What were you thinking?

 

This was going to be a long post about how I’ve been disappointed with some of the recent releases from bands and artists I’ve been following for years. But then, as a mind far greater than mine once said:

It is easy to criticise.  It is far harder to do better.

And as I’ve got the musical talent of a toddler, I’ll stop there.  Almost.  Ritchie Blackmore, what were you thinking when you covered “Moonlight Shadow”?

Instead, I’ve got some recommendations for bands I’ve discovered through these underwhelming releases.

Die Geyers & Faun

Turns out that Germany has a far better folk-rock scene than England does.  Die Geyers worked with Ritchie Blackmore on occasion, particularly the song linked above.  They sing in a mix of English and German, and their rendition of “What shall we do with the drunken minstrels” has filled the car on more than one occasion.  Faun are a slightly different beast, only slightly, discovered when I searched online to find bands running an amped-up hurdy-gurdy.

Metheglin

One of those occasions where “You might like…” on Facebook came up with a winner.  British progressive folk group.  Wonderful choice of instruments.  I’m always wary when I read the word “Progressive” in a band description.  If it goes too far down the prog road, you’re in to 15 minute keyboard solos and stuff far stranger than I’d ever care to listen to.  But these guys strike the right balance.

An Assortment of others.

Names for you to Google and, hopefully, catch in concert:

  • Pennyless (Play at all sorts of venues and festivals around Peterborough/Stamford/Bourne/Lincoln) – ever so slightly trippy 3 (and occasionally more) piece folk band.
  • The String Contingent (Saw perform in Broadstairs, absolutely loved ’em)
  • Nate Mainland (thank you Twitter)
  • The Demon Barbers.  These guys and girls take folk and run with it.  Saw them perform in Spalding last year, can’t wait to see them in Broadstairs for the Lock In this year.

Who’s been your best musical discovery recently?

The 7 Days of Christmas

Most Christmas traditions we pick up either from the Christmases of our childhood or by osmosis from the world around.  When you get married, it gets a little interesting with the “but our family always did this…” conversations.  A final little centre table present instead of crackers is one we got from my wife’s family.

Starting a new Christmas tradition is always fun.  Last year we decided to go for a Rosace a l’orange rather than a Christmas pudding – lighter than a Christmas pud, the citrus cuts through the fat of the slow-roast duck and goose we did for the main course.  This turned out so well, we did it again in 2016 (all of it, slow-roast birds included) and are looking forward to doing it again from now on.  If you’ve not tried it, this is a gorgeous, light, creamy, pudding made using Mary Berry’s recipe here.  The tricky part is getting the oranges to candy successfully – took 3 goes first time, 2 this last time, so I’m getting better!  And ignore the order the instructions are presented in, you want to get the oranges on first so you know they work!

This year we went for something new.  7 of us, 7 days, each day one person gets to chose:

  • 1 movie for the family to watch together
  • 1 thing for us to bake/cook
  • 1 game for us to play

For the most part, this worked out well.  It was thrown off-track by Eldest either working or disappearing up to Yorkshire to visit her boyfriend, but this was Year 1 of the New Tradition.

Some things were to everyone’s taste – Youngest wanted to make chocolate brownies, watch The Force Awakens, and play Carcassonne.  Not bad at all!

Middle Boy wanted us all to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.  Which is unmitigated rubbish (and yet on a par with every other TMNT movie they’ve ever made).  Eldest Boy wanted to make Koeksisters, which we never quite got round to.

Over the week, we watched most of the movies – and then had a catch-up day where we had a Labyrinth/Stardust double feature – baked most of the bakes and played a few, but not all, of the games.

But we did it.  And the kids were excited to plan it – they drew it up, helped each other choose what to bake, what to play, stuck the whole thing on the fridge (where it promptly got covered in crossings out and rewritings as minds were changed).

Going to do it again next year, definitely.  Might even do a version of it over the summer holidays – they’re long enough to be able to drop a few special days in here and there…

The 13th Hack – Part 1

In my left hand, the 13th Age SRD.  Or rulebook if you’ve got it.  Big, weighty, gorgeous, full-colour, tome of everything you need to run an RPG in the Dragon Empire and beyond.  It’s my go-to game for fantasy gaming.  Or it was…

In my right hand, The Black Hack.  19 pages long, including the obligatory license page.  Simple. Streamlined. Sweet.  Pares everything down to bare bones and makes gaming on the fly an absolute joy.  Grab the dungeon dice or cards, grab an old module that’s been collecting dust on the shelf, convert as you go along.

It seems somehow logical that left and right should meet…

13th Age is, if approached from a certain direction, the ultimate gaming condiment set, full of tasty morsels that can season and spice whatever game you happen to play.  You don’t have to use all the rules, just the bits and pieces you want to.

The Escalation Die

Get the biggest damn D6 you can comfortably lift.  Round 2 of combat, it goes on the table, 1-up.  Given that TBH is a roll-under system, you subtract that from your d20 rolls in combat.  Criticals now occur on 0 or 1.  20 is still a fumble and if you roll your stat bang-on you trigger a GM Intrusion.  (Okay, so I’m stealing that from Monte Cook’s Cypher system games, basically it’s carte blanche for the GM to introduce something into the game – reinforcements for one side or the other, your weapon breaks, something interesting happens.  And it’s got to keep the story moving forward).

Round 3 the Escalation Die shifts to 2.  Criticals now occur on -1, 0 or 1. Fumble on 20, GMI on rolling your stat exactly before modifying.

Round 4… You’re clever, you get the idea.

Go nuts with this.  Base monster powers off the die.  Is it odd?  Is it even?  Can a nasty special monster also use the Escalation die?

Damage on Miss

Simple.  You fail to hit, you deal your level in damage to the creature you were attacking.  Point is, you’re the Big Damn Heroes and you’re there to kick arse and take names.  Even if you can’t write the names down, don’t have a pen, and couldn’t read them even if you did manage to write them down.  Yes, Barbarians, I’m looking at you here.

You can also play with the attack rolls.  Natural Even Hit, Odd Miss, exact hit…  Base powers off and around things like that.  A magical sword that deals double damage if you roll the exact number you need to hit.  A pair of gloves that grants you an extra action if you miss on a natural even roll.  Index cards come in handy, or post-it notes.

Backgrounds

An idea I’ve already seen suggested as a skill system option in TBH elsewhere.  Characters in 13th Age don’t have skills, they’ve got Backgrounds.  Maybe you were the Chief Gardener for the Chef of Ulambril.  Roll with Advantage whenever you can blag a use for that Background.  Oh, and you’ve also introduced the Chef of Ulambril into the game world – what made you leave her service, what did she cook, what did you grow? Where or what is Ulambril?  Interesting enrichment to the game world in a single sentence.  Every Background should add almost as much to the game canon as “The Doctor’s Wife” did.

Icons

These are the movers and shakers of the world.  Not gods, but rulers of kingdoms, of guilds, the powers behind the throne perhaps.  13th Age gives you 13 laid out and beautifully illustrated, the SRD gives you 13 more.  And you can find more online or make up your own.

Each player gets to have a relationship with 1 icon at 1st level, gaining another relationship every 4 levels – so 1st (1), 5th (2), 9th (3).  Relationships can be Positive – the icon likes you and wishes to help.  Conflicted – the icon is like a cat, it doesn’t really care if you live or die, it may help you, it may wind itself around your legs when you start to walk down the stairs.  Negative – the icon hates you and will do everything in it’s power to ensure you fail.  Wait, that’s more like a cat.

At the beginning of the session, roll a d6 for each relationship.  On a 1, your icon will exert some influence to assist you (positive or conflicted) or hinder you (negative).  On a 6, the opposite happens and you could find yourself working alongside crack troopers of the Skeleton Lord to steal a rare ingredient from the gardens of Ulambril (no, I still don’t know where they are or what’s growing there).

The 13th Age Icon mechanics are different.  Use them if you like.

Next Time on the 13th Hack…

Character classes! Monsters! Powers! Levelling up!

Maybe.