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George

St George triumphant by Lawrence OP
St George triumphant by Lawrence OP

Today is the day of the patron saint of agricultural workers; Amersfoort, Netherlands; Aragon; archers; armourers; Bavaria, Germany; Beirut, Lebanon; Bulgaria; butchers; Cappadocia; Catalonia; cavalry; chivalry; Constantinople; Corinthians (Brazilian football team); Crusaders; England; equestrians; Ethiopia; farmers; Ferrara; field workers; Genoa; Georgia; Gozo; Greece; Haldern, Germany; Heide; herpes; horsemen; horses; husbandmen; knights; lepers and leprosy; Lithuania; Lod; Malta; Modica, Sicily; Moscow; Order of the Garter; Palestine; Palestinian Christians; Piran; plague; Portugal; Portuguese Army; Portuguese Navy; Ptuj, Slovenia; Reggio Calabria; riders; saddle makers; Scouts; sheep; shepherds; skin diseases; soldiers; syphilis and Teutonic Knights

It’s also the release date for the new Ubuntu version..

Categories
Books

Books

So, New job, new commute.  Advantage over the old commutes is that instead of taking the bus to a station and getting on a train, I now just take a bus. It takes as long as it ever did (40-50 minutes), but is a longer block of time.

New job is at Skimbit, incidentally. Forgot to mention that here.

My girlfriend has introduced me to the series of alternative history books that begin with 1632. I’m enjoying them – mostly in ebook format from webscriptions. The basic premise is that a southern US town is sliced out of the late 90s and dumped into Germany in – drumroll – 1632, bringing modern diplomacy, weaponry and government to a world in the grip of kings and churches having petty squabbles. It has a kind of Tom Clancyesque obsession with the details of weaponry at times, but not enough to make me hate it. The gung-ho, overtly smug “America, Fuck yeah!” bits where they prove how much better Europe would have done had it been ruled by 21st century American ideals are slightly more irritating, but the number of books I’ve thrown out of a window count remains at precisely one, and this hasn’t even graced the doormat of the thousand foot tower representing reasons I threw “Mirror of her Dreams” across a room. The series is fun, and well written, and worth reading if being occasionally preached at doesn’t really irritate you.

It’s been a couple of years since I went to Amsterdam for Xalior’s stag party, and it was slightly before that that I stood in Waterstones in Tunbridge Wells casting around for books to take on the plane. There was nothing new from any series that I was remotely involved in, but I was drawn in by the cover of a book. It said:

“Magic. It can get a guy killed”.

It was styled like a notebook with coffee stains on it, and the blurb on the back introduced Harry Dresden, a wizard in Chicago. It looked interesting, and so I picked it up, bought it, put it in my luggage, and forgot about it until the trip home from Amsterdam. I failed to read it until I discovered I would have to wait an hour at Gatwick for the next train to London. A while later, I nearly missed the train out of Gatwick, and shortly after that I nearly failed to get off the train in Bedford where I was living.  It wasn’t long after I got home that I finished it, which saved me accidentally nearly missing anything else. Over the next few days I bought the next four books – wondering how Jim Butcher had managed to write so many without my finding out about them.

The basic premise is as described above, to start with. Dresden’s a wizard, he works in a world where that’s a real career choice, although the general public don’t know.  For the first few books it’s pretty much a thriller-mystery formula with more vampires and werewolves. As Dresden gets more and more involved in the cases he fights, and increases in power, and gains experience, contacts, scars and lasting status from being so involved in the other side, the crazy ramps up into war and chaos and a grand overarching plotline. It does this very well indeed, and as the series progresses the slightly 4-colour-comic original cast get depth and reason.

There has been a pattern over the last couple of years, starting with my parents, of my recommending or lending people the first couple of books of the Dresden Files, and then getting them back shortly afterwards with either a demand for the next four or the news that they’ve just bought the entire series. The books are good, and I’d recommend them. The first book is called Storm Front.

I’m rereading Pratchett, Gaiman and Neal Stephenson (pre-Quicksilver, anyway). You probably don’t need me to recommend those.

Last month sucked.

It didn’t appear here, mostly it was on other places or my ranting at people in the pub, but over the course of one extended fortnight  last month my bag was stolen – containing my brand new laptop, as well as passport, keys, wallet, phone etc – I left my job, I had a legal threat over something I had no idea about, and – to cap it all – had to go to an Industrial Estate in Barking at 8pm on a Friday.

After my bag was stolen, me and Clare wandered off to her parents’ house for food and mutual raging at the youth of today (Her bag was also stolen), and I looked for a book to read. I found one. It was called “The Devil You Know“, and it’s by Mike Carey. If you read comics (or graphic novels) then Carey is the man behind the Lucifer and also wrote for the Hellblazer series. Otherwise, he wrote (bits of) the books that the Keanu Reeves film “Constantine” was based on, and the movie isn’t a patch on the original.

Devil You Know is the first of the Felix Castor books, of which there are now four (The fourth came out in paperback this moth, the fifth will come out in September). If you’ve read the Dresden Files, then just go and buy them, you will like them a lot. They’re similar to Dresden, but start off as dark as the later ones and then get blacker faster. They’re all based around the post-death form of the supernatural, with Castor as an exocist in London after the dead have started to rise again. The London Carey presents is pretty much spot on, the characters are – where they are human – human, deep and empathic with a lot of the rough edges of the early Dresden books already shorn off Carey’s s style. I picked up the latest book on Friday at lunch time, started it on the bus home, and pretty much didn’t stop until I’d finished it in a way that only Pratchett’s books usually grab me. Highly recommended.

Continuing my advance into urban magic books, Kate Griffin’s “A Madness of Angels” is interesting. A book about urban sourcery set around a(nother) whodunnit plot based around Matthew Swift, a sourcer summoned back into this world by things he doesn’t understand yet. A mythical London based around small gods and a magic system based around the natural flow of power around the city, the concept is very interesting. I am patently not going to get to the end of this review without a comparison to the central pillar of mythic-London fantasy, Neverwhere, which is a little unfair. The works stand part, though the whimsical flow of language occasionally throws the comparison together again. For all that I haven’t finished it yet – it got broken up by my buying the latest Felix Castor – it is a well-written, well realised work that is a pleasure to read. For faults, it has the occasional opaqueness of major characters, the mistrusting of most of the cast for each other coupled with the confusion of the main character occasionally means it’s more difficult to get a grip of the story as it flows, but it’s not a major flaw. So get this too.

I’ll do one of these for Podcasts at some point.

Categories
Larp

Maelstrom

I have returned from Maelstrom Event 1.

Maelstrom is a Fest-style LARP system run by Profound Decisions.  In the greatest of 1980s educational films, lets break that sentence down into smaller bits.

LARP stands for Live Action Roleplay. It’s very much like the standard “Tabletop” Dungeons and Dragons style games which you are probably more familiar with. You create a character (“Bob is a Normal Male Human”, “Jenny is an Undead Female Badger”, “Joe is a Giant Talking Cock”), Assign them some attributes within the system (“Bob is a Barbarian with lots of strength and candyfloss for brains, giving him +5 to all battle roles and a +3 sugar rush three times daily”, “Jenny is charismatic, but unfortunately let down by the way her arm keeps dropping off. +5 to sustained impressions, -4 to first impressions, +9 to sewing”, “Joe is in love with the chicken of his dreams. -5 against anything chicken related – does not include KFC – +6 to endurance regained from a good night’s sleep”). And run adventures with you playing the part of that character (This is not a necessary order. You can create the character and choose skills and race to fit, or you can do whatever you feel to make a character that works for you and the game. Time-travelling geologists may not apply, depending on setting).

The central difference between Tabletop and LARP is that instead of sitting around a table, you are actually in a room or field or other open space playing the actual character. Depending on system, this means that various skills may be classed as “hard” and “soft”. Hard skills are those that the player must possess to use them, soft skills are those which the game provides for the characters to use. For example, I play in one system a Pyromancer. His ability to run across the field is a hard skill (and is lacking), his ability to convince people he really *isn’t* going to destroy the world is also a hard skill – it relies on his host’s charisma, but his ability to fling a massive fireball at a fleeing demon is a soft skill.

Core to this in most instances is a set of calls which do not exist in the game world, but affect the game itself. These are the system calls. If, for example, I cast the above spell, my character may shout this:

By the power of the beautiful and destructive element of fire bent to my will, I set you ablaze: TIM RED QUAD.

Tim is not a system call in this case, it’s an identifier as to who it’s aimed at. If I was to attempt to hit someone with a sword, I’d not use that as it is perfectly obvious who the aim is at. RED QUAD is a damage call, and requests that player to take four points of red damage. By this structure of rules the game can proceed almost completely without a referee needed to oversee every action as a game master would in a tabletop system, most interaction is with each other.

(As an aside, yes, this means the game is mostly self-governing, with obvious holes where a person can shout things they cannot do and ignore hits they should have taken. Generally, however, people stop playing with the people who are being dicks.)

Maelstrom is a system written mostly by Matt Pennington and run by his company, Profound Decisions, in the form of four weekend events a year, Easter weekend being a full four day event. The central premise is a swords & gunpowder world with various humanoid/animal races, and one day a path opens though the permenant storm that is at the edges of their world into a new one. The new world has magic, native races, whole new races born of magic and, most dangerously, the angels of the gods who fell from grace and now must consume souls for power. This leads to a game of multivarious levels, from the colonies from the old world claiming land and building upon it to the dismay and anger of the native races, the political issues between the colonies themselves, though the attempts of the churches of the old world to maintain a foothold in this one (and convert the natives from the – oddly similar – native religions) and up to the war between the loyal eidolons of the five old-world faiths and those who declared freedom from them and fell from grace.

It’s really cool, I’ve been going for about three years now. There are more details on Profound Decisions‘s site.

The system is almost entirely player led, with very few major elements thrown in by the referees. The religion system works well (Players pray to their gods by writing things and handing them to the refs. The refs write things and give them to players who play the angels of the gods. The players of angels do as they feel they should.) The economy mostly also works (Four different currencies with player-led exchange rates and various different bases. One is 81 Riels to the Kyat, for example. Another is based on the old english system. Kind of. If it were devised by Salvador Dali. While he’s on drugs).

(While I mention drugs, there are drugs in the system as well. They are scary, and my character goes nowhere near most of them.)

And that’s pretty much what my weekend was like. It was awesome. I helped found a new church, dealt with the fallout from a friend of my character being killed, dealt with the funeral of said friend, inducted people into my faith, almost shot someone, held a supplication to my goddess, and – somewhat to my suprise – failed to die. Again.

52 days, 19 hours until the next one.

And counting.

Maelstrom

Categories
Aquarionics

Return of the Aq

So, I broke Epistula.

That is, the software that ran Aquarionics from 2003 to 2009 was broken in 2008, so I couldn’t edit articles. Also, I haven’t done any major work on it since about 2005, and it doesn’t have atom support and, basically, bring it up to scratch was more work than I have time for.

So I have given in, joined the order, drank the kool-aid, bit the bullet, and installed WordPress. Eventually I’ll roll my own new theme that’s more aquarionicsy, and I’ll import the old data (instead of the current solution, which rewrites you to the old site)

Another bonus: I can update this from my phone. So that will be good.

Possibly some more bloggery coming soon, including the fact I have a new job,and stuff.

Don’t touch that dial.