When In Rome, Do Romans
A Bunch Of Fuckwits
Don't Hate the Player, Hate The Games Master.
After months of anticipation, it's out. The Wicked + The Divine #455 with art from André Lima Araújo and Matt Wilson, it's something we're very proud of. Here's a couple of page preview...
… and lots more. Like the previous 1831 special, we basically fill the comic with art, which means it's a little longer than the usual issue. 26 pages of work instead of the usual 20. It won't be in the forthcoming Imperial Phase (part 1) trade. The specials are going to probably be collected in a collection of their own, probably towards the end of the run. My current thinking is that the specials trade will be the penultimate one, but I'm not 100% sure. It may even happen after the whole run is complete. We still have a little wiggle to play with, as we need it.
I suspect the Specials are the hardest single issues of the run, in terms of pure-me work. Each one is basically six months of reading around the topic, and then working out what to use and what's a distraction. As such, the writer notes should be fun, which I'll include a link to in the next to next newsletter, assuming I get it written.
Which does mean that I should be thinking about the next special which, unless I go another way at the last minute, should be in the 1920s. I've just been talking on twitter about it, in terms of thinking which artist to approach to do it. The problem being I have an idea for a concept issue, which if we do, entirely defines the sort of artist required. I'm still unsure whether I want to do that, as it is... well, a stupid, impossibly large amount of work for a single issue and may not even be something a comic audience would want to read. This is a chunky novella's worth of work, at least, and obviously that's a big commitment to make unless I'm sure it's going to be worth it.
In other WicDiv notes, the Year Two hardback is at the printer now, with us wrestling with signing off the blighter. We've had some modicum of panics, but it all appears to be settled now. I just had to write a new intro page for the collection, akin to the one we've put on every issue from 18. We've got this page in every trade from the fourth one as well, and as we go back to print on the second and third trades, we'll be adding on. We're aware WicDiv has a large cast, and giving a basic reminder strikes us as useful.
(That said, one of the most dispiriting comments of the last year was seeing someone say they wish the book had a recap and a cast list in the trade, when talking about a trade which already has a recap and a cast list. Sigh.)
We're also pulling together alternative covers for Imperial Phase (Part II). I was interested in this complimentary article about what we do with our covers, in terms of using it to show the iconic nature of the characters and showcase some of the finest artists working today. Yes, we try to think about it a lot. We have talked about when the whole run is over doing an over-sized coffee table book with all the covers, each one with a micro-essay attached. The aim is to make the covers be a document of our favourite, most interesting visual artists working in the period of the book, so having a document of that is obviously something we'd love to do.
Anyway – the five are lined up, three in our hands, one in roughs and one coming up soon. Plus another in the can for next arc.
It's not a bad job sometimes.
Friday was the 20th anniversary of the release of At The Club, the debut album of Kenickie.
I live-tweeted listening to the album, track by track, while heading into town to meet a friend for a meeting. I was late, as I spent five minutes outside the pub so I could finish the album, which is probably a sign of how I felt about the band.
Later that evening, I went to see a Kenickie covers band play their final gig. They played Robot Song live, which was something that the real Kenickie ever did. We shouted at the top of our voices. In other dimensions, Kenickie were huge. That dimension is inside my chest.
In short, 7/10, nice tunes.
I mentioned I'm now in a weekly RPG group, and said I'd talk about it. Let's.
Various friends of mine have been having overlapping conversations about starting game groups, and finally we pulled the pins on it. The idea is that it's a core group of five people, but we play every week, as long as at least two of us are available. That works as we don't actually play campaigns – or rather, anything longer than a handful of sessions. So far we've only done two-game sessions, with the majority being one-shots, with a new session. The idea is to sample the idea of RPGs as widely as possible, for various personal reasons, with a maximum of flexibility. We said that people can turn up for one session, but we've yet to actually do that.
The group is Quinns (of Shut Up And Sit Down fame), Myself (ex-games critic, writer, old person), Mink (Game Designer), Chrissy (Poet and Editor) and Clark (Writer, Lawyer, Thought Bubble God.)
It's going well. It's very much a random sampling, and we're aware that we're getting a skewed perspective of so much stuff in the form. Which is part of the fun. The idea that there's only one way to game is ludicrous.
So far, micro-reviews...
Fiasco (No GM)
Classic story game that generates a Coen Brothers' clusterfuck of a story in 2-3 hours. Ours was School Set capers, which didn't go quite as well as Fiasco can go. I suspect that was partially because we used a fan-generated playset which seeded drama not quite as well as the core ones.
The Mountain Witch (Quinns, 2 Sessions)
Samurai with secrets go up a mountain and fight a witch. Narrativist led take on a classical story structure, and I suspect the one where the group's learning curve was sharpest. My character was a complete shithead.
Our Last Best Hope (No GM)
I missed this week, but everyone loved this. Basically a story-game which runs the players as the only hope for humanity in an extinction event. The world died. These guys!
Ten Candles (Me, 1 Session)
Story adventure horror game with the core mechanic of having 10 candles around the table, and every time the player fails a roll, you blow out a candle. When you blow out all the candles, everyone's dead. Delineation of some core aspects of agency proved tricky – as in, I fluffed letting the players know I had no plan whatsoever and my play is just responding to their – but it held together and went to some appropriately dark places.
Feng Shui 2 (Me, 2 sessions)
Hong Kong Action Cinema RPG. After all the story-corner games, I wanted to run something closer to core D&D, but still a little weird with some power in players. Playing it made me realise how absolutely fucking weird Feng Shui's structure and approach to mechanics is. The gap from a Narrativist game to Feng Shui is about the same as the gap from a trad-RPG to Feng Shui 2.
When The Dark is Gone (Mink / 1 session)
Almost Nordic-model RPG where you play group of adults who went to a Narnia-esque world as children, and are now in group Therapy, trying to deal with the trauma the experience left in them.
Tales from the Loop (Quinns/1 sessions so far)
Basically, Stranger Things meets STALKER, and a delight. If we were going to play a campaign, its basically Goonies Do Skyrim. Mink was off, so we're doing another session of this as we had so much fun. Its mix of the big emotional hook to attach to (we all know how kids-explore-and-find-shit stories go) means it can walk between moments of procedural RPG stuff (i.e. Go here, do this) and more freeform narrative stuff (We're trying to not hear Clark's mid-divorce parents fight again).
So going well, as a group. The short-form approach does mean there's some things we're simply not getting from the form, but we are getting a lot of other things. I'm sure we'll get to something with orcs and goblins in sooner or later (Dungeon World is on the list of stuff I want to play, for a start), but we're mostly a long way from that. And you may read between the lines, and suspect I'm dissatisfied by how the games I've ran have went. You'd be right – the games have been fun, but nothing have landed 100%.
I suspect that won't change with the next game I'm running, which is going really retro and running the 1980s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG, which runs off the Palladium system (which is basically my least favourite period RPG system, at least of the ones I bought multiple games of.) The choice is because it's meant to be a broad survey of the history, and looking at a RPG which takes a heavily detailed simulationist approach to Designing Your Individual Weird Fucking Mutant Animal
I may chicken out. Even if I run it, I may chicken out. I may become make a character who's a sentient psychic chicken. It's that kind of game.
I haven't said what I'm working on this week. Basically, I'm writing Aphra 12 and 13, and lots of stuff for Spangly New Thing's bible. I'll write more about that next time. It's definitely reached the point where it's at the Kieron Writes Too Much Stuff stage.
Right – got an interview in a few minutes, so need to send this out before that. Speak soon.