Pika...WHO!

Been I while since I was last here I know, sorry, been just so busy. I will be posting something a bit more substantial in a day or, but for now, look here-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1roy4o4tqQM

THAT is the trailer for the upcoming "Pokemon- Detective Pikachu" movie.

Photo-realistic pokemon.

Half of me thinks they are cute and adorable, the other half is screaming "KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!"

Pikachu isn't too bad but Mr. Mime... *shudder*. And the kicker? Ryan Reynolds is voicing Pikachu. That's right, Deadpool!

It's... It's...

It's like someone made a Tellytubbies movie where Tinky Winky has to go into the real world to rescue the others from a gang of modern-day slavers and he's voiced by Sean Connery.

"You dishrespect the handbag and my fisht is going to dishrespect your fashe..."

I've not had any great interest in the whole Pokemon franchise, but seeing this trailer makes me want to see it. It's being hailed as this generation's "Who Framed Roger Rabbit".

We shall see. Fandom is polarised to say the least...

Game News...

Not much to report other than the TMNT stuff I mentioned below actually. I have picked up the new "Golden Skies" supplement "Twilight Tales", a translation of one of the original Japanese supplements that allows you to add a whole new range of supernatural beings to your game, more Yokai Japanese folktale fairies, ghosts, aliens and even Time Lords! All very cute.

There is something on the horizon that has caught my attention however. Astraterra. Take a look here-

http://www.astraterra.fi/en/welcome-to-astraterra/

It's a fantasy/steampunk post-apocalyptic setting on a shattered world with mysterious portals and skyships and androids and furries.

I mean, what's not to like.

It's meant to be a simple system, one for children to enjoy as well, and so falls under the mantle of "heartwarming" games like Golden Sky Stories and Ryuutama. The English translation has been put on hold due to contractual obligations forcing them to focus on the Finnish translation first, but that is nearly complete and the English translation is next. I will so be buying this when it comes out.

Otherwise my creative output has been focussed on "Far Trek". I do like this game. I recently got the opportunity to pick up one of the occasional limited print runs via Lulu, which is most excellent. In the meantime I am working on two scenarios, one a "Run Silent, Run Deep" sort of adventure involving a Klingon K'T'Orr-class destroyer (I have the deckplans now) in a "Wrath of Khan" Mutara Nebula sort of situation, the other a moral dilemma involving devolved Gorns, their battleship (which I also now have the deckplans for) and load of eggs that need to be looked after. Also working on a larger setting inspired by Paul Kidd's "Lucanii Drift" Starships and Spacemen setting. Currently interested in the "Ships of the Delta Triangle" schematics which can be found on the Star Trek Blueprint Database-

https://www.cygnus-x1.net/links/lcars/blueprints-main2.php

Got plans for those ships...

Keep Those Wagons... Walking?

There was a feature on the BBC News a few days ago-

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-europe-45062301/theo-jansen-creates-wind-powered-strandbeests-that-can-walk

My first impression was "This man is mad!", the second was "Those things are beautiful!". Take a look here for more-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LewVEF2B_pM

They're fantastic. And made from plastic tubing and cable ties, even NASA has taken notice and is considering them for planetary exploration on Venus. Others have been inspired by his example, this one is pure CGI alas, but it is true to the mechanics involved and so utterly captivating-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A5IThdmRs8

They've even got a LEGO version like this post-apocalypse beach hut-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5E-VyQOfNM

I do have a fascination with wind wagons 'cos of Paul Kidd's "Red Sails in the Sunset" Gamma World novel, but I never considered WALKING ones.

Clearly I should...

Post-Apocalypse Android Action! Take 5!

Less androids. MORE TURTLES!

I remember when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first appeared in the shops, the original Eastman and Laird comics, back in the mid-80's. No-one would have believed back then that it would explode into the cultural phenomonon that it became and indeed continues to be. I didn't give it much more than a glance back then certainly, although I did appreciate the crossovers it had with Stan Sakai's "Usagi Yojimbo" and Dave Sim's ever cheerful "Cerebus the Aardvark" (not to mention "The Flaming Carrot", Ut!).

One of the first companies to pick up on it wasn't any multi-media broadcating giant however, it was a role playing game company, Palladium, who in 1985 produced the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness" RPG, both as a stand-alone game and as a supplement to their wider Rifts gameline. I didn't pay much attention to this at the time either actually, I wasn't into any of Palladium's games. The company was always there in the background though, trundling on while other companies seemed to come and go, churning out a slow but steady stream of Rifts books and other titles.

Palladium eventually stopped renewing their lisence to produce TMNT games, presumably due to increasing costs as the big boys started to realise the potential of turtle power and the whole franchise started to shift into high gear, but not before they'd expanded the background with a few books set in the turtles' continuity and a few they developed as a post-apocalypse setting, starting with "After the Bomb" in 1986. I do recall it was quite a fan favourite among the furry community because of the focus on anthropomorphic animals.

All that was a long time ago, however...

I occasionally watch the 2012-2017 Nickelodeon animated series when it's on. It's quite well made, amusing and packed with little references to the original comics and other bits of pop culture. I recently saw the three-part alternative continuity finale to the final series with an elderly bearded Raphael (yes, bearded) chanelling both Mad Max and Logan as he and a robot-bodied Donatello drive a heavily armed and armored truck across a post-apocalyptic wasteland. At the start the others are believed to be dead (events prove otherwise), along with almost every human on Earth, mutant animals now making up the majority of sentient life.

"Now hang on" I thought, "didn't Palladium do this?"

Yes, this little mini-series seems to be a direct shout-out to the "After the Bomb" line of the original RPG. Which both reminded me of its existence and sort of made me want to find out more. A bit of trading later and I am now the owner of the TMNT game core rules and the "After the Bomb" and "Road Hogs" post-apocalypse supplements. The latter of these does actually contain a comic with a community of warrior monk turtles led by an elderly and slightly senile turtle who is, while never named, quite clearly Raphael. Might pick up the other books, just for the background. If I was actually going to play a game in this setting I probably wouldn't use the Palladium house system, it was good for its day but nowadays seems a little clunky and complicated. I'd probably use the books for source material but employ something a bit simpler and cinematic to actually play, "Atomic Highway", with it's beautifully simple "D6 Engine" would be ideal (nice to see that Gallant Knight Games have picked this up from original creators Radioactive Ape Designs and intend to eventually do more with it).

The original corebook did have a tiny bit of contoversy attached to it. If your character suffered some kind of trauma there was the possibility they could develop a mental illness. One form of this was a variety of sexual deviation which unfortunately listed homosexuality alongside such others as pedophilia in the table for it. Obviously being gay is not a sexual deviation, so people objected to that, while others complained about sexual devations being mentioned at all, so in some places (mainly the USA) they had to cover the table with a white sticky label and later printings removed it completely (my copy has it intact). It's a little unfair as the games authors were not saying that homosexuality itself was a deviation (at least I hope they weren't) but that trauma could cause you to switch sexual orientation. Perhaps the wording and placement could have been a little better thought out though.

In late 2001 Palladium brought out a second edition of the "After the Bomb" game which dispensed with any mention of the TMNT franchise and included a set of core rules that would allow you to play the game without the need for the original core rulebook. It also tweaked and updated the setting having the bomb being a secondary cause of the apocalypse, the primary one being a bio-engineered plague released as a prank by students who didn't think it would do much harm. Oops. I did pick this up too (thank you Wayne's Books, once again) but I still think that Atomic Highway would be a better system to play it (amusingly the main book for that has an illustration of an erzatz Shredder and ninja turtle facing off, so I'm clearly not the only one to think it).

Cowabunga, dudes!

Catching Up...

Been a while since I was on here, things to do, life being busy...

It's been hot. Stupid hot. At least no-one can complain we haven't had a summer, but there comes a limit. The grass went brown and tinder dry, we've had numerous grass fires on the golf course here at Woodford Green (maybe a careless cigarette, possibly some delinquent goit thinking "Dur, this is fun!"). The Wife and I were at the Father-in-law's for a BBQ on the edge of Leytonstone when the Wanstead Flats went up. Huge pall of smoke, fire engines everywhere.

Our little flat, being north facing and with the rest of the building wrapped around it, has stayed cool for the most part, but even so we were eventually forced to break out the fan to get the air moving during the nights. Likewise the museum where I work in London is in a huge lump of a building that takes a long time to heat up, unfortunately we reached that limit some time ago and, like a storage heater, it is now radiating that heat into its interior. The tube, the Central Line in particular has been a choice slice of hell, both The Wife and I take water bottles with us and quite often the've been emptied before we get in in the morning. On the way back we refill before we leave work and I am fortunate enough to have a chilled water dispenser at the museum which, together with a metal water bottle, means I can hold it to the side of my neck and get some relief that way.

The hot weather has broken now thank smeg. We've a had a few days of good persistant rain, a few storms rumbling over. The air is fresher, everything is dampened down nicely, much to the relief of the local fire brigade and the local ducks on the pond, which was drying up. In fact somebody, I suspect the aforementioned fire brigade, actually filled the pond up at one point, so good for them. It'll get back to sunny weather for a while now, but not the excessive temperatures of before.

We have also had a holiday! Been to Gibraltar thanks to the fact that The Wife has an uncle who not only has a large aprtment there but also a house in Spain. So he and his family headed off there and we got the apartment for several days. I liked Gibraltar, it has its own identity and is quite confident (and fiercely protective) about it. Ex-pat areas of Spain are too self-consciously trying to be British, with nothing but bad traditional british pubs everywhere, but Gibraltar is a huge melting pot of everything and revels in it. There are traditional pubs, yes (in one of which I had the best full English breakfast I've had for a long time), but we have tapas bars, Indian/Japanese fusion restaurants, Italian pizza places, Argentinian steakhouses Mexican grills, the works. It's packed with history too, the military presence has shrunk down to little more than an observation and listening post but it's been such a huge part of the place's existence that it's shaped almost everything on it. We went up the rock, saw the monkeys, went to the gun emplacements, the caves (unexpectedly spectacular), the Moorish castle. we took a boat trip and saw dolphins, visited the churches and little museums, walked down the high street (with it's Marks and Spencers and Debenhams). Used the pool in the apartment complex we were staying at (one of the best ones in Gib) once or twice but I spent most evenings on the balcony with a beer or a jug or sangria, watching the sun set behind the Spanish mountains across the bay and seeing the lights come on and flares start to glow in the huge refinery the Spanish have (with some spite aforethought apprently) plonked right on the coast there. Doesn't bother a Swansea boy though, what with the Baglan refinery being over the other side of Swansea Bay I felt right at home, look you.

We even wandered across the runway and into the little town on the other side of the border. And I do mean wander across, it's the only runway I know with a level crossing over it. Since it's built on the isthmus that connects Gibraltar to the mainland (with a fair bit of relaimed land extending it) the only routes over have to cross it. So every so often the warning lights flash, the barriers come down, a plane lands of takes off, the barriers go up and off we go again. Customs were a doddle, slap your passport on the reader, an automated camera zips down and takes a look at you, decides you're ok and the gate opens. The only guy in the cubicle there didn't even bother to look up. The town is actually very nice, lots of pedestrianised streets, some lovely bars and eateries, market stalls, the odd fort (destroyed by the British ages ago naturally). Dunno how Brexit is going to affect all this but seeing how both sides rely so much on Spanish people working in Gibraltar I imagine something will get sorted out very quickly.

So I can recommend Gibraltar, we were there nine days or so and still didn't see or do everything (even with it only being six square miles or something). Lots of places we wanted to explore but didn't get around to. The only downside to the whole holiday was that on coming back it actually felt hotter in the UK than it had been over there! Which felt wrong. Oh well.

How Shall I Boldly Go? Let Me Count The Ways...

There are a surprising number of Star Trek RPGs out there you know. Far more than I had realised when I started looking into the subject, which even has it's own Wikipedia page as it happens- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Star_Trek_games#Role-playing_games so if you think this is TLDR, you can just look at that, but it doesn't quite tell the whole story...

The first (indeed one of the earliest science fiction RPGs) was "Star Trek: Adventure Gaming in the Final Frontier", published in 1978 to supplement its range of Star Trek miniatures. Written by a guy called Michael Scott, it was a bit basic. You can find a pdf version online but the site it's on currently causes my computer to scream malware warnings, so I'm not going to link to it. When Heritage Models lost their license, Scott produced and updated version called "Starfleet Voyages", in 1982. This was completely unlicensed and unauthorised, so did not see anything beyond the initial boxed release. It was up against the first big contender released in the same year, FASA's "Star Trek, The Role Playing Game".

I have this, picked it up earlier this year, but I've known of it for ages. This was the first big Star Trek RPG out there and it has it's fans and adherents even now. Taking a tip from Traveller the character creation procedure makes you generate a whole backstory as they move through cadethood at Starfleet Academy, have their first posting and eventually their first ship assignment. If you do really badly you end up in the Merchant Marine, which I feel is base slur on that noble institution. The first releases were set firmly in the Original and Animated series of Trek, but rapidly adopted the wider universe and styles established in the films, especially "Wrath of Khan". For its time it was a good game, but seen now as a little clunky. Personally I don't like the percentile skill system, but the game designers nevertheless gave a coherent and well thought out universe for players to explore. Of particular note was the treatment of the Klingons, drawing on the ideas of writer John M. Ford, which influenced canonical Klingons in the moves and still do to this day, despite most of the background developed for them ultimately being rejected and retconned.

Alas the advent of Star Trek, The Next Generation soured the deal, the two sourcebooks released by FASA for this being not matching their own view of how the franchise would go and in 1989 they withdrew the license. In the meantime a wholly different Star Trek universe was being developed by Task Force Games (later the Amarillo Design Bureau Inc.) who had long held permission to develop their own Star Trek derived universe for their "Star Fleet Battle"s wargame. Ultimately, in 1993, they launched their own RPG, "Prime Directive", first with their own system and then with versions tailored for Steve Jackson's GURPS RPG, both (3rd and 4th editions) and D20 Modern. This still a current system. I did have Star Fleet Battles when it first came out, then much later was enticed back to it with its rules-light cousin "Federation Commander". I also have Prime Directive D20 and it's a good product. However this is a Federation at war, at odds with the original vision of Star Trek and this was always something that sat a little uneasily with me. These is apparently a version that employs the "Traveller" rule system coming out soon, something I will be very interested in seeing, but it's been coming out "soon" for some time now so I'm not holding my breath.

New canonical Trek roleplaying came back with Last Unicorn Games, who gained a license to produce a Next Gen game in 1998, and who produced a separate Deep Space Nine game and an Original Series game in 1999, using their ICON system. I did have the first two and now have the latter, despite an Amazon seller initially shipping me a highly battered core rulebook with a separating spine, scuffed and dented cover, pages that were ripped and stuck together and, the icing on the cake, a pencilled price in the front of the book which was a sixth of what I paid for it, despite being described as "very good condition". I was not happy. A few bits of photographic proof and a rather strongly worded complaint later I had my money back and profuse apologies. I got a much more acceptable copy from somewhere else.

This system also has its fans despite a few mechanics that are particularly loathed, the so-called "drama dice" in particular, but the general consensus is that if you ignore that it's a good solid system, and it is nice to have a book that's styled to the series it deals with, so I'm quite fond of it. Alas LUG lost the license to Decipher Games in 2002, who then produced their own game, with their own "CODA" system and rulebooks that allowed you to tailor the game to suit the era you wanted. Now I don't have this and while I have seen comments from some people saying it's a superior system to Last Unicorn's, quite the majority of reviews are been rather scathing, with some going so far as to label the whole game as an unworkable, incoherent mess, mainly due to some very bad editing and rulebook layout rather than any serious complaint with the game mechanics itself it seems. Unfortunately troubles in the company forced Decipher to shut down their RPG branch in 2006 with some key source books never having been released.

Now we have a new contender with "Star Trek Adventures" from Modiphius Entertainment, one of the new and upcoming RPG companies, responsible for the most excellent "Tales From the Loop" and other. From what I've seen the game seems to have been well received, with an easily comprehended system, excellent art, high quality production and the ability to play in any Trek era (although the style of the books is firmly Next Gen in look). We will just have to see how this goes and hope it doesn't suffer the same fate as its predecessors. I haven't got this and given the rather hefty price attached I am unlikely to pick it up anytime soon.

However, this is not the whole story, and I'm not talking about the "Enterprise" RPG released only in Japan in 1983 either. How about "Starships and Spacemen" first published by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1978? This is basically a Star Trek game with the names changed to protect the guilty, "Taurans" for Vulcans, "Zangids" for Klingons, etc., and is quite frankly not fooling anyone save apparently Paramount's lawyers. The game is now owned by the company Goblinoid Games, who have released a 2nd edition. It is a very basic game, there are only four skills, Combat, Science, Technical and Contact which you use to cover pretty much any task you might undertake, but it does capture the "feel" of Star Trek better than some of the later games (I particularly like the alien forehead shape tables). It's helped in this by the "Lucanii Drift" setting book by Paul Kidd which introduces a range of background skills for characters, adds a few of the Trek races which weren't in the rulebook and provides a sandbox setting for the characters to go boldly in.

One thing I found recently while wandering around the net was a fan made game called "Star Trek- Alpha Quadrant" that uses the Traveller/Cepheus Engine system (beating Prime Directive to the punch). It's not bad, nicely adapting the system to generate a Starfleet Career path much like FASA had and providing skills and professions that mirror the roles of the various crew members in the various eras. The author, Stephen J. Ege has clearly put a lot of work into this and it shows.

You can find it here- https://rpg.rem.uz/Traveller/00%20-%20Other%20Materials/Traveller%20Related%20Games/Cepheus%20Engine/TCE%20-%20Star%20Trek%20Alpha%20Quadrant.pdf

(This is in a HUGE online repository of RPG pdfs, the "Remuz RPG Archive", probably the largest online collection I've ever seen and which is probably in breach of any number of copyright laws.)

Finally, and saving the best for last, I spent a little while searching various RPG sites for what other people thought was the best game for Star Trek. Aside from those who recommended taking the FATE and Savage Worlds systems and adapting it to the setting, many recommended the FASA game as still one of the best, several waved the flag for Last Unicorn and fewer for Decipher, but one name kept on cropping up "Far Trek". This started life as a game using the "Microlight20" system by Mike Berkey in 2009 called "Where No Man Has Gone Before", but was subsequently taken by one C. R. Brandon and adapted to his own "Three D" system as "Far Trek". One reviewer described this as a love letter to the Original Series and he's not wrong, the whole game is geared to produce exactly the same feel as the classic and animated Star Trek gave you when you were watching it. He started work in 2011 and finally decided he'd done as much as he could do in 2016. There was a brief window where you could get a completely non-profit print version via Lulu which I am unfortunately two years late in discovering, but the material is still freely available here- http://fartrekrpg.blogspot.com/

This has the main rulebook, character sheets, some stand-up card figures to print out, an couple of adventures and conversion rules to adapt anything from the FASA Trek game. There's also a Tech Manual for the Saladin-class Destroyer recommended to put your crew on (albeit a somewhat runty shortened hull, end of production line model). Now I like this, I like it a lot, it's exactly the RPG I've been looking for to play original Trek with. In fact I liked it so much I printed the whole thing out and had it bound so I could get my own physical copy. The premise of using a Saladin-class as the player's ship was one I'd already been considering although the rules do provide the full "Franz Joseph" range of Heavy Cruiser, Destroyer, Scout, Tug and Dreadnought, with a Surya-class frigate thrown in to act as a TOS era Miranda-class Light Cruiser. The rules are the V2.1 edition and Brandon has clearly been listening to feedback, adding a number of races from the animated series like the Catian and Edoan in the appendixes in the back, together with rules for Merchants and Traders and playing Klingon and Romulan characters. Yes there are a few typos here and there and some layout errors, and the art is sadly sparse, but I'm willing to overlook these and accept it for what it is, an honest and damned successful attempt to produce the best Star Trek RPG the author could give you, a game that goes a very long way to capturing the true essence of the show.

A lot of people, both gamers and Trek fans seem to think that this is probably the best Star Trek RPG out there for playing in the original series era. I think I'm going to have to agree with them.

Music of the Wild...

While reading through the Ryuutama rulebook I have been listening to my latest music purchase, the 5-disc Legend of Zelda - Breath of the Wild CD soundtrack. It's beautiful, mixing haunting minimalist piano pieces and stirring orchestral renditions of the various Zelda themes that have been established in previous games. There's a fair bit of accordion music as well courtesy of Kass, the travelling Rito bard who you meet at various points in the game and who provides clues to what happened in the past and hint as to what you should do next. It even includes music from the DLC (that's Downloadable Content to the luddites among us) packages that have been released and even music from the Nintendo trailers. Of especial note is the music from the release date trailer, which had some Zelda fans who recorded their reactions for webcast bouncing off the ceiling in enthusiasm.

It would provide a good soundtrack for playing Ryuutama to, and indeed some people have stated that Ryuutama would be the ideal game for playing in a Breath of the Wild setting. Most of the people are not warriors (save for the maniac in a blue tunic rushing around the place with a bloody big sword) and there are no wizards or thieves (though the ninja-like Yiga clan could nicely fill in as villainous examples of the latter). You even have dragons, although Hyrule has three rather than the requisite four required in Ryuutama, but that's not an unsurmountable problem. It would work very well, especially if you set it after the main events of the game. The big bad of the game, Calamity Ganon, has been defeated, the monsters are now less numerous, but there's plenty of adventure out there for Hyleans (your standard "folks" in the game) eager to explore this ruined but now liberated ancient kingdom.

Yes, I think it would work very well indeed.

Hitting the Road...

Perhaps as a response to the industrial bleakness of the "Hostile" game I've been perusing of late I treated myself to something a little more lighthearted. A few years ago there was a Kickstarter campaign to translate a Japanese RPG called "Ryuutama", meaning "Dragon's Egg".

It's a lighthearted fantasy RPG set in a world mainly of your own making but where the seasons are controlled by four dragons, the weather by lesser dragons, and the servitors of the seasonal dragons are semi-draconic beings called Ryuujin, who are normally seen as winged humans.

In this world there is a tradition that everyone goes on at least one journey in their life and your players are those citizens about to embark on this tradition. They are not the usual classes of fantasy RPG heroes, fighters, thieves or wizards, no, these are ordinary folk. The seven classes presented in the game are Hunter, Healer, Trader, Minstrel, Farmer, Artisan and Noble (the last three being for slightly more accomplished players), each of whom have their own particular set of skills and abilities. You then select your ability scores for Strength, Dexterity, Intellect and Spirit from three choices- 8-6-6-4, 6-6-6-6 or 8-8-4-4, assigning the numbers as you wish, representing standard, generalist or specialised characters. You then further customise your character by assigning them to a type- attack, technical or magic, which is much more on the more regular fighter, thief, wizard spectrum and shows if they solve problems through force of arms and strength, through skill and cunning or through the various types of magic available. You have a budget to buy equipment, decide who's going to be the leader, navigator, quartermaster and journey recorder and off you go!

Since the story is the journey, quite a bit of the mechanics of the game is devoted to travelling, terrain and weather modifiers, setting up camp, navigation, getting enough food, etc., with each of the character classes being able to use their skills towards the various obstacles you meet.

One unusual mechanic is that the GM is also a character in the game, namely one of the Ryuujin. In this world the seasonal dragons "feed" on stories, so each Ryuujin has their own group of travellers and crafts exciting adventures for them to undertake along the way, themed for the dragon they serve. Green is spring, adventure, voyages and discovery. Blue is summer, friendship, love and relationships. Red is autumn, danger, combat and experience. Black is winter, deceit, betrayal and suspense. Green is the default "starter" Ryuujin. Each GM character has a series of powers and boons they can grant occasionally to assist their group of travellers or to test them. As the player characters gain experience, so will the Ryuujin, gaining more abilities they can bring to bear on crafting the story as they continue to follow and watch their group. At the end of the voyage the story is finished, it is fed to the seasonal dragon and the adventure is complete. Time for the next one.

There are hardships the characters can face, but it is still lighthearted, it's very difficult to actually die. Even the most common "monster" is a race of cat-folk called "nekogoblins" (who apparently eliminated the actual goblins in a war ages ago), the focus of the game is in adventure, so Warhammer chaos spiky bits sort of gaming this is most definitely not. It is supposed to be a fun, gentle game.

I have spoken before of the Japanese concept of "Iyashikei", healing, used for gentle, heart warming anime and games, like My Neighbour Totoro and Golden Sky Stories. Ryuutama is specifically referred to as a "honobono", specifically meaning "heartwarming", and is at it's best when that principle is adhered to.

It's apparently an enormously popular game in Japan, helped no doubt by the gorgeous whimsical art that peppers the book (although one wishes that the chapter on all the various beasties one can encounter was so illustrated). I'd seen it after the Kickstarter was complete and, since it didn't appear to be on general release, didn't think I'd get a copy over here in the UK. Of course this being the modern-type age you can order it directly online from the company that produces the translated version here-

http://kotohi.com/ryuutama/

Or you can do as I did and discover that good ol' Leisure Games in Finchley stock it. Check it out here-

https://leisuregames.com/products/ryuutama-natural-fantasy-roleplay-standard-edition-complimentary-pdf

So, if you'd like a little gentle, whimsical, heartwarming fantasy gaming, you can't really do better than Ryuutama. No acid blooded, extendable tongued, parasitic xenomorphs here, no indeed, not even in a Winter Dragon game...

We'll Meet Again...

I did not know that Dame Vera Lynn was still alive! She's 101!!! Mind you if she died now there'd be the biggest funeral procession since Churchill.

The Wife is reading "Keep The Aspidistra Flying" you see. Which led to discussion of Aspidistras and then Googling. Hence Gracie Field's "The Biggest Aspidistra in the World", wartime singing stars, which led on to Vera Lynn.

Confession here, I didn't realise George Orwell wrote "Aspidistra". I am a dreadful human being, clearly.

Still, YouTube has provided Gracie and Vera, which we have listened to. "The Biggest Aspidistra in the World", "Bluebirds" and, of course, "We'll Meet Again".

It's... powerful, even now, the hope it embodies.

I hope that day is a long time in coming but, when it does, I'll join that procession.

Spring has FINALLY Sprung...

The long grey winter suddenly gave way with a spell of unexpectedly hot weather and Spring erupted like it it was trying to catch up for lost time. Which it was I suppose. Trees sprang into life like green fireworks, the grass and banks were dotted with flowers. The birds suddenly caught on and the dawn chorus ramped up the volume somewhat considerably. There was one bird that I didn't recognise by from the song, and I heard it clearly enough 'cos the little bugger was seemingly perched on the fence right outside the bedroom window. One Saturday morning I sat out the back with a pair of binoculars and hunted for the noisy beast. Eventually heard, then saw it and with the aid of a identification guide identified it as a Blackcap. The book has a block on the side which can play the various songs and alarm calls of the various birds within, so I proceeded to drive it slightly neurotic by playing it's own song back at it until it was perched on the roof above me wondering where it's rival was.

Turned cooler again for a bit after that but now the warm weather has returned. We managed to take a long walk and miss most of the Royal Wedding. Don't get me wrong, I hope it all went well and I wish them every happiness, but The Wife and I both objected to having it rammed down our throats all day. Also the sycophantic toadying displayed by some of the royal stalkers was frankly enough to make you vomit. So we took a long walk in nearby Knighton Woods.

Attempted to go to the pub on the way home, but the first was decked out in Union Jacks and had a street party going on outside. "Sod that", we thought, and proceeded to the next and smaller pub which we thought would be better.

It wasn't. They even had a bouncy castle. So we went "Double sod it", popped into the shops for a couple of cans of lager and went home. That evening we walked over to our local curry house, The Chutney, and had a very nice meal.

The warm weather is still going strong thankfully. Got an evening walk around the lake in the park next to the house yesterday. The swans are sitting on cygnets, geese have goslings (and are steering well clear of the male swan who does not like them anywhere near) and there are several nests of coots with baby cootlings. Not many ducklings however, not been a good year for them again, saw a few on the ponds in Knighton Woods, but that's it at the moment. Did also see a female Blackcap, so that male in our back garden is not completely wasting his time it seems. Last weekend they had a Spring Fete in the park with Vikings. Why Vikings? I have no idea, they did it last year so it seems to be somewhat traditional in these parts. And these are not just occasional re-enactors, these are full on Viking lifestylers who do this as much as possible. In conversation with some of them they actually turned out be Polish Vikings, almost as good as proper Scandinavian ones but a lot cheaper I'd imagine.

This evening we even grabbed an ice cream cone each from the van outside Woodford station as we passed. The first ice cream cone of 2018, an occasional indulgence, one which I used to have when I was in Wiltshire, walking home to Potterne from Devizes, get a cone from the van by the village shop at the top of the hill and then wander into churchyard to eat it while enjoying the view out over the vale beyond.

Relaxing on the back step after we got in I could see the swifts wheeling overhead. They're not calling, not yet, but they're here. Winter is over, finally properly over.