DriveThruRPG and Blog of Holding’s Knights of the Dinner Table bundle

As you already know from my previous post about Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes, I’m a big fan of the Blog of Holding specials that are sold through DriveThruRPG, the best online gaming store.

Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 7.58.48 pm      LEFT:  Cover of KotD Ep1 by Jolly Blackburn

I’ve long been a fan of the hilarious strip, Knights of the Dinner Table, that used to feature in Dragon magazine.  I’d have to say (reluctantly) I’m probably closest to Bob Herzog (the guy on right in the above drawing) in temperament and as a result had bad things happen to me during my gaming misadventures, much like Bob being changed into a monkey.

Check out this funny animation of it here:  Animated Knights of Dinner Table

And here’s a creative live-action version of them here:  06 Knights of the Dinner Table

I’m really looking forward to reading many that I’ve never seen, as it started well before I first saw them and went on long after I read the last one.  On a side note, I haven’t yet had a go at MPSE, as I’ve been saving it for just the right time to enjoy it.

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Excerpt from fantasy novella draft

IMG_3832I’ve been enjoying the holidays; drinking teas like this one- Australia’s Madura English Breakfast, which curiously is blended into Eng. Breakfast style by them from Sri Lankan and Indian teas.  I like having it in my well-used West Coast Eagles cup.  They’re sitting at the top of the footy ladder at the moment and I hope that’s where they end up at the end of the season then take home the premiership.

Here’s an excerpt from the fantasy novella I’ve been writing:

‘A hulking, fur-clad warrior looked down at Toe, his eyes hard to see through thick hair and beard.  He wore leather bands over his wrists, and gestured with an enruned longhammer for Toe to turn his eyes to the dolmen.  Toe nodded, knowing that this was one of the king’s great champions, courageous in battle and one who commanded the warriors like himself.  

The pop of drums could be heard from somewhere in the vale, a simple but pleasant sound.  Toe felt them in his chest, his heart racing to beat in time with them.  He was sure a great honour was about to be given to him, but felt weak at the knees.  

Toe marvelled at the centre of the vale, where it looked like a throne was appearing on the sacred centre stone.  He looked back at the huge warrior, and saw that he was not the only person who stood near him.  Scores of others stood throughout the vale; warriors, peasant men and women, children, all watching the glowing throne and the figure appearing upon it, but some turned to see when the barrows opened, loud stony cracks resonating into the night.’

‘Did you hear something?’ Hengist asked, trying to move Toe along. The big warrior stood still, listening intently and staring at the standing stones at the centre of the empty vale.

Toe stood there among the people, mesmerised by the spectacle and happy to be counted among the king’s warriors.

A chorus of voices called a name he thought was somehow familiar, over and over, more voices joining in. ‘Edyram! Edyram! Edyram!’ Of course, it was the name of the king! Toe began to call out with them, calling for their glorious king to appear before them.

‘Who’s Edyram?’ Hengist asked. Toe was mumbling the word over and over. ‘ed-DIRE-um. ed-DIRE-um. ed-DIRE-um’.

Toe was yanked back from beside the huge warrior. Something jerked and tugged at his scabbard. He turned to see what the annoyance was; the dog he’d seen before was bitting his scabbard, digging his paws in and backing away, and pulling him with it. The giant warrior grunted angrily, deftly stepped beside Toe and lifted his great hammer, swiftly smashing the animal. The death-blow never came. The giant’s hammer broke into a spray of twinkling dust-motes and the warrior stood up, holding the broken haft before his face, looking at it in confusion. Toe was astounded to see right through the great warrior, and the others. Then the warrior and the other dust phantoms, the drums and the chanting, the glowing king, all of it was gone.

The dog let go and Toe turned to step back where he could see, but Hengist grabbed his elbow.

‘Toe, wait. Some kind of fell magic that’. The wizard had a coughing fit and pulled his cloak tighter. ‘Better that we stay away from it’.

Toe nodded at him. ‘Where did that dog go? Fodag wanted to kill the beast. It was unclean’. Toe looked back down the path where they’d come, then at Hengist, as if he hadn’t noticed him before.

‘Are you one of the king’s rune sayers?’ Toe looked in Hengist’s direction, but seemed to be look through him.

‘Toe, it’s me. Hengist. Ye’ve gone a bit blimmy’.

Toe is one of the main characters from the story, a warrior inspired by Game of Thrones’ Sandor Clegane and of course, my old friend Andrew’s D&D character.

Something for my inspiration wall

dead in space quote

I have a  lot of stuff pinned to my cork board above my writing desk; Yeats’ poem The Black Tower, Neruda’s poem Ode to Enchanted Light, some Calvin & Hobbes and Bloom County comics, and a few other things.  Joining them will be this extract of text from my book Perseid, which I feel is the sort of writing that comes out sometimes when a writer is in the groove.  I was really happy with this bit, and I hope you guys enjoy it.  For more, check out Chapters 5, 7 and 8 in Perseid.

For an update on what’s happening with my writing; I found a bit of time today to write another scene or two in the fantasy book, and have had lots of interesting ideas to consider using in HT6 as well as Ruzscom.  I want to finish all three so that I can read them!

Missing a friend

So I must confess to you that I have not been writing HT#6. You see, last September one of my best friends died suddenly and I’m writing a story dedicated to him. The dedication might be something like, ‘To Keithbo, the biggest damned hobbit you ever saw’. That described him nicely, he was a huge, tall man, but very much a hobbit at heart. His door was only open for party business, and he certainly enjoyed elevenses. I will miss his joyous, hearty laughter the most I think.

No idea what I’ll call it or even if I will publish it. But I must write it.

Found early ideas similar to Crilum!

For many years, a big part of my writing process has been writing down ideas in old journals and notebooks.  I’ve been reading through these looking for inspiration to make my HT#6 draft and my fantasy story better, and have just come across what seems to be an early idea that is eerily similar to the plot of my first-written book, Crilum and one small part like the fifth book, Koleos.  I’m not sure exactly how old these are, but I’d say mid-noughties.  I’ll share it with you as it’s written:

Star Alliance Command has sent you an urgent communication.  A prominent scientist, Dr Molnark, and his team have not returned from an asteroid (or planetary fragment) mining facility.  As the system is not far from your current location, you are to go to this asteroid and investigate.  Recovery of the scientific team is your top priority, recovery of their vessel and maintaining good diplomatic relations with the miners is secondary.  

Command believes stellar signal interference has coincided with or caused a breakdown of Dr Molnark’s ship, nothing more.  In actuality, the Udlornans and their mercenaries have chosen the stellar phenomenon to stage an attack, which worked fairly well.  

The party’s ship will be shot down and will be beyond repair.  The miners are a humanoid species with green skin and a large, single eye (they have trouble with light, good in darkness).

EQUIPMENT

*small enclosed tracked mine vehicle, pulls carts through tunnels

*excavators- spidery, some giant ones (spider robot excavators?)

 

 

 

 

 

New readers’ questions

I’ve been so busy I haven’t had much of a chance to post some more Q and As, but here we go.  I put them in a logical order and also must say I want to avoid giving too much away from the series, so apologies if I haven’t answered your question.  It’ll be more fun for you to read the stories and find out.

What are you working on now?

I’m writing HT #6 right now, and am a few chapters in but have a rough outline of the book.  Aside from writing I’ve built a bedside table for one of my children and a leather dice holder for my solo MPSE adventure.

What inspired you to write Haldan Thane?

There were a few inspirations that compelled me to write the HT series; that I’ve made up stories for myself since I was a little boy, wanted to tell a ‘smashing good yarn’1 like Tolkien, am distantly related to a famous author with the same family name who beat me to writing a book first, wanted to immortalise some of my old friends and family and that I like robots2.

Will there be any more books?

Definitely, but I write in my spare time, so it may be awhile.  There’s a draft opening of my new HT book in my blog.  Search older entries for ‘Haldan Thane, Book Six early draft’.

What are you calling the next book?

I have a naming convention of using one-word titles that relate to the primary setting for each story, so you can expect the same for the sixth book.  It hasn’t been decided just yet.

Are you still writing other books?  I can’t wait to read Ruzscom!!!  What is that unpublished one in the photo?

Yes, I’m working on three new books at the moment, primarily HT#6, but also Ruzscom and a fantasy novel.

We took a trip in Australia and it’s so beautiful.  We loved it!  Your so lucky to live there.  Is it good for writing?

Australia is lovely, most of the time.  I enjoy the mild winters, but do miss snow sometimes.  But I think that while it’s true that I do my best writing sitting outside in gorgeous weather, if I’m immersed in the story that’s taking shape, all I need is some quiet time and something to write it on, paper or computer.  I could be just about anywhere.

OMG!  Luv Vyalla she’s sophie

I had to look that one up.  Sophie- a clever, smart and beautiful girl.  Vyalla is all that and more, and has been an interesting character to write.  She’s become quite a determined and assertive young lady since she first appeared, jumping right out of the Koleos story to watch me to make sure I got her part just right, but being gracious enough to allow me to take credit for all of it afterwards.

Where did you get Vyalla from?

I remember thinking that someone like Haldan, especially after what happened to him on Crilum, would probably never find love, and thought it would be a remarkable coincidence that not only does he find it, but it’s with the most beautiful girl in the universe.  But for Vyalla to really feel human she had to have her own difficulties, which she does; from unwanted attention and objectification to something ever more desolating she experiences in the Koleos story.

What are your favorite books?

The Hobbit and other books by Tolkien

The Seventh Scroll by Wilbur Smith (would make a fantastic Indy Jones-type film!)

The Book of Everything by Guus Kuyjer (beautiful, lyrical writing, such as when Thomas’ mother is hit, he sees angels outside the window cover their eyes and weep)

The Ruum by Arthur Porges (short story; vintage ‘mathematical’ sci-fi)

The Harry Potter series, especially the Half-Blood Prince

MAZE by Christopher Manson (filled with delicious lines like, ‘they failed to notice my crown and my pain’)

What books are on your bedside table?

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), The Witches by Dahl, and Here Lies Arthur by Phillip Reeve.  I’ve just finished The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm by Galbraith and Disgrace (Department Q) by Jussi Adler-Olsen before that.

I’m reading Dahl to one of my children and think it’s important doing that, listening to them read, reading together and talking about stories.

Here Lies Arthur is surprisingly well-written, and I’m enjoying Reeves’ evocative descriptions, told through the voice of Gwyna.  I’ve heard the book is an interesting take on the Arthurian legend and it has me intrigued, e.g. Arthur is more of a desperate bandit and ‘Merlin’ spins his skirmishes into glorious-sounding victories.  I am fan of Egyptian / archaeological mysteries, with The Seventh Scroll, all the Indy Jones books (even the cheesy ones) and Seven Ancient Wonders by Matthew Reilly being some of my favourites.

1Praise for Tolkien from an old Oxford electrician

2Response from a fictional character, the writer Albert Macklin, on why he chooses to continually write stories with robots in them.

 

 

 

 

Hank Weatherford, Mercenary

IMG_3396.JPGI’ve been busy at work, but the holidays are coming up soon and I’m looking forward to playing MPSE.  I printed and covered The Adventure of the Jade Jaguar and The Case of the Pacific Clipper, found an old notebook similar to the one Indiana Jones uses in Raiders of the the Lost Ark (at 1:55), found a flat double-ended pencil to use with it, and crafted a pocket-sized, leather  dice holder.

IMG_3398.JPGIn this second photograph, you can see the vintage dice I found, along with my mercenary, Henry ‘Hank’ Weatherford.  I feel like he’s a well-rounded, fierce fellow.  Now, to find that jade jaguar!

Butterbeer

IMG_3281.JPG

I have to tell you this!  The other day we were walking along this tiny street near where we live, and after my wife sort of stumbled off the footpath, she noticed an overgrown, pot-holey pathway, that led behind one of the shops and looked to be a shortcut to the next street.  So we followed it, finding a tiny shop tucked improbably behind the ones on the street, and it was there I bumped my head on one of those old-style hanging signs.  That’s when I noticed some rather odd-looking items through the shop’s window and found myself opening the unfriendly, creaking door.  If it wasn’t for the sign, I would’ve sworn it felt like intruding into someone’s old house.  Despite the coziness of the inside of the shop, there was a long wooden bench along the wall, with a silent old man sitting there smoking a pipe, but our attention was drawn to the wooden bar, behind which was an older woman, her long, grey hair and staring eyes causing us uneasiness.  I suppose she was kind, however, since she asked, ‘Not lost are you, my dears?’

I have to admit that it was somewhat overwhelming, and I stuttered, ‘Th-th-that stuff in the window there.  Is- is it for sale?’  So began a brief conversation that saw us leaving with the curious little skull and a four-pack of butterbeer that you can see in the above photograph.  When we returned home, we were already talking about going back for more, but somehow couldn’t recall the name of the street we had been on when we found the old path.  We found some of it though, actual butterbeer, that we had fancied for so long.  I found it very tasty, and it reminded me of the best-tasting butterscotch hard lollies my grandmother always put out, but mixing soda water with it diluted the thick sweetness and made it last a bit longer.  You know the scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince where Harry, Hermione and Ron enjoy butterbeers at the The Three Broomsticks?  How many people have wanted that delicious elixir since then?  Or even earlier, when they read this passage in the book:

‘Harry was still fuming when Hermione returned to their table a few minutes later holding three bottles of Butterbeer.’  -J.K. Rowling

DriveThruRPG and Blog of Holdings’s Flying Buffalo bundle

In a time when D&D was all the craze and it still felt new and full of possibilities, my favourite thing in the world to do was to go into Bud’s Hobby Shop and browse all the RPG books he had on offer while becoming intoxicated on his pipe-smoke.  I just had to have all those amazing adventure modules, rule books and dice, but one day I slid out one book I hadn’t seen before – Grimtooth’s Traps.  It gleefully described some of the most devious and dastardly ways adventurers could die in a fantasy dungeon exploration.  What fun!

Fast forward to now:  One of my favourite sites, DriveThruRPG, is selling a Flying Buffalo Bundle that has all their Traps books, all their imaginative CityBooks and one that I’m particularly excited about – Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes.  I rate Raiders of the Lost Ark as my favourite film of all time, and being able to play someone like Indy in an adventure sounds like a great time.  As they say, all it takes is some imagination, but dice and an adventure module are welcome additions.  I can hardly wait to try out the Adventure of the Jade Jaguar!

https://bundleofholding.com/presents/Catalyst

$T2eC16h,!ykE9s7tye9FBRyyGzTPyw~~60_3517901187_1_l

24 October 2017 – UPDATE:  Last week, I found another adventure, The Case of the Pacific Clipper, on sale and bought it too.  The game uses three d6 dice, and I’ve been thinking that as it’s usually set in the early part of the Twentieth Century, I wanted to find some vintage pip dice and happily had three that I could use.  So now I’m onto making a dice case designed to fit.  I’ve made a rough one, but have re-designed it and am waiting on some dye and some snaps that are a better size.  I’ll post a photo soon and let you know how my adventures in the game went.

Science Fiction Horror

Although they’re 98% science fiction adventures, I’ve realised that the Adventures of
Haldan Thane also sometimes cross into science fiction horror, or sci-fi gore.  For those of you who’ve read any of them, you’ll know what I mean; that, in some scenes, it gets a bit graphic, which is probably why one reviewer said they’d love to see them in graphic novel form.

I’ve found an interesting list of science fiction horror films at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_science_fiction_horror_films, and there are some movies I’ve enjoyed listed, such as the Alien series, the Body Snatchers series, the classic Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, The Fly, X-Files, Predator and the terrifying I am Legend.  Probably the closest in tone (that I’ve seen) is Saturn 3 (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0079285/ and the full film at5cb288dcc147a7f866602432a5204f03
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omsdQ0hPRY8 although I had to decrease playback speed to 0.75), which I saw on cable TV at my uncle’s house years ago.  It had Farrah Fawcett in it and I had a big crush on her.  Just add a bit more humour, aliens, spaceships and laser guns and it’s getting really close to HT.

Why did I include these scenes in the adventures?  It’s a hard question to answer, but I can tell you that it just felt right, that I wanted to show that there are dangers in space and horrible things can happen to you, especially when there are aliens around that are very different from humans.  It’s fantasy instead of sci-fi, but the film The Dark Crystal is like this too.  In the documentary series, The World of Jim Henson, author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, described how that for Henson, ‘there was a darker, cavernous place he was busting to get to’ (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEWB0zuZvlI&t=3822s; at about 57:13).

UPDATE 10 July 2017:  Bad news:  The above Youtube video has been blocked due to copyright violations.