I’m sure I wasn’t this bad…

My daughter, hereafter referred to as Thing 1, lives in a pit of her own making.  Amazingly I found a photo of her bedroom online!

Not to scale

We’ve got a small house, it’s a small room, and I’m pretty sure there was a floor when we moved in.  Just not sure I’ve had sight of it in a number of months.

The same is true of the boys’ room.  Only with slightly more Lego.

Periodically we’ll have a go at being nice, helping them tidy up, then watching in despair as it takes mere moments to return it to it’s previous state.  Then we try getting cross with them.

And socks! What is it with socks!  It seems that my kids come home from school, dump bags and coats, remove shoes (and place them in a sort of UN-style buffer zone that’s almost but not quite in the shoe box) and then spend the next few minutes discarding their socks in unusual places around the house.  Very strange indeed.

I have no memory of being this bad at all.  Sure, I occasionally had to put a book back on the shelf, or put a little Lego away, but my room was never* a bombsite.

Now you’d think, after all this time, that children would’ve learned to listen, to equate the “Mum and Dad are shouty and cross” with “My room looks like there has been an explosion in the toybox / the dog is eating my socks again / I left all my clothes in the bathroom” and come to the conclusion that if they don’t , do these things, Mum and Dad won’t be cross.

And maybe, just maybe, if I wish hard enough, I’ll win the lottery.

*never as viewed through rose-tinted hindsight, I suspect.

The End

Some time back in the 1980s, before Games Workshop started suffering from delusions of grandeur, their monthly magazine published an excerpt from The Colour of Magic.  It was fantasy like nothing I’d ever encountered before.  It was funny while still being fantasy!  It had characters with punderful names, almost drawn straight from the Asterix comics, creatures that would not have been out of place in Lord of the Rings, wizards, and a magic box that ran around on hundreds of legs and ate people.  It was, in short, genius.  I had to have it – and every book from the author, just plain Terry Pratchett back then.

I COULD LEND YOU A VERY FAST HORSE

The Colour of Magic established a series that would run for decades.  It introduced us to Death, IN ALL HIS BLACK-ROBED GLORY, Unseen University, the venerable twin cities of Ankh and Morpork, Cut-me-own-throat Dibbler, Trolls whose brains are supercomputers when chilled, witches, assassins, a librarian with a somewhat limited vocabulary and a love of bananas, vampires going cold-turkey, golems, Dwarfs, the Patrician, Moist von Lipwig, goblins… and that’s just scratching the surface of a flat world, carried on the back of four elephants, walking their eternal trail on the back of a giant turtle as it swims through space.  All perfectly logical, when you think about it.

Curry with meat: 10p  Curry with Named meat: 15p

The world Sir Terry Pratchett created, the Discworld, proceeded to fill a couple of books a year ever since.  Through the lens of this wonderfully funny fantasy we’ve explored race relations, the impact of technological advances on society, life and death, religion, music, sport…  It was a world driven by the rules of Story, of Narrative Inevitability, and influenced by every idea sleeting through the universe around it.

Many series suffer when they get past the opening trilogy.  Much as I love The Dresden Files, the amount of copy/paste that goes on explaining how magic works to the new user is frustrating.  Although the events of one book often influence the direction the story takes the next you meet up with those particular characters, that feeling of “Yes, yes, I know all this, get on with it” never came up.

The Colossus of Ankh? I’ve got it here somewhere

Part of what kept the Discworld novels fresh was the changing cast of characters.  One novel would focus on the Wizards, either the inept Rincewind or the equally inept but much better fed and paid Arch-chancellor and his minions, the Witches in the form of Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg (single entendres and proud) and sundry & diverse others, the Night Watch (Sam Vimes, Corporal Carrot, Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs), Moist von Lipwig (If you want something done quickly, give it to a busy man), Death (and his grand-daughter, Susan), Cohen the geriatric barbarian and his horde…  From one book to the next the story changed focus and brought more of the world to life.  And the lead characters from one book guest-star in others along with a Disc-wide cast of recurring characters.

Show us your best ninj.

If you line up all the Discworld novels end to end, you can point to almost any one of them and say “Ah, but this is where the story really starts.”  Of course, The Colour of Magic introduces the world and gets it all going.  But Mort gives us the first proper outing of Death.  Equal Rites introduces the witches.  Guards, Guards! kicks things off for Sam Vimes and the Watch and, arguably, is where Ankh Morpork’s technological advancement starts.

One-off novels like PyramidsMonstrous Regiment and Small Gods take the focus away from the main characters and shine a light on other areas of the Disc.  The entire pantheon of Egyptian-themed deities playing a game of American football with the sun, commentary by a high-priest of an god with no interest in solar matters (“Yes, but why are you shouting into that bullrush?”).  A camel called You Bastard with an exceptional grasp of theoretical mathematics.  Fish and chips – for men.

Thunder rolled.  It rolled a six.

My kids have howled with laughter at Where’s My Cow? a book about reading one book, which turns into another…  That reminds me, I need a new copy of that.  His works for children are just as funny, just as sharp, just as enduring, as anything he’s written for adults.

Good Omens, his collaboration with Neil Gaiman, is the book I’d take to a desert island, given the choice.  If you’ve not read that one, or listened to the Radio 4 adaptation broadcast over Christmas, you’ve missed out, hugely.

Where is the flaming sword which was given unto thee?

Long story short, Sir Terry Pratchett’s books have been a part of my life for as long as I’ve known my wife.  I’ll miss his wit, his invention, his ability to take a single sentence and make me laugh years after first reading it, to fill a book with some of the most contrived puns I’ve heard outside of I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue (Yes, Soul Music, I’m looking at you here.)

  There’s nothing wrong with this leopard, it’s just a little deaf.

He’s also one of the few authors to reduce me to tears, an experience I suspect I share with many of those who watched his Dimbleby lecture on Alzheimers and assisted dying, delivered by Tony Robinson from his script.

The death of Sir Terry this week closes the door on this chapter of the Discworld.  From what I read, his daughter Rhianna will be taking on the mantle and continuing the series – in print and on TV as there is a CSI:Ankh Morpork in the works for the BBC.  His final 3 tweets were beautiful.

Rest in peace, and take with you the knowledge that you have achieved immortality through your works.  And say Hi to Douglas Adams.

I leave you with perhaps my favourite quote of all:

Right. So I’ve only got blue left.

Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

Game Masters’ Roundtable of Doom

The Game Masters’ Roundtable of Doom is a meeting of the minds of tabletop RPG bloggers and GMs. Every GM has his or her favorite system, but in these articles we endeavor to transcend a particular system or game and discuss topics that are relevant to GMs and players of all roleplaying games.

If you are a blogger, and you’d like to participate in the Game Master’s Roundtable of Doom, send an email to Lex Starwalker at gamemastersjourney@gmail.com and supply the URL of your blog.

This month’s topic comes to us courtesy of Scott Robinson, who asks, “How has your gaming and/or GMing changed over time?

A bit of history.  Me and gaming.  In the beginning was the Red Box.  When I first played Dungeons and Dragons back in the 1980s I didn’t really know much about it.  At all.  We had a student teacher in our class for a couple of weeks and our class teacher picked out 4 of us to play D&D one lunchtime.  I was picked because I’d read The Hobbit and was reading “Choose Your Own Adventure” books at the time.  This was just before the first of the Jackson/Livingston “Fighting Fantasy” books hit the shelves.

I remember the first games I ran. At best I was an OK GM. Tried too hard for alt-history with Vampire and never actually fleshed the world out properly.  Ran Al Qadim pretry much out of the box and enjoyed that (well, I enjoyed it.  I had a player throw an extreme tantrum when a Genie turned his elf into a halfling). It was alright.  Kept coming back to it week on week but never really spent as much time prepping as I should’ve done so sessions could get a bit bogged down looking up the abilities of a specific creature.

After University, nearly 20 years passed before I sat behind the screen again – or on either side of the screen.  Or rather, not behind the screen.  It’s a barrier.  It gets in the way of the story.  If you need to keep things concealed from the players, fair enough, but find another way.

In the beginning I thought I was confident enough to grab the books, the dice, some players, and roll with it.  Just wing the game with the bare minimum of prep.  I wasn’t, so my games were a shade chaotic and disorganised.  The intervening years have seen me raising 5 kids, so gaming time dropped away completely.  But in the last couple of years I’ve started running games again for my wife and eldest kids.  Family time is not conducive to game planning time.

I’m not sure my GM’ing style has changed dramatically – but the games played have.  Compare and contrast the entries for a creature in the 13th Age Bestiary versus the AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual.  One will tell you, in a nutshell, everything you need to know about how a creature works and what it can do.  One will make vague references to other books and need you to make sheets of notes to cover each encounter and even then you’ll miss something important that could make the difference between character survival and a TPK.  GMs these days? Don’t know they’re born.

Turns out that my GM’ing style matches the games I want to play almost perfectly (either that or I’m subconsciously selecting games that fit this style).  The way the Backgrounds and Icon Relationship rolls can flavour pretty much any monster out of the bestiary…  Encounters, adventures, the games practically write themselves!

Now.  Go forth and read the wisdom from the rest of the round table…