Turn out the lights, draw the curtains, put the weasels back in storage

We played some D&D yesterday, and I thought I might come post about it here.

And then I realised that I hadn't posted to LJ in three months, and that the only things I've been talking about this year is either roleplaying or my writing. Which I can - and do - talk about in other places. I thought there'd be value in having a personal journal space to talk about stuff, but in practice I just don't need it.

So yeah. I think it's time to stick a fork in this journal, and has been for some time.

If you still want to read about my various adventures, here are some options:
  • for my writing, writing about writing, reading self-promotion, talk about things I like and other semi-professional blogging
  • Twitter for me talking about pretty much everything, with heavy use of profanity 'cos I know people like that sort of thing
  • Facebook for pictures of me doing things or snippets of talking about stuff, often with other people
  • My Facebook fan page and my Google Plus page for, well, mostly links to my blog
  • Obsidian Portal for game writeups, for the very small number of you who care
And with that, we out. It's been real.



Exile Empire - Calm Before the Storm

Three weeks after the last session, we got back together for a new session of our 4th ed D&D game. Seriously, that's almost exactly like a regular timetable! It can't last, I know, but we took advantage of the alignment of the stars to reshuffle the plot hooks, work out some plans and foreshadow like a motherfucker.

Come, join us behind the cut.

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Exile Empire - Beware the Claw!

April is generally the cruellest month, and by that I mean it's the time when Comedy Festival not only eats away at my spare time but completely eliminates that of some of my friends - friends and fellow roleplayers to boot.

All of which means that April isn't a month for gaming round these parts, at least not until the very end. Which, of course, is when we got the whole band back together to return to Exile Empire, kicking off a new phase of the campaign by repeating smacking all of the PCs with spiked flails and/or setting them on fire.

Details behind the cut.

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Now on sale - The Obituarist

Hi folks,

I know I've been silent for a few weeks, but I have a good reason - I've been writing my tail off getting something new ready.

And here it is! I’m pleased beyond all measure to announce that my new e-novella, The Obituarist, is not only finished but published and available to purchase!

Kendall Barber calls himself an obituarist – a social media undertaker who settles accounts for the dead. If you need your loved one’s Facebook account closed down or one last tweet to be made, he’ll take care of it, while also making sure that identity thieves can’t access forgotten personal data. It’s his way of making amends for his past, a path that has seen him return to the seedy city of Port Virtue after years in exile.

But now his past is reaching out to catch up with him, just as he gets in over his head with a beautiful new client whose dead brother may have been murdered – if he’s even dead at all. If Kendall doesn’t play his cards right, he could wind up just as deceased as the usual subjects of his work.

On the other hand, Kendall may know more about what cards to play than anyone else realises…

It’s been six months since I announced the concept and started work on this book, two months since I rolled up my sleeves and started it in earnest. It’s been drafted and redrafted, edited and altered, changed and changed back again and now it’s as ready as it’ll ever be.

And I have to say that I had an absolute ball writing this book. Once I really got into it it was a hoot to sit down every night and lay down another chapter of weird crime antics, chase scenes, thoughts about death and identity and occasional jokes. That joy is a bit unusual for me – too often Ifind writing a chore – and I really hope this isn’t the last time I feel it. Or the last time I write about these characters.

I’d like to thank my wife Nichole for her thoughts and support, my Alpha Readers (Cam Rogers, Josh Kinal and Lyndal McIlwaine) for their feedback and suggestions, Fiona Regan for editing the manuscript and Carla McKee for her great cover. And I’d like to thank my readers for responding positively to the idea and telling me you wanted to see more. Here it is – hope you like it.

The Obituarist can be purchased as a $2.99 ebook from the following sites:
  • The Amazon Kindle Store has the Kindle version
  • Smashwords has ePub, Kindle, PDF, HTML and Word versions
  • Other sites (Barnes and Noble, iBooks etc) will have it eventually, and I’ll update as the links go live
All sites should have a sample of the novella that you can read for free.

As part of the launch, I’ve also made some changes to, specifically breaking out my ebooks into their own separate pages – so if you want to tell your friends about The Obituarist, link to this page right here. (I’ve also made new pages for Hotel Flamingo and Godheads if you want to spread the love.)

And speaking of telling your friends…

Folks, if you want to help me get the word out about The Obituarist, that would be fantastic. Amazing. Vitally necessary, in fact. I’m going to do everything I can to promote the book, but I need all the help I can get and you can provide some with very little effort. Here’s what you can do:
  • Buy it. Buy it from whatever site and in whatever format you prefer. Even if you’re not really into crime stories, it’s still worth picking it up – it’s offbeat enough that I think anyone who likes my other work will dig this too.
  • Read it right away. You know how sometimes you buy an ebook and it languishes unread for ages? Jump in and read this one as soon as possible, so that you can then…
  • Talk about it. Recommend it to your friends, family or anyone that might like it. Mention it on social media. Tweet that you’re halfway through it. Show people the cover on Facebook. Mention it at work when someone asks what you’re reading. Use jungle drums, anything.
  • Write a review. Give it some love on Amazon, Smashwords, Goodreads, any other review site you frequent. Give it stars if that’s a thing, but if you can write a few words about it that would be much better. And be honest – I’d rather see a genuine 3-star review than a fake 5-star review. Mind you, I’d especially rather see genuine 5-star reviews if they’re available.
  • Pass on the signal. I’ll be promoting this as best I can wherever I can – Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, anywhere else. If you see any of that promotion, pass it along – retweet it, link it, like it, +1 it or whatever. And if you see other people talking about the book, throw up a flag for that too, if only so that I hear about it.
  • Give me a soapbox. If you’re got a blog, a column, a podcast or some other project of your own, I would love to be on it and have a chance to talk about the novella. I can talk about other stuff too – I’m a charming guest and I bring enough beer for everyone. Try me!
Above all else, tell me what you think of it. I want to hear if you liked it and what you liked about it, and whether you’d be interested in reading a sequel. Because I have ideas for more stories about Kendall and Port Virtue, but if no-one wants to read them then I’ll put them aside and work on something else. And I also want to hear from you if you didn’t like The Obituarist, because I’d like to know why and I’d like the next book to be better.

I always want the next book to be better. That’s how I know I’m not dead yet.

Alright, that’s enough out of me. Time to get off the stage and let the book do the talking for a while.

But I'll be back later. Scout's honour.

New Zealand, as reviewed by artbroken age 41 and a couple of weeks

Just got back yesterday from a 5-day business trip to New Zealand.

My thoughts on the nation are as follows.

  • It's just ridiculously beautiful
  • Good food
  • Monteith's Winter Ale
  • Wellington
  • Winding mountain roads with sheer drops and breathtaking views
  • Getting a better understanding of the NZ education system and market
  • Flying over a motherfucking volcano (albeit a dormant one)
  • The growing degree to which Maori-based culture and language is integrated into English-based culture and language
  • Working so much I didn't have time to explore the beautiful bits properly
  • Mediocre coffee
  • Lion Red (like a glass of cold water with a head on it)
  • Auckland (or at least the bit where I was staying)
  • Concrete motorways all over the place
  • How complicated the NZ education system and market is
  • Needing to fly and drive for hours at a time just to meet everyone on my contact list
  • Everyone talks about rugby all the time and I don't understand any of it
So on balance, the ineffable ledger points strongly towards the PRO column. I'd like to head back someday and spend more time in Wellington with emrhyck, maybe check out the South Island too. I'll just have to bring my own coffee.

(no subject)

Dear Queensland friends,

Fuck a bunch of Jesus, that was a bad day yesterday.

May I recommend moving to Melbourne? It's got an arts scene and laneways and less homophobia (not none, of course, but less) and a bunch of other good things, and rents are apparently going down. Sure, beer costs 5 bucks a pot or more most places, but nothing's perfect.

And while it's true that Victoria also has a Coalition government, they're a bunch of lazy buttplugs who are basically just running the state using Labor policies 'cos they can't be fucked writing their own. Plus Labor has some chance of winning a state election down here in the next decade, which is a lot more than we can say for QLD.

I mean, goddamn. Goddamn.

Anyway, think about it, okay? And if you do move down, buy blankets and jackets, it gets balls cold down here. Sorry.

Tribulation - Carnivale (part 2)

And we finish the February Month of Gaming (slightly late, as I've been at a conference in Geelong) by talking about our Weird West game Tribulation, which we actually played about two weeks ago. One of the good things about this game is that barrington and fengshuiguytake notes so that I don't have to, but then I need to edit them down to a more compact size - and to tell you the truth, editing just isn't that much fun when you've been doing it all week at your day job.

But enough complaints! Let us quickly flash back to the last session, which was a fuck of a long time ago, and then dive straight into the crazy goings-on!

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Exile Empire - The Siege of Zantashk III

February has shaped up as Gaming Month here at Casa del Artbroken, almost to the point where it's exhausting.

Ah, who am I kidding, I love it.

There was a long-delayed session of Tribulation earlier in the month (and I'll post a write-up soon for everyone that's been gagging to see what's happening there), a session of Hero's Banner with mousebane that we have to come back to, and the promise of actually getting to play 4th ed D&D in (checks watch) about 4 hours from now.

But last Sunday it was back to Exile Empire, which saw our tense siege drama culminate in chaos, sacrifice and sarcasm. Everything went off the rails. And it was great.

Details behind the cut.

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Exile Empire - The Siege of Zantashk II

Oh wait, I know what I can write about on LiveJournal: roleplaying!

Once again there's been a three-month gap between sessions of our D&D campaign, during which times players went overseas and came back and I got married. And yet, in the game, perhaps only five minutes passed by. There's something metatextually interesting in that, but let's gloss over it to talk about party infighting, attempted war crimes and more attempts to kill the PCs with scorpions and hyenas.

Details behind the cut.

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I have met the grognard and he is me

Anyone interested in roleplaying games (and anyone not interested in RPGs probably should find a better LJ to follow, to be honest) would have heard the news last week that, roughly three years after releasing the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro is gearing up to release a new edition in the next 12-18 months, probably called D&D Next or something similar to avoid the shameful term '5th edition'. And lo, there was a wailing upon the internet, as if a million gamers with a million opinions rolled on the Loudmouth Opinion Table all at once and were now arguing about who won the Shrieking Initiative roll.

The announcement came with a strong subtext that Wizards had Done the Wrong Thing with 4E and alienated too many existing D&D fans in the pursuit of new players, driving them into the arms of Pathfinder and Castles & Crusades and a bunch of other games that are quite openly and deliberately just rehashes of 1st/2nd/3rd edition D&D with some additional house rules and a smaller art budget. The public self-shaming was followed by an announcement that Wizards wanted the new system to be all things to all gamers, to have modular levels of complexity that would magically make everyone happy, to bring the 'experience of D&D' back, and in order to foster this would run a mass open playtest of the new system - which, like Paizo's open playtest of Pathfinder a few years ago, would probably do little to effect the end result but would allow gamers to feel like their opinions were valued and to get a head start in becoming unhealthily emotionally invested in a game where you pretend to be elves that hit monsters with magic sticks.

My response to the whole thing?

...yeah, I think I'm done.

Not with gaming, hell no, and not with D&D - or more accurately, not with 4E D&D. I really like that system, which for me hits a sweet spot where a generally low-complexity system unpacks into exciting and cinematic action scenes and then folds itself away again when not required. My 4E games feature plenty of character-based fun and roleplaying, for all that the PCs don't have ranks in Blacksmithing or Trick Turning or Wetting Their Pants When Trouble Breaks Out, and the occasional glitches have been easy enough to overcome. There are things that could have been done better (skill challenges are a good idea but generally don't work, and feats are boring), but it's going to remain my go-to system for over-the-top big-explosions fantasy for a long time to come.

But I'm done with staying current with D&D; this new edition can go on without me, bolstered by the power of 99% of gamers having shrieking arguments in a thousand web forums about what form the new edition should take and why the features of [THEIR FAVOURITE EDITION] are objectively better than the features of [THAT EDITION THAT ONLY DOGFUCKERS LIKE]. I already sat on the sidelines of 3+ years of edition war bullshit, and I'm not interested in being part of Edition War II: Electric Fuck This Shit.

And I'm not much bothered by this, since for most of the ~29 years (fucking hell) that I've been gaming I haven't been that interested in D&D. Like most gamers I got started with D&D, in my case a dusty copy of the Basic Set that I found in the local gifts & homewares shop in my small country town, but within a year or two I had left that behind for more refined and cerebral games like Rifts and Call of Cthulhu (whichever edition let us blow monsters up with dynamite). For close to 20 years I didn't think twice about D&D, and it was a year or so after 3E came out that I decided to check it out, mostly because I had a pile of game-store credit burning a hole in my pocket and it had to be spent on something. And I dug it; it had a mix of approachability and density that I appreciated at the time, rules-robust without being too rules-heavy (for me), with lots of dials and knobs to play with and a couple of interesting campaign worlds. Suddenly I became Mister Dee Twenty, juggling a bunch of campaigns while writing game material for WW and Green Ronin, and I had a real good time with it. Still, when 4E rolled around, I'd had enough of the system mastery requirements and the GMing workload, and the emergent gameplay that the 3E system fostered wasn't as interesting to me; a game where I got some cool powers and fought bad dudes in exotic locations was just what I needed.

That's my D&D story arc - 2001 to 2011 is when I got to be one of the cool kids. For various values of 'cool' and 'kid'. And I don't feel like continuing; I have my preferred edition now, and I don't feel like changing. Which is a cause for some concern. Have I become a grognard, fearful and resentful of change and convinced that my favourite game can never be improved except through my dense folder of house rules? Well, probably not, since I don't listen exclusively to Rush and Jethro Tull, which is the mark of the true beardy-weirdy gamer; the rest is mere details.

But I'm not that interested in being on the cutting edge of commercially-successful RPG gaming any more. That edge is uncomfortable and smells like Doritos. My 4E books aren't going anywhere, there are mainstream games that I've been wanting to explore - like finally diving into that 'New Jerusalem' city-based nWoD game I've been mulling over for a couple of years - and a whole host of intriguing indie games that merit a session or five or play. If focusing on those for the next 10-20 years means that I don't get to be part of the D&D Nextwave Revolution or whatever, well, shucks.

Guess that's how the gelatinous cube crumbles.

(EDIT TO ADD: Man, I likes me some boldtext.)