Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Kampi's Edda: 5315 Prelude - Night of the Silver Moon

Today's entry of Kampi's Edda is a few recent excerpts from his personal journal:



Julemonth, several weeks following the first full moon of the winter solstice
The local year is now 5315, as have been told (whatever that means)

I have decided to keep a written account of my experiences in this strange land, partially as a means to pass time, partially to help come to terms with my lonesomeness. The winter here, if it can truly be called such, is rather mild. I have known colder summers back in Nordthheim.

I have spent the past few moons south in the city of Helmsgard; I originally made landfall near of the settlement of Dagger Deep. As I have learnt, both places are situated on an elongated isle named 'Ar-Ra-Kus'. I have found work in the harbour as a porter to the many of the warehouses and labourer for merchants; thus I have been able to afford my keep in this flophouse. I have also kept a meagre savings for the expenditure on personal affects: I commissioned a smith of weapons to fashion a knife of similar design of the seax of my much missed homeland. I also fashioned a sheath for said blade and carved the raven of Wodinaz upon it. Perhaps I will gain his favour doing so.

Before I travelled to this city with the last of the trade bands, I journeyed eastward around the berg called by locals as Shadowvale with only the guidance of the one only as the Pict to safeguard me from the perils that dwell therein. We encountered no denizens of the mountain but upon reaching the eastern shoreline which I sought we happened upon a monstrous winged wretch (I now know as a 'Harpi'). The gods granted us favour for we quickly slew the creature before it became aware of our presence with a unerring throw each of our pointed javelins.

We combed the rocky shore for any possible signs of survivors or at least usable salvage from the wreck of the drakkar. Eventually we came across the sea-eaten body of one of my shipmates (whom it was, I could not tell) propped up against the dragon prow of the longship, standing alone erect in the sands. It was then I believe I accepted that I was fated to be the sole survivor of the voyage. The figurehead we left as a memorial in lieu of the runestone I could not provide for my lost crew.

Before we departed the coast following fruitless days of searching, I happened upon an item from the ship not as ravaged by the elements as the rest: a single rowing oar. Much to the Pict's vexation, this lone piece of salvage I insisted on bringing back. Now that I have cut the length down to a more wieldly size and retreated the wood, I have been using it practically as a staff, but I also bare it as a reminder to all mariners lost upon that ship. I pray they have found comfort in the halls of the sea-god Ægyr and his wife Ránn.

The Pict disappeared from my company before I reached civilized lands. I wonder if I shall see that strange wild-elf again...





Rhedmonth, before spring

I have been blessed by the gods! During my time spent in Helm's Deep, I happened to partake in a local blót of sorts and whilst enjoying the festivities I encountered the Bishop Relan of Ithus. We caught up on our discussions when we last saw each other late last season in Daggergard.

Though a busy man to be sure, he was kind enough to devote some of his precious time instructing me further in the ways to commune with the divine. During my personal hours between twilight and dawn I have been diligently practising, and this morning I felt a stirring in the depths of my soul like nothing before! I will continue on, praying that my connection with the Æsir moves beyond mere superstitious practices into something deeper.

Also I bought a used helm from a trader on a whim because it's design recalled that of my homeland. It must have belonged to a jötunn for its size is huge! At least I can wear it provided I have filled the space with my hat. Perhaps a skilled armourer can use the design and make something more appropriate to my size...




Ēostremonth, the month of spring
The locals referred to the date as the Night of the Silver Moon

The merchant company I had been occasionally employed by made a journey north to Uberland and I travelled with them as porter and guard. After reaching our destination, I took advantage of the lull in work to visit Dagger Deep and hopefully see the few I considered family since my separation from my own.

Nothing could prepare me for this day. I shall remember it well.

During my travels along the old Uberlandian road, I met up with my friend Tobias and we journeyed to the Deep together, reminiscing about past times and what we planned on accomplishing during our visit to town. He wished to continue his learning in the ways of nature and I myself wished only to meet more friendly faces. Arriving into town, the pair of us briefly considered the call to join the town guard once our primary concerns where attended to; Tobias visited the hut of the individual known as Orlav, in the meantime I went to visit the 'house-pit-all' Relan had commissioned in the temple district and received a surprising shock: 

The partially finished building was gone (perhaps destroyed during the string of fires that swept through the Deep late last season?) and new structure stood in its place. A most unwholesome construction, filled with bones and a noxious air like a charnel house. What else had occurred in this town during my absence?

The dire portents of this revelation were swept aside when I set my gaze upon fair Sprig, priestess of Ithus. After we exchanged sentiments, Sprig informed me she did not know the purpose of said of the structure that stood where the hostel was, but sensed a great deal of wrongness about it. (When I investigated the interior sometime later in the day, the old rectory had been filled or collapsed inward, yet a stash of personal items I hid beneath the floorboards was missing, undoubtedly plundered.)

Sprig had granted me permission to use the grounds of Ithus for the time being for prayer; though I am indebted to the church of Ithus for all it has done for me thus far, I still feel improper using their facilities to commune with the Æsir... I must find my own suitable grounds.

I was just leaving the grounds of Ithus after my ruminations, I encountered probably the single greatest surprise I had witnessed for many moons: a group of newcomers were being toured about the town by the wayfarer Sunset when one of them stopped mid-stride and stared at me curiously. Upon returning the glance recognition appeared upon both our faces: 

Truly the gods had me in their favour, for the two of us were shipmates during that fated voyage I had written about before! Wolm was is his name! And I was not dreaming, for when we embraced each other he was wholly flesh and blood! Living! Not a draugr or other such revenant! By divine will we were reunited, two astray Nordthmen! The lands of Dagger Deep is truly a realm of miracles!

Our time was spent touring and conducting a treasure hunt of sorts with the others whilst we related our tales. It seemed that Wolm had drowned at sea following the wreck, but his body was happened upon by a hermit who revived him and nursed him back to health. He then spent several months north before making his fateful journey to Dagger Deep. I can still scarcely believe our good fortune. It gives me hope their may be other survivors of the drakkar on this island.


A sketch of myself, Tobias, Reed, and Wolm enjoying the calm before the storm.
(Original Photo by John Marusiak)
Upon returning to town, the lot of us; myself, Tobias, and Wolm, along with newcomers Reed, Rial, and a host of other peasants; joined up with the town guard under instruction of Captain Wolfgang Krieger, where we spent our time in combat and formation drills. Heimdallrig would commend his vigilance, for even though the settlement had seen little action over the winter season, he was convinced that the increased trade would bring trouble.

And that it did, for we were in the middle of investigating a possible murder-theft when the accused vanished in a puff of smoke and we discovered to our dismay our Northbrook enemies had taken hold of our fortress of Rowanoak. Thus began several hours of protracted battle in and outside of the Deep with Northbrook as well as various other aggressors. At King Williamarius' lead, we fought to recover the abducted Rex of Hrogn, Lucius, from the clutches of the Black and Gold company; contend with a bizarre eye-creature; and drive the Northbrook and Black Rose enemies from the realm, which we succeeded in doing so, but only as a hard won rout I believe.

Below are a few sketches of these occurrences:


Wolm baring one of the ladders the forces of Dagger Deep
employed to scale the walls of Fort Rowanoak.
(Original Photo by John Marusiak)

The irregular forces of Daggar Deep lay siege to the walls manned by 
the vile forces of Northbrook. We succeeded in driving the host from the fort.

(Original Photo by John Marusiak)


Black Rose villains charging forth.
(Original Photo by John Marusiak)

Miscreants of the Black and Gold.
(Original Photo by John Marusiak)


The bizarre gigantic eye creature known as a 'Beer-Holder';
Personally, I saw no resemblance to a cup-bearer.
(Original Photo by Sandi Shill)
I fought long and hard that day to pay homage to Wodinaz and the rest of the Æsir for the favour I was granted finding my fellow mariner Wolm, along the opportunity to use my new-found divine gifts to aid my allies so we may continue to protect the wondrous realm of Dagger Deep.

After a long day of battle, several of us had a brief meal in the tavern before we returned to our respective camps. I travel south with the caravan at dawn, but I suspect I am to return to the Deep before long.


Praise Be To The Æsir



-Ref 'Kampi' Vandillson

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Kampi's Edda: Preparations for the Season Opener

Gosh, I been so terribly busy lately and done so much to write about, yet I haven't had the time to make any entries! Most of what I've been doing since GottaCon is helping administrate Vanguard Training, and crafting and preparations for the 2015 season opener of Medieval Chaos: Night of the Silver Moon. I haven't had the chance until last Friday to get any tabletop gaming in, I've been that busy!



This entry will discuss a couple projects I completed to improve my kit; Kampi's staff and helmet. Next entry I hope to touch upon Kampi's experiences at the Night of the Silver Moon event proper while it's still relatively fresh in my mind.



As I briefly mentioned last month over social media, that I had fashioned my first foam weapon: a staff created to look like an oar (the idea being that Kampi salvaged it from the remains of his shipwreck and bares it as a memorandum for his fellow shipmates that were lost at sea).

I wasn't able to thoroughly document the full construction process we used (we, as in my friend and I who both build a staff), which should be fine since this was our first time and probably shouldn't be taken as the best advice. Having no formal training we used common sense and based our guidelines around the safety requirements for this years' weapons in the Player's Handbook.

Some of the materials used, top to bottom:
Brown duct tape, PVC cement, spray adhesive, 3/4" and 1/2" pipe insulation,
3/4" schedule 40 PVC, pipe connectors and end caps.
  
I noticed that this year the edge thickness had increased to 2" from 1" from the core, making our staves quite thick; I placed this padding all along the entire length as I wanted it to look thick like a boat oar.

We used PVC Cement to attach the coupling rings and the end caps.
In retrospect, we probably shouldn't have done this; although we were concerned about safely capping our cores, tension should've been enough to keep them in place, and made for future difficulty when we try to stiffen the staves (more on that below).

A big'o'block of foam w/ hot crafting knife.
I trimmed a chunk off and used that for the basis of the 'oar blade'

Once I had fully wrapped the core in insulation foam and secured it with a combination of double-sided carpet tape, spray adhesive, and wrapped the exterior with a spiral of hockey tape, I cut a slot out of the 'oar blade' and using copious amounts of spray adhesive I inserted one end of the staff and wrapped it in masking tape to hold it fast while the adhesive dried.

The final process was wrapping the whole thing in brown duct tape.
For the 'blade' and the 'bottom' I wrapped it once perpendicular and once parallel lengthwise to add extra support, where as the rest of the shaft I taped along the length.
VerdictI had the opportunity to début Kampi's oar during the first session of Vanguard and have used it several times since, including the season opener of MC, which I consider it's final test. I am very pleased with the result. It's stood up to heavy use and abuse with only minor scratches, which are easily fixed with tape.

Improvements: The staff does flex a little too much and might be a tad, as one would say, 'whippy'. This is on account of being unsure if any thing can be placed inside the core to make it more rigid. It has been suggested that one could insert a couple fibreglass rods inside the pipe to stiffen the weapon. Another thing to consider is grey schedule 40 PVC might be slightly more rigid than the white pipe we went with.

It's interesting to note that my 'oar' passed weapon inspection last Saturday, but my friend's staff (which is nearly identical in construction, minus the 'blade') didn't on account of it being too flexible. Also there was some contention about schedule 20 being the standard vs. the schedule 40 (as recommend in the handbook) that we used??? (I wasn't privy to the exact details; I heard this account second hand.) The only thing we can think of is the addition of the 'oar blade' on my staff makes it slightly less flexible; also the materials are the same but we constructed our staves individually so each individual method might also have some baring.

So far building a staff for MC right now seems a bit of a catch-22: a larger diameter core would mean the pipe is a bit more rigid, but the weapon would be absurdly thick because the amount of the minimum edge padding required; conversely, a smaller core makes for a thinner staff, but makes it more 'whippy'. Another friend of mine fashioned his first staff using just fibreglass rods as his core (as suggested to him) but the result was a staff even more flexible than ours! *facepalm*




The one other major project I finally finished before season opener was a leather spectacle-style helmet. Originally, the Missus and I were looking to fashion one out of leather using the pattern for the metal one [here] and sizing it to my head. We got as far as building a mock-up out of card-stock before I met with my friend Doug (a crazy-talented crafter, owner of an amazing set tools and skills, and the proprietor of Aether Anvil; his Etsy store is currently empty, but his facebook page contains many interesting photos and updates), and he suggested I check out a site that sells leather patterns specifically designed for LARP and cosplay called Crystal Anvil.

There they have a Norse Guard Helm Pattern for $3.99; I purchased it feeling that using a professionally made pattern would be much better than trying to make something from scratch and possibly create something ugly/unusable and wasting leather. I' wasn't a huge fan of the eyepiece, but Doug suggested we cut something I'd prefer out of aluminium using his CNC cutter.

I printed the pattern out on label sheets (as I discovered to my chagrin my printer won't print on cardstock; this turned out to be major downfall as we will see ahead), arraigned the sheets with a slight overlap together as a large poster, cut out the pattern pieces, and stuck them to the suede side of my leather, which I then cut them out individually.



The next thing that was to be done was punch all the rivet holes, and clean the edges with a beveller. Once that was complete, I met with Doug for the final steps: dying, assembly, waxing. 

On a hunch, Doug suggested I assemble the helmet first, and after hammering all the rivets it became apparent to both of us that this helmet was way too large


I have a rather small head, so it looked absurd on me (it kinda looked like a bishop's mitre. Battle Pope!), but even to larger people like Doug it was too big. The pattern had somehow printed too large; it is mentioned in the pattern that it's spec is for a 25.5" head-size with padding, and one could scale up or down to achieve the preferred size, but annoyingly nowhere does it explain how one would go about scaling the pattern. We originally thought I must've messed up somehow when I printed the pattern, but when Doug imported the PDF file into his the CAD program he uses for the CNC when designing the eyepiece, the ratio was incorrect. 

Additionally the ruling marks on the edges of the pattern don't equate to inches (something I noticed when laying out the prints); they're pretty much arbitrary numbers at his point. I hadn't printed it wrong, the pattern itself was wrong; this was something I would have discovered if my printer allowed me to make a mock-up out of cardstock! Learn from my mistake and be wary of any sizing inconsistencies in the patterns from Crystal Anvil.

Disheartened, the following day we decided to complete the other steps and see if the helmet might look a bit better at the end. We dyed it black, then manufactured the metal eyepiece, oxidized it, and riveted it on before we waxed the whole thing.


At home I warmed the waxed leather further and worked down the rumpled edges of the leather to a more uniform roundness, the gave it a protective coat of mink oil. After all that it looked much more tolerable.

On a positive note, instead of using loads of foam to fill out the helmet so it'd fit on my head, I realized that Kampi's hat easily fits inside it, meaning I can simultaneously pad the helmet and store my hat when I wear it. Plus the hat's fur trim looks pretty decent from the back. All I added was a couple bicycle helmet pads in the front and back to provide a bit of padding and for something for the hat to gain purchase upon, and a line of weather stripping under the nasal portion of the eyepiece in case it just pushed into my face.


Verdict: I wore this helmet for about half of the season opener (the combative parts), and despite the look I'm pretty content with it. It was nice to have an extra hitpoint in-game, and the actual protection it gave me increased my confidence. I even received a few complements on it so it must not look that bad.

Eventually, I plan to sell it to someone whom it fits better and Doug and I will scale the pattern to the correct dimensions for my head, cut new pieces quickly with his laser cutter, and make a new correctly-sized helm for Kampi. Maybe I'll even take the time to tool/burn patterns into the leather and/or add a few more metal plates. Until, then this'll do.



I have a many more projects on the go that I didn't get finished in time for MC: still working on the embroidery for Kampi's hat, a replacement hood wrap, and a tunic and cloak for my Ankhadian Ranger kit, now that I'm a member.

Additionally, based upon my well-received performance during a Post-Apocalyptic Paintball-LARP Beta we attended last month (where I played a medic), I've been selected to be the groups healer (medico); so I'm slowly constructing a medieval fantasy 'first aid kit' that's based around the 'four humours'. It's just a matter of acquiring/building the props/phys reps and figuring out the RP fluff and the game mechanics.


Hopefully you'll be hearing about these soon.

Cheers!

Friday, 13 March 2015

Dread Cthulhu Questionnaires

Boo! Happy Friday the 13th, a perfectly dreadful day to release some custom material!

For any and all interested, below are the character questionnaires I designed for a recent Dread game I ran several times that used the Call of Cthulhu scenario: Dead Light. I've been referring to this mash-up as Dread Cthulhu (or in this case specifically, Dread Light).

Although a couple of the questions relate mostly to the scenario (mainly the plot hook), with a bit of tinkering these questionnaires could easily be used in any early turn-of-the-century setting that utilizes elements of supernatural/cosmic horror.

Aside from the plot hook, most of the queries are based around the characters' backgrounds and their relationships to each other and don't directly relate to the story of Dead Light. Since the scenario itself is mostly straightforward survival horror, there were few questions I felt I could ask without directly spoiling some elements of the adventure. This I believe makes them general enough for use in other scenarios.

That said, I also think utilizing these characters for best effect (and this true for nearly all Dread games), is by providing them with interesting answers; I tried to make the questions ripe for potential. The players just need to provide meaty story hooks that can add to the atmosphere of the session; don't let them pass with run-of-the-mill pedestrian answers, I imagined most of these characters as fitting into common lovecraftian tropes and archetypes (both classic and pulp).

Don't be afraid to play these to the hilt, otherwise the characters may become too passive and static, only reacting to events but never being proactive (even if they're proactively bringing about their own doom). It's up to the players and the host to breathe life into these characters and make them interesting, that way there's more player investment in them and each pull of the tower more dire. This is a one-shot game, don't be afraid to play up the characters.

On the other hand, not every question has to have a detailed answer, as the host only ends up using a few of them directly in the game anyway; I think they're there to help flesh out a character and get the player into their mindset.

Anyway, that's all common Dread advice, but it's worth mentioning again I think.

I created nine character questionnaires for players/hosts to choose from for variety, I also tried to keep their orientation gender-neutral, leaving up to the individual gaming group to sort out if a role is setting appropriate for a particular gender or not.

You can download a PDF for printing here or a google Doc for editing here. Or you can just view/copy/paste the text dump below:



[Clerk]

You just had to personally retrieve some relevant case information from up north. Why do you think this whole trip was a ploy by your office rival?

Though you've been a legal secretary for about a year now, only until recently people still treated you as a lowly clerk. What did it finally take for the men to respect you?

What do you consider your best feature? What's your worst?

You've had to defend yourself against those whom are threatened by your nonconforming independence. What item do you keep close to help protect yourself?

Why don't you go to church anymore?

You recognize that character from a scandal your firm helped keep from going public a few months ago. Whom is it and what was their part in it?

If you had the power to dispense justice, why would you have your own grandfather executed?

Whom or what are you anxiously waiting to come home to? Why would you loose social standing if anyone else knew?

What's your name?



[Farmer]

You hail from one of the many of the farmsteads of central Massachusetts, but what recently brought you East from your home?

Your daughter got you one of those new-fangled pocket lighters before you stopped talking to each other. Why do you still carry it although you no longer smoke?

What dead animal did you come across as a child that profoundly affected you? How?

What do you dislike about the character sitting next to you? Who would you rather sit with and why?

What handy item in your pack did you have the opportunity to pick up whilst in town?

Years ago, you had an appendage amputated after it was crushed whilst you were repairing a traction engine. On which limb was it? Do you use a prosthesis or aid?

People say you're superstitious because you do what?

As much as you dislike the city, how has this trip made you feel better than you have in years?

Only family members refer to you by your given name. What's your full name?



[Scholar]

You just attended a reading of an old colleague's will in Ipswitch and have caught the motor coach back to Arkham. What strange object did they bequeath you?

You've studied many languages during your spare time at Miskatonic University, but why do the texts in the Special Collections Room make you uneasy?

Though you'd be practically blind without them, what do your bifocals help you with the most?

Why do you keep from listening to the radio or using the telephone despite being so apt at electronics?

What are the first things others notice about you?

Why do you feel the need to blame others for your own shortcomings?

Who amongst the other characters makes you nervous and why?

What gives you the strength to face another day?

What does the nameplate on your door say?



[Driver]

A few months ago you started to bus people around the county in your converted charabanc. Why can you no longer stand being in town more than a few days?

Why do you think you have such control issues? What is the real reason?

Though you took it to the garage in Arkham last week, what part of the motor coach is still giving you problems?

What happened during your childhood that makes you hate it when people whisper?

What do you keep underneath the driver's seat just in case?

You were quite an athlete in college before you were expelled. What did you compete in? Why were you expelled?

Despite having a deep-seated grudge against their kind, which character did you let board the coach and for what reason?

Why do you believe your string of bad luck is about to change?

What's the name on your bus drivers license? What's your actual name?



[Veteran]

You have been making your way south through Massachusetts via motor coach to Kingsport to see distant relatives. Why do you dread this visit?

You wouldn't have lasted long as a medic in the Great War if you hadn't been so reliant upon it. What do you have with you that you've been unable to part with?

Why did you save that old woman instead of the child?

What about your appearance makes people recognize you as a member of that lost generation?

You once had to evict a fellow tenant because of their bizarre and unsavoury practices. What possession of theirs have you secretly kept?

What injury of yours has never quite healed right and occasionally drives you to the morphine syringe you keep in your jacket?

Why are you deeply afraid of relapsing to the person you became during the war?

Despite all you've gone through and witnessed, what keeps you from taking your own life?

What name is printed upon the dogtags you still wear?



[Artist]

The first thing you did after being discharged from the sanatorium was travel. Why are you compelled to return home to Salem?

Why do you think your parents would've preferred a son?

What odd skill have you acquired whilst gaining further insight into your art?

They said it was an accident but somehow you know it wasn't. How did your late mother die?

Which of the other characters do you instinctively feel you can trust and why?

What is that thing in your pocket and why haven't you thrown it away yet?

Why do strangers often feel compelled to tell you the intimate details of their lives?

What is your muse that inspires you through periods of darkness?

What is your full name? What do prefer to be called and why?



[Drifter]

You were picked up off the side of the road just as the weather was beginning to turn sour. What made you take to the road despite the coming storm?

You had no money to pay the coach fare. Which other character paid for you? Where do you recognize them from?

What do people automatically assume about you? And are they often wrong?

Why did you prefer to burgle houses to straight theft or armed robbery?

What awful thing did do to stay out of prison?

What do you have in your bindle that might alter the genial nature of your fellow passengers if they knew about it?

When things get tense, how do find relief?

When the world seems against you, what one thing keeps you going?

Long ago people stopped calling you by your birth-name. What do they call you now?



[Blueblood]

Normally you'd have the means to travel by rail but as of late you've been forced to contend riding motor coach. What brought about this change?

They say that it isn't becoming of one of your station. What is it and why do you do it anyway?

All lineages have their secrets, but your own has a long, dark history. Do you embrace or reject it? Why?

Though you try to dress chic and keep with current trends, what one thing is offsetting about your appearance?

What have these throbbing headaches generally preceded?

What gaudy heirloom are you compelled to keep close otherwise the family threatens they'll disown you?

Though you don't envy what they do, which of these crass characters do you respect the most and why?

When you finally inherit your legacy, what change do you most look forward to enacting?

What's your full name? You tend to go by a false last name when going abroad. What is it and why?



[Mystic]

Why did your mentor warn you against this journey back south? Why are you going through with it anyway?

What obviously gives you away as a member of an oft prejudiced group and what lengths do you go to to hide it?

You often have a recurring dream that you awake in a cold sweat from. What is it?

When you place your hands upon a person and concentrate, what can you do? What's the harsh side-effect for you?

What do you always have with you to keep you protected from evil?

What vocation are you forced to do you do to keep your family fed?

Though they'd be loathed to admit it, which other character has had to rely your unique talents before? Why?

What gives you hope through the trials ahead?

What did you have change your name to? Why?



Cheers! ;{١

Friday, 6 March 2015

GottaCon 2015

Last weekend was GottaCon 2015 here in winter-less Victoria, and though I was able to book 2 out of the 3 three days off for it I was extremely exhausted and still recovering from all that gaming the following days. Again, this is a testament to the sheer amount of fun had!


This year's convention kicked off on a bit of a sad note with the news of the passing of Leonard Nimoy, a.k.a Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame. I've never been as huge a fan of Star Trek as I have other geekdoms, though I still enjoy the franchise and the importance it brings to geek culture in general. Nevertheless, I was deeply saddened upon hearing his passing; it was nice to see that a memorial board was hastily erected at the convention where many fans added their own sign-off's to the legendary actor. Here's a quick photo I snapped of the memorial before I had to jet off to work Sunday:

Truly, he lived long and prospered.


Friday


I never ended up running Umläut, but
 it's nice to have spiffy cards for when I do.
It might be on my GoD roster for next year,
I stayed up fairly late the night prior doing some last minute editing to the joint EotE adventure Larry Spiel and I had been planning for our session on Sunday (more on this later), and I awoke early on Friday to make sure all my ducks were in a row for the weekend. Sometime after noon I went downtown to print and laminate some play cards for one of my Games-on-Demand selections: Umläut: game of metal, before I picked up my event coordinator badge early.

I then returned home, changed into my Medieval Chaos character Kampi's outfit, packed all I needed for the day (which wasn't much as I was just playing a single game), and headed back to the convention centre.

Before my first game I hit up the gamer auction to submit a bunch items for bidding: a spare copy of the D&D module Quest for the Silver Sword, Grimtooth's Traps Ate, my hardcover corebook of Savage Worlds (I now own the digest-sized book which I prefer over the hardback), and my unplayed copy of the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG.

Auction Items
Item submission went much faster than last year; the con organizers increased the amount of laptops used for item data entry to two (yet they were still limited by a single shared printer). Also it was soon decided that if sellers had all the correct forms already filled out when they were submitting their items (which I did), they could just leave said items with the forms and then the staff would later input them in the database and sync them to their respective accounts on the GottaCon app.

Aside from limiting the disruptive PA announcements from last year by sending convention notifications directly to the app, it also allowed auctioneers to remotely see/directly bid on items by scanning the item sheet's QR code with their phone's camera. Amazing what we can do nowadays! I never had the chance to peruse the auction for sweet deals and I only ended up selling two of my four items (Savage Worlds and Doctor Who) but I received over $50 for them, and I ended up giving Grimtooth's Traps to a friend who was collecting the series anyway.


Mythender


After the auction stuff was all dealt with, I killed a bit of time in the vendor hall before I headed to my first game of the con; Mythender, run by the designer himself: +Ryan Macklin.

Mythender appropriately uses an EPIC amount of dice and tokens.
In brief, Mythender is a game about playing mythic individuals that have colossal vendettas against a god; they seek their way to battle to the deity her/himself, increasing in power and corruption along the way, leading to a final climatic confrontation; your character fears not death, only becoming what they hate: accidentally attaining godhood during their quest from their mythic actions. This game is all about being cinematic and over-the-top. Turn the dial to 11 kinda stuff. Plus the base setting takes place in the heavy metal-esque Scandinavia realm of Norden. Several things I love combined into one!

Squeee! Signed copy!

The game itself is available for FREE on its website as a PDF; where you can also order a print copy and/or donate. I enjoyed our session so much I bought a physical copy from Ryan, and he even signed it for me! Also (being one of the designers of Fate Core), he gave me a set of Fate dice, which came in handy when I ran my FAE game the next day.

I can't wait till I have the chance to sit back and read through my copy and/or possibly run it.

After the game I chatted up a buddy of mine, and we walked about halfway to our respective homes discussing gaming theory in Medieval Chaos. A short but excellent day overall.



Saturday


Lamentations of the Flame Princess - The Gougou's Lair


I awoke early, dressed again as Kampi, packed the items I needed for GoD and the Dread game I was to run, and awaited to catch an early bus. Unfortunately transit is so reliable here at times two buses should've arrived during the span till one finally picked me up around 9am, the time when +Peter C's LotFP game was set to begin! Needless to say, I arrived late, but luckily I hadn't missed much.

This session was phenomenal. We had a great group of roleplayers and Peter was [is] an excellent GM. One thing I really enjoyed about the session is that we all played characters from various non-European cultures; I played a Persian Magus and our party further consisted of a Barbary Corsair, a Native Shaman, an Arabic Artificer, a Turkish Janissary, and a Japanese Samurai. I think the mix of cultures really added to adventure; it might've not been as fun with your standard European PCs. I also got the chance to play a magic-user; I like that the limited number of spells is balanced by their flexibly of use. LotFP does OSR very well.


Another thing I love about this game (and possibly/probably LotFP games in general) is the horribly amusing deaths: Near the end of the adventure when things were looking their grimdarkest, a few of us decided to imbibe a mysterious drug powder: my buddy David's PC gained a few points to his wisdom stat, tearfully seeing the error of his past ways as a slaver; the shaman believed himself a god (the great eagle; ca-caw! ca-caw!) and demanded all to worship him or die; and my character was driven to suicide by the mind-bending narcotic. His method of choice? Cast a maximized Summon spell right in his own viscera!

For those not in the know, Summoning in LotFP is particularly dangerous because you call forth a random Lovecraftian entity that may be more powerful than intended and/or beyond the caster's control (my precise intent in this case); a huge armoured fungoid creature burst forth from the Magus' guts and promptly began to devour the rest of him. Half the party slunk off with some treasure whilst the remainder slew each other in a delirious rage.

This might be my favourite game all weekend, but it's up against stiff competition.




Games-on-Demand - Fate Accelerated Edition: Benevolent Zodiac Delivery Force!


Unfortunately the LotFP game ran a tad late and I went to the foodtrucks outside the con to grab some lunch before I ran my first session of Games-on-Demand. Everyone else was trying to get food as well and the convention's food policy kept me from bringing my meal inside, so I ended up having to shove my burger in my backpack because I was already late and a full table was waiting for me.

Once I had presented my selection of Age of Rebellion, Edge of the Empire, FAE, and Umläut, my initially aloof group opted for my BZDF! game. Once we started getting into the ridiculous story of cooking, fighting, and food delivery, my group totally got into the premise, took the outrageousness of it, and ran with it.


We all seemed to have a great time (so far everyone seems to enjoy BZDF!); I'm both glad I quickly won over their initial disinterested nature and my very first Games-on-Demand slot was a success.


Games-on-Demand - Star Wars: Age of Rebellion - Rescue at Glare Peak


Once we finished our game another group approached me wanting to play some Star Wars; a couple of them were looking to run their own game in the future and wanted some experience with it, so after I quickly went and noshed my cold burger, we all sat down to play. We decided that the Rescue at Glare Peak adventure would work best crammed into the small timeslot we had remaining, and the group chose a mix of pregen characters from that adventure and my other EotE offering, Under a Black Sun (in fact I had six players and four of them were EotE characters and two were AoR characters, but the mix blended both narratively and mechanically seamless in our game.)


They didn't complete their objective before the slot ran out of time, but we all had fun. I offered to pick the session up Sunday when I was to run GoD then, but I unfortunately declined the next day as I was too exhausted. I hope they left with the confidence to run this system on their own. Also my whole vinyl covers/wet-erase marker idea worked perfectly.

Initially I wanted to run some games I wasn't as completely familiar with for my first time running GoD such as Fiasco or Dungeon World, but in the end it was a better choice going with RPGs I knew really well, especially EotE/AoR which are probably my strongest systems currently. That also turned out good because demand for those two latter games was high this year, and my buddy Larry was running the two former games in his GoD roster so there was a wide variety with little overlap.



Conan d20 - Escape from the Haunted Black Kingdom


After a brief break, I played in my buddy Ash's Conan game. Ash had been representing MC all day dressed in his garb as his Al'Akir, a Rak'Zanzen (catfolk, similar to the Khajiit from the Elder Scrolls series) character, and like his Centurion garb last year, continued doing so whilst he GM'd. Again, dedication.


I reprised the same role I had last year as Hievlan, a Nordheimer warrior, making use of my MC character Kampi's affects and accent but maxing out the personality: Livin' large and drinkin' hard.

I received a positive comment from a fellow player after the convention about the accent I was using: He's generally not a fan of accents in games, as they're usually cliché/just plain bad, and I agree that doing a believable accent is a difficult thing to do. I was flattered to hear the accent I was using (Kampi's accent) was quite believable for the character I was portraying. Like Kampi, the Nordheimer was based around historic/mythic Norse, so I had time practising that voice.

When I was developing it for Kampi, I wanted to sound Germanic/Norse but not have a stereotypically German voice nor have something goofy like the Swedish Chef ('bork! bork! bork!'). I watched a few youtube videos of native Scandinavian's speaking in English along with a pronunciation guide for Old Norse; from these I selected a few particular ways to pepper my speech, both with different letter pronunciations and use of specific words/phrases instead of their English counterparts. I think the secret to affecting a solid accent is subtlety: The more outrageous sounding an accent, the more comical it can become, and therefore less believable.

I'm pretty happy with what I've come up with for Kampi and I was really glad to hear it sounds convincing. I still seek to practice and improve it though.

Another cool thing that happened was I was able to lend a bunch of my Star Wars RPG material to another GM to fill-in a scheduling snafu. It was great to be able to help out.

Anyway, brief asides; the Conan session was a rather enjoyable game.



Dread Cthulhu



We concluded our session around 11pm but my long day of gaming wasn't over yet. I still had one last game to run: the Call of Cthulhu adventure Dead Light in Dread.

Sadly, I got took no action
shots of the tower collapsing.
I had made the questionnaires for this particular adventure late last year, and I had the chance to playtest it with a couple groups of victims willing participants and shoehorn the session into the 2.5 hours the timeslot allotted for.

Though Dead Light has a very simple story premise, it's slow to build tension before reaching a breaking point. It feels like I had to get very ruthless toward the end of the game to really hit the survival horror theme I was going for. No complaints though, the tower killed 3 out of the 5 PCs, a better death ratio than my playtest games. The session was fun, but I feel that if I wasn't as tired, it could've been more memorable.

Now that I've officially run my game, I'm going to release the questionnaires I made to go along with this adventure, along with some pointers in a future post.

My last slot ended just before we were told to leave for late night closing. I managed to catch a cab home with a pair of con goers heading in the same direction and were kind enough to offer paying for the whole trip. It's little offers of kindness that really stick with me, and remind me that many gamers are kind and wonderful people. :)



Sunday


Star Wars: Edge of the Empire - While The Hutt's Away


Early next morning after a brief sleep, I was up again relatively early preparing for the day. Larry picked me up and we arrived at the GottaCon before the public entry to set up for our dual-table EotE adventure: When The Hutt's Away.

+Larry Spiel and I began conceptually designing this adventure late-fall/early-winter last year, and had been working on it on and off since. The week before the convention was the big editing push that tied up nearly all the loose ends. The adventure itself is designed as a limited sandbox with plenty of interesting things that one group may do that may effect the other and vice versa, though we wanted to avoid direct competition between the tables and kept the groups from ever actually meeting each other. 

IMG_1501.JPG

Each group starts the adventure in different a locale inside the Hutt's multi-level palace built inside moonlet within the planetary ring that circles a gas giant; and each PC has a different pair of motivations/obligations (more like personal goals in the context of this one-shot adventure) and a limited opportunity to try and attain them. This is all compounded by a running timer that controls the three Act structure of the adventure, increasingly putting pressure on the PCs, and ending in a climatic escape and pursuit through the icy rings as the station plummets toward the gas giant during the final act.

Pending a few edits and rewrites, Larry and I shall be releasing our adventure on the interwebs sometime in the future.

The sessions (at least my own for sure) turned out awesome. I had a great group of players, with some really fantastic moments. I'd be interested in playing this dual-table adventure again at the next convention (GottaCon or otherwise) with swapped groups.

I'm glad all our effort paid off so well. :D



I was originally slated to run two more 2-hour Games-on-Demand sessions following our EotE game, but I starting to feel pretty burnt out, and as I wasn't able to get the evening off work I decided to take it easy before I went in for my shift at 5pm. My final hours of the con were spent perusing the vendors, snapping a few photos, and chatting up folks.

+Jeff Wike running some Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

My friend Nathan Patton running Feng Shui.

Larry running Dread.

From the vendor hall I grabbed a few things for the Missus: a rainbow chainmail anklet, a pair of scalemail earrings that looked like oranges/peaches (I presumed correct that they'd go well with her recent peach-dyed hair), and another replica Celtic penannular brooch from Gaukler Medieval Wares


For myself (along with the copy of Mythender I acquired Friday), I picked up a small bronze Mjölnir pendant for Kampi, a steel/deep violet chainmail dice bag, and a copy of the pocket edition of the Conan d20 RPG because I especially enjoy collecting small (height-wise) RPG books, even when they're of old games. Also I won a potion of stoneskin during the MC raffle on Friday, and my good friend +Steven Saunders of +Black Goat Games finally got me a shirt sporting the logo of his company:

Snazzy. The Missus braided my tiny beard the other night and I love it.

A very descent haul of con-swag if I do say so myself.

If I could do one thing different for next years GottaCon, it'd be getting a hotel room for the sheer convenience of catching much needed sleep and storing all my stuff rather than lugging it around. Plus the amenities would be a bonus.

Unfortunately I missed the appreciation dinner hosted for the volunteer GM's on Tuesday as it was my better-half's birthday plus I had to work that evening.

Since I missed my chance then, I want to sincerely thank all my friends, players, GMs, volunteers, and RPG managers (especially +Mike G and +Angela Gruber, you two are solid champs!) for everything that made this year the best year at GottaCon for me thus far!

Cheers! ;{١

Sunday, 8 February 2015

LARP Sheath - Start to Finish

The past few weeks I've been working on several projects for my character Kampi's LARP kit for start of next season of Medieval Chaos. This is one of those projects: constructing a sheath out of leather for my Seax/Scramasax dagger. Below is the final result:



Herein I aim to list what I did and learnt whilst building it from conception to completion. I used a couple basic pointers from this Instructable on Leatherworking, but the majority of this was experimentation.


Conception

The first thing I did before anything else was sketch out the basic design and dimensions of what I was aiming to create. Historically, seaxes varied in shape and construction but one of the most commonly related factors among them was that these single-edged blades were kept horizontally inside a scabbard with the edge facing upwards. As I was looking to do something similar and this proved to be beneficial since the construction of the foam seax meant the back of the blade was the thickest part, which made it easier to shape a piece of leather around it with the edge facing the seam and suspend it from a belt rather than the other way around.


I had a pair of snaps on swivel hooks from a couple old wallet chains sitting around (because I hang on to 'useless' junk like that) and decided they would make excellent straps for attaching the sheath to a belt. Not exactly period but hey, this is for a fantasy LARP so to Hel with exact authenticity. They make the sheath a bit more modular without having to undo ones' belt to add/remove the scabbard. I can also attach each snaps to each other if I ever need I larger mount. Also my reasoning for placing the slightly shorter strap near the throat of the sheath was to give it a tiny upturn to the hilt-side of the blade.


Mock-Up

Now that I had my basic blueprint, the first thing I did was construct a mock-up sheath out of cardboard. I actually did this twice, as I realized the first one I made was going to be too tight for the rivets and lining I was planning to add (also I redesigned the point); I adjusted my plans accordingly and made another mock-up with the correct dimensions. I also used a bunch of binder clips instead of staples to close the mock-up and simulate the rivets; I used them to figure out their general placement along with the eyelet straps, and tested the balance of the whole piece by wearing it around.



Cuttin' Time

This was a vital part for me, I had to make sure my pattern was correct else I'd be wasting precious leather. I took my mock-up, unfolded it, and placed it upon my vegetable-tanned leather, where I then traced its outline upon it and then cut the piece from the leather. I then wrapped the piece around the blade and clipped it up, again testing its arraignment.


Because the inside of the leather would be too abrasive on foam dagger and might rub the paint off the blade, I measured a piece of felt the length and circumference of the blade for a protective lining.



Making Impressions

I wanted to try my hand at making actual designs on the leather, as so far it looked a little plain. The difficulty arose lacking the specific tools to carve and 'tool' (leave impressions on a moist surface); also since the local leather supplier had closed I was unsure where I could acquire these tools; so I made do with the (somewhat unorthodox) items what I had available.

I didn't have any transfer paper to move the vector images I had selected onto the surface, and I didn't trust plain paper to hold up to the stress of being drawn upon with a stylus against wet leather. Rooting through my junk I found a bunch of printable labels, so I experimented with both the sticky label and the non-stick back by printing the appropriately scaled images on both sides.


Using a damp sponge, I moistened the leather so it'd take an impression better. Using a pointed wooden stylus (normally used for sculpture) I traced the lines of each of the printed images through the template onto the surface of the leather. Both the label (serpent) and it's non-stick, water-resistant backing (raven) worked fairly well for their purposes; though the label held fast enough to the damp surface to get a reasonably accurate transfer without slipping, I was initially concerned that when I peeled the label off of the moist leather it raised some of the surface along with it (noticeable in the top-right photo), but fortunately that has since disappeared.


The basic imprints looked okay, but since I lacked a swivel knife to carve a deeper impression, I opted to use a solid-point burning tool to make the images stand out more. Following the impression lines was fairly easy and the results look great.


Painting

Now, many people dye their leather; I, instead, opted to paint mine using acrylic paint. A couple of the reasons for this are a) I don't know how to confidently dye leather, and b) the Missus used just paint on the leather helmet she built for me and it looks awesome. Any future marks to the leather can easily be touched up with a bit of paint. After the paint dried I gave it a quick layer of boot polish.


Then I stitched a small strip of rabbit fur to the end of the felt liner facing the mouth of the sheath (partially to provide additional tension on the blade, as a wipe, and for looks) and glued the whole thing to the inside of the sheath.

I ran into a bit of a challenge as the glue we opted to use was a wood glue that was too liquid-y and seeped through the felt and into the leather before it had time to dry. I then used ordinary white glue, which better suited my purposes.


Hammer Time

Once everything was dry, it was time to punch holes for the eyelets, rivets, and the stitches. We have/had a proper leather punch somewhere, but I was unable to find it where I last recalled it being. Instead I used a hollow length of thin copper pipe with a partially conical end; it worked perfectly for punching the eyelet and rivet holes. I placed the rivet holes relatively evenly across the spine of the sheath approx. every 2 inches, and placed the eyelets between them about 6 inches apart.



Stitchin' Time

I used a proper stitching awl for puncturing holes. I knocked numerous holes into and stitched together the sheath point with a thicker buttonhole thread that I waxed prior by drawing it through a lump of beeswax (to improve weather resistance and prevent the thread from drying out and cracking). I worked along the seams one way making a 'Z' pattern, then went in the opposite direction with an 'S' weave.


Once I had both sides of the sheath's point sewn up, I did a similar process along the spine towards the throat. I didn't place the stitch holes as frequently as I did on the point (thank the gods); about every centimetre. I kept the rivets in loosely, to ensure the binding didn't offset the punched holes.

I may have made a mistake because when I reached the throat at the opposite end, as I went and fully hammered in the rivets; doing so might've made my attempt to back-stitch down the spine extremely difficult (I broke a needle and my patience in the process). Even when punched, sewing hard leather is arduous for the uninitiated/those without the proper tools. Probably would've been far easier with an actual sewing awl. Plus my stitch holes weren't lined up as parallel as they should've been.


I am unsure if the rivets were to blame and/or if the initial stitching itself combined with poor hole placement made the whole thing too taut to do my back-stitch. I feel the final result might've looked more complete, but with the current mixture of rivet and stitch, I have no concerns about the overall sturdiness of the sheath.


Finishing Touches

I hooked the two swivel straps through the eyelets, and bent them closed. Finally, I gave the whole thing another coat of shoe polish and then blasted it with a heat gun to really bring out the shine.


Overall I'm quite happy with the end result, though I have a minor gripe beyond the incomplete back-stitch: I found the white interface backing of the rabbit fur around the throat far too noticeable when viewed up close; it looks better now that I've painted it a darker shade but I would've rather if I didn't have to do that in the first place.

I've worn the sheath during rather vigorous activity and it performs admirably; it's tight enough the blade doesn't slip or fall out, but not too tight as to make it difficult to draw. All-in-all this was a good project that improved my confidence, know-how, and skills when working with leather.


Advice, Comments, and/or Questions Appreciated!

Skoal! ;{١