Monday, November 30, 2015

Guthrun's Viking Diary, Part One

I don't know how we found the island, because Blind Skellig is blind. Snorgun says that he is touched by the gods but I don't see how that helps if Skellig doesn't have eyes.

There was a thing made of wood on the beach. The others called it an "effigy" but it looked like a witch to me. I don't like witches. They were afraid to go near it so I ran over and chopped it down with my axe. I found the axe when we killed Uncle Bjorn for the second time. The witch came to life but axes are good for chopping wood and lopping heads and it fell over.

The others saw a raven and tried to shoot it with their arrows. I didn't have any arrows and I was tired anyway, so I sat down and looked at the sea.

We found a village where everyone was frozen stiff and in the long hall there were skeletons covered in ice. They got up from the table and tried to eat us but we smashed them. Taavi said they weren't real but I smashed them so I don't know what he meant.

We went to the top of the hill in the middle of the island and from there we could see for miles. We saw some smoke rising from a village on the mainland and we also saw a longship sailing away from our island. Fat Erik said there was no one else up here so we didn't know who the others were.

We cleaned up the long hall. I lit a fire but the others said that was bad because of the ice god but I didn't see any ice god and I was cold.

I woke up in the night to see Snorgun and Taavi chasing a squirrel around the long hall. It was funny to watch them but then they told me to get up because they were going to follow it outside in the cold and that wasn't as funny.

Taavi must have good eyes from being half aelf, because he said he could follow the squirrel's tracks in the snow. We ended up back at the beach, close to an old ruined hut. There was a witch inside who tried to cast spells on us but Taavi set her on fire. She had lots of treasures. The others gave me a cloak that made me feel stronger but was too small for me so I tucked it in my belt.

The next morning we decided to go in our boat to the other island, but we bumped into the other longship on the way there. The men on the other boat looked like us, except they were covered in frost and when they looked at us we felt cold. We got closer and I jumped over to their boat to fight them. Snorgun came too. The frost men were angry like I sometimes am and their aim was not good so we killed them all except one. He told us that there were two other witches living on the mainland.

I don't like witches.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Last Night a d10 Saved My Life

I went to a birthday party a few days ago and it was awful. Well, to be fair, the party was fine but I went as a Plus One -- which is not to say that it was a Google-themed costume party -- and I didn't know anyone there. Some people are fine in that sort of situation, some people even thrive, but for me it was difficult, painful even.

I was a quiet child and while I had friends and I did spend time with them, I often preferred my own company, reading and drawing and using my toys to enact epic stories -- more often than not ripped off from Simon Furman's Transformers comics -- in which members of Action Force or the Rebel Alliance were recast as characters of my own making.

It will come as no surprise that I was bullied. Nothing too horrific but enough that it made an awkward and quiet child even more awkward and quiet, happier to stay in with a Fighting Fantasy gamebook rather than going out to play.

Things got better as I got older but it's fair to say that I have never quite overcome my social discomfort, as I showed at the aforementioned birthday party; even if I know you -- even if I know you well -- it's not uncommon for me to fumble and splutter through a conversation, like Hugh Grant with a head injury. Sometimes I just go quiet; I am not being unfriendly, I am just so scared of messing up that I mess up.

This doesn't happen with a game. I can sit around a dinner or pub table with a group and I will probably embarrass myself, but sit the same people around a board or role-playing game and something changes. That's not to say that a handful of dice is like Dumbo's magic feather and all of a sudden I'm sliding around the room gladhanding and hobnobbing, and it also doesn't mean that conversation is limited to the game, but the game becomes a sort of focus and that takes some of the pressure away; I don't have to entertain anyone or maintain their interest, because the game will carry that burden.

(And yes, I know there's no obligation to entertain anyone, but there's nothing rational about fear.)

When there's a game involved, the clumsiness and anxiety you would expect to see in me dissipate and I become more open and talkative; so much so that I have made good friends at the gaming table, and I even served as the best man at the wedding of one of them.

Perhaps it's a crutch. Perhaps I should try harder to deal with the anxiety because I can't lug a copy of Call of Cthulhu or Blood Bowl with me to every social gathering -- or can I? -- but perhaps it doesn't matter.

I don't know; I just wanted to get this out there. It's what blogs are for, after all.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

You're So Chuffing Special

Well well. Games Workshop has already surprised me once this year by producing a version of Warhammer Fantasy Battle with charm and character and -- most surprising of all -- a sensible price point. I thought that was a one-off and that the company would soon return to its predictable and unadventurous form, but it seems that I was quite wrong.

Back in the good old days Games Workshop produced all sorts of wonderful stuff but as time went on, more and more of the interesting games disappeared and the company began to focus its attentions on Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy Battle and, in later years, The Lord of the Rings. Some of those other games survived for a while as part of the so-called Specialist Games brand before that too shuffled off into oblivion.

The Specialist Games family included Blood Bowl -- one of the greatest board games ever created -- and Necromunda and Mordheim, two smaller-scale skirmish war games that I have never played but are always being discussed in glowing terms by those who have. The Specialist Games site also hosted the Dark Future rules as a free download for years after the game went out of print, a gesture that was so uncharacteristic of Games Workshop that it seemed like it could only be some sort of clerical error or cyber-vandalism.

Anyway, the point is that it was a sad day when the Specialist Games division disappeared.

Today, Games Workshop announced that it's setting up a new Specialist Design Studio and some of the upcoming titles include Blood Bowl and Necromunda. This has come as a bit of a surprise; even after the official announcement, it still feels like a hoax. Games Workshop said these games weren't worth supporting, that the cost was too much and the audience too small, and yet here we are.

I wonder if it's because this ponderous giant of an organisation that doesn't do market research and doesn't watch what its competitors are doing has at long last noticed that Fantasy Flight is making plenty of money republishing old Games Workshop board games and role-playing games, that Hawk Wargames is doing well with something that looks a lot like Space Marine, and that Mantic has had considerable success with more or less reviving the entire Specialist Games range?

Perhaps it's something more boring about maintaining copyrights and trademarks, or maybe there's someone new in charge who has a fondness for the old days. Perhaps the company is desperate and is trying anything to win back customers. Whatever the reasons behind the move, it's exciting news and I'll be watching this new studio with interest.