! Well worth checking out, and cleverly incorporates found recordings of Poe's (and Mark's) father, who notoriously wasn't very supportive of his creative efforts. Hence the book's dedication - "This is Not for You".

Again, though, I have to confess I didn't feel the same connection, intrigue and excitement with the follow-up book Only Revolutions. Two parallel narratives telling the same story from two points of view - only they're usually in the same place. And you read one narrative one way, then flip the book and read the other upside down. It's recommended you flip every ten pages...

Unfortunately, it kinda read like a shopping list.

Not the last of the experimental books I dipped into - I checked out the rather good Raw Shark Tests by Steven Hall (say the title quick and you'll get it), and this kinda peaked with "S." by Doug Dorst and J J Abrams, where you read a book but also read the storyline of two people checking the book out from a library and communicating by writing in the margins - and tucking in postcards and newspaper clippings that are presented as removable props.

It's the sort of thing I really want to do with an RPG...


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

[Roll Your Own Life] The Books That Hooked Me (Part 4)


FIGHT CLUB - CHUCK PALAHNIUK

Next on my series of Books that Hooked Me, books that really had an impact on me is one that really changed my writing style massively. I was working in the cinema while Debs was working in graphic design and magazine layout, and (I've mentioned on this blog in the movies that made me series) there was a movie that I really wasn't interested in. One that was so badly marketed that I remember saying "Why would I want to see a movie about bareknuckle fighting?"

I was an usher for that first showing in the cinema, and hung around to make sure the very few people who had come in for that midweek lunchtime performance were settled and sat... and those first ten-twenty minutes of the movie Fight Club just had me absolutely hooked. I was stunned - a combination of the visuals, the flashback, the narration. Mindblowing.

I remember going back to work thinking "I need to watch the rest of it", and it wasn't long before Debs and I checked out the wonders that was David Fincher's Fight Club. I loved it, and saw it multiple times when it was screening.

It was only a few days after seeing the movie that I decided I needed to check out the book it was based upon. The book of Fight Club is surprisingly close to the movie except for a couple of small elements - there are whole chunks of the movie, especially Jack's narration, that are word-for-word from the book. There was an energy to the style, the way it addressed the reader, that was completely new to me. It was incredibly eye-opening.

Of course, that lead on to Survivor (which was brilliant), and Invisible Monsters (which has one of the greatest opening couple of pages I've read)... I was hooked.


On to Choke, a tale of someone who lives off of donations from people who "saved" him from choking in restaurants, and then onto my favourite of Palahniuk's books - Haunted. I've never been much of a short story reader, but Haunted addresses the short story in a new way. A tale of seventeen writers who go to a writers retreat where they have three months to write their magnum opus. They have food and drink, but cannot leave until it is complete.

The chapters are each of the characters' stories, and bridged with a linking narrative of these writers gradually sabotaging the food, and descend into a mass of self destruction. I guess you could say it's allegorical for how writers sabotage themselves...

On came Rant, which was really clever in the way it told its tale by second hand accounts of witnesses, but it was with his next book, Snuff, that I kinda gave up. Sorry Chuck... Couldn't finish that one.

At the peak of my reading Chuck Palahniuk, when I did try to write fiction it was really like I was channelling my inner Palahniuk. There were flashbacks, asides, weird narration. C'mon, Dave. Have your own voice...

Anyway, Fight Club was a real eye opener for me, and changed my reading and writing habits tremendously.