June! The month of sunshine and roadworks. Picnics and noisy construction. There’s a crane outside my window right now, in fact, delivering huge canvas bags of stone for some unknown project, while in the next street someone is using a pneumatic drill. It’s making me think of summertime visits to European metropolises, where the weather is beautiful but half the city’s gems are often wreathed in scaffolding. A lovely make over they’ll complete just in time for the tourists to depart. I guess everything is a work in progress always. Places aren’t postcards and neither are we.
Without realising I was doing it I’ve planned a visit to some sort of organised gaming event or convention nearly once a month for the rest of 2022. November is the exception. If you know of any conventions in November please (don’t) tell me.
My TTRPG grand tour began this month with my first ever UK Games Expo. It was overwhelming in the best possible way. As a friend and fellow visitor pointed out, once we entered the hall time seemed to vanish and we returned to ourselves three hours later with a thousand sets of iridescent dice shimmering before our eyes. I was disciplined at first but soon blew my budget on indie TTRPG purchases, which I’ll be reading and reviewing for this newsletter over the coming months. See my first review later in this email for Orbital Blues. Also, if you get the chance to catch The Dark Room in a theatre at any point - and you might, it’s been running for 10 years - do that.
Next up: Tabletop Scotland in August, Tabletop Live in September, a private event in an actual castle(!) in October*, and of course Dragonmeet in December. Let me know in the comments if you’re going to be around! I’d love to meet some of you.
*not affiliated with the D&D in a Castle branded events.
In May I said I wanted to focus on playing and reading games rather than development, and I ended up publishing Caltrop Kaiju. This month I meant to focus on plotting and world building for my novel, but here I am planning play tests for another new release. It’s called Drama Llamas, and it’s about being a reality TV star who is also a llama. I’m absurdly excited by this premise, and by the kind folks who’ve already come forward to play my first draft through with me. If you’d like to join in on the fun send me an email at [email protected], or you can apply directly using this google form.
Thank you to all the kind subscribers and friends who tuned in to watch my first streamed game, or have watched since! The recording is still available on Youtube if you haven’t had the chance. It’s onne for fans of working class British accents, uncooperative goats, fine china, and nosey old ladies.
More streaming news to come in the near future! Watch this space.
Review - Orbital Blues
My first post-convention read of the summer is Orbital Blues, by Seleny, Clark, and Cox, published by SoulMuppet Publishing, who are just flooring us all with the excellence of their output right now. I reviewed their remaster of The Stygian Library by Emmy “Cavegirl” Allen in an earlier newsletter and I find myself poised to gush yet again.
Orbital Blues: a space western RPG hooked me on page one in with the vivid clarity of its emotional tone, niche genre, and setting. The vast loneliness of space as a fit companion for the human condition. The dilapidation and rusted neglect of the world’s fixtures emblematic of the perilous, crumbling moral cores of its characters. People suck and your character is likely no exception, but what more fertile ground could there be for unexpected heroism? What could be more heartbreakingly beautiful than a love story, or a tale of hope and friendship in a hopeless place? It’s about loneliness, toxic coping strategies, and, ultimately, survival despite a late-late stage capitalism which has spread like rot over multiple planets and systems.
In this game well-thought-out mechanics mean the more troubles you have, the more gifts (gambits) you acquire. Encoding the value of tough life lessons into the heart of the game. Naturally, with difficult topics on the table the authors are careful to promote safety tools at the table and recommend mitigating approaches.
I read this cover-to-cover, down to the starter setting and jobs. I hope to run it for some lonesome space cow-folks in the very near future!
June Freebie - Unconventional Tarot Cards
My weekly D&D campaign group recently happened across a fortune teller - something of a theme in our current game - and couldn’t resist crossing her palm with silver. I can’t recommend creating tarot readings for player characters enough as an exercise in role play, character work, and narrative foreshadowing. Keep things open enough that players have plenty of space to interpret the reading in character, but add tantalising teasers to your future plans for them to gossip about!
Here are a few of my home brew tarot cards for you to play with.
UPRIGHT: heritage, tradition, spiritual guidance, a sense of one’s place in a grand narrative
INVERTED: searching for heritage and tradition, a yearning for spiritual guidance, an orphan
UPRIGHT: unseen forces, extra-planar intervention or the machinations of unknown others, the realms of the dead
INVERTED: unknown realms within the self, lack of self-knowledge, clear answers right under one’s nose
UPRIGHT: seeming tranquility hiding secret depths, superficial charm, the admiration and kindness of others, home comfort
INVERTED: cold fury, a loss of one’s valued possessions or place in the world, an unwanted change in circumstances
UPRIGHT: self belief, answering a righteous calling, following one’s intuitive nature over rational examination
INVERTED: denial, confusion, going through the motions without true belief
UPRIGHT: decisive action, good timing, good fortune, money or esteem
INVERTED: indecision, potential, things still up in the air, yet to land, something left unfinished
UPRIGHT: magic, raw power, a frightening, though not necessarily ill-meaning, person
INVERTED: self-destructive actions, weakness in the face of temptation, hidden dealings
UPRIGHT: a tricky balance required to reach a goal, a perilous journey with a known end
INVERTED: limited options, doomed ventures, for good or ill: persistence in the face of failure
UPRIGHT: adventure, new horizons, contentment in simple things, un-materialistic
INVERTED: lack of self reflection, lack of a true home, is he lost or can he not stay still?
UPRIGHT: light, love, trust, all that is good and just
INVERTED: rose-tinted outlook, faculties impaired by great love, potential betrayal
UPRIGHT: wisdom, deep knowledge, honest counsel, unpopular opinions
INVERTED: stuck in a rut, ignoring new information, uncertainty, becoming a beginner again
UPRIGHT: belief in a leader or cause, following external authority without question, toughness, protection
INVERTED: bragging, bluster, cruel use of force, questionable motives
UPRIGHT: glory, worldly praise, the grand narrative that sweeps up all creatures, the call of heroism and adventure, a flair for the dramatic
INVERTED: impracticality, lack of attention to world detail, neglect, lack of persistence
UPRIGHT: mystical power, from within or without, a person of great spiritual significance
INVERTED: worldly power, politics, scheming and negotiations
The Tall Ship
UPRIGHT: safety and security, a long voyage, mercantile ambitions, fortune in business
INVERTED: safety and security upended, a storm, but with opportunity - you may wash up somewhere good yet
UPRIGHT: community, friendship, family, finding your rightful place either physically or spiritually
INVERTED: loneliness, seeking community, seeking self-fulfilment, independence
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