ImagiNation: Over the Water

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 Dear Mum,

It’s hard to describe what it’s like on the mainland to someone who hasn’t been there. All the old landmarks are there, the ground and it’s layout are mostly familiar but they’ve been rewritten, scribbled over and the space between them is distorted.

The scientists at Osbourne say it’s something to do with collective memory and emotional investment. People expect to see the Houses of Parliament in London and so they do. Weird thing is that you can almost always see it, and the wheel, and the Gherkin, no matter where in the city you are.

That’s the blank slate upon which the weirdness has settled. The shadows filled with people’s nightmares, the tube overrun with black spiders whose bite is deadly and who whisper shameful events from some poor guy’s childhood.

Castles sit next to victorian housing blocks. Beanstalks rise up into the clouds and disappear. Bears lurk by the battered remnants of pedestrianised areas waiting for someone to step on a crack in the pavement.

They send us into this madness because we’re immune. We can go in, we can find people, we can bring them out and we do all this by conjuring and shifting the world around us through our imaginations. We can imprint what we want, what we imagine, onto this landscape and we’re the only ones that can.

I don’t see how it helps, but it is better than nothing.

ImagiNation: Letter From the Island

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Dear Mum,


It isn’t something I thought I’d do much by hand ever again, but power’s short and they like to restrict it to key areas and key times. It’s handwriting or it’s one of the awful mechanical typewriters the military had put aside still for some reason. So I’ll write. Even though it’s as illegible as the handwriting of a drunken doctor and there’s no spelling or grammar check.

They’ve moved me, with some others, down to Ventnor. I’m not sure if that’s a blessing or a curse. From the south of the Island you, at least, can’t see the strange colours and shapes over the mainland or hear the distant noises the oddities are making. From this side we’re looking the other way, to France and potential freedom. Not that the international flotilla is going to let any of us out into the world in case we’re ‘contagious’.

This place used to be a hotel, ‘The Admiral’ apparently. Little more than a jumped-up B&B back in the day and now the only person not calling it a barracks is the old dear who nominally owns the place.

I’m off my meds and under observation. They stop me wanting to hurt or kill myself but they blunt my mind, my insight and that’s what they need when they send me ashore. They need me to be able to think and to imagine. Funny that I’m recording these thoughts, writing, when it’s the thing that’s both preserved me and condemned me to these sorties at the same time.

My therapist used to tell me to visualise my problems so that I could attack them. That doesn’t work out so well on the mainland as it turns out. If you visualise your mental issues as a big black dog you soon find yourself being stalked and hunted by a genuine barghest and since it’s part of you… well, let’s just say things didn’t go so well last trip.

I found out something though. You can bring back fragments of things from the other side of the water. Bits and pieces of dreamstuff that don’t contaminate, but which continue to work, somehow. Science doesn’t work to understand them, but my pet theory is that physical laws have broken down on the mainland. It works fine everywhere else, just not on England’s green and pleasant land.

That’s how I’ve come to have a jar of rocking-horse shit on my desk.

Going back over tomorrow. This time they’ll want something ‘useful’ but I still think a laugh is a useful thing to have.

Gives you hope.



Professional GMing? Is it feasible

It’s a perennial question isn’t it really? Roleplaying is cool, could I make it my job as well as my hobby? Essentially that’s what we writers and game designers are doing, after a fashion, and it’s not that easy at all.

MMOs have professional paid GMs, but that’s not really like being a tabletop GM. It’s more like tech-support and forum administration, only with less sociable hours and even less money.

Let’s assume you’d want to make minimum wage with your professional GMing services. In the UK the minimum wage is £6.08 per hour, let’s call it £6.00 for ease of mathematics. You want to match a 9-5, 5 day a week job. 35 hours a week, four weeks a month. That’s about £840 a month. Let’s call it £850.

You might get away with £10 per person, per month for a subscription service – broadly compared to MMO subs, which means you’d need a client-base of 85 people. That’s the equivalent of 15 or so six-player gaming groups (that’s about the size of a normal convention group).

Thing is, you’d likely be working weekends as that’s when most people would play and running yourself ragged you might be able to host three games a day, Saturday and Sunday.That’s 24 potential slots per month on a first-come first served basis, but you’d likely burn out pretty fast at that pace.

You could supplement that with GMing ‘services’.

EG: “I need adventure notes for a level 3 D&D group”, or “Run me off a dozen NPC orcs…” or “I need a villain for my campaign.”

Anything you do make up could also go into a ‘secure’ wiki or something, adding value people could raid all the time as and when they wanted (so long as they kept up their subs).

For a lot of games – now we’re in an open-source age – you would also have the basis for supplementary products that wouldn’t take that much effort to turn into a saleable PDF and would also provide incentive for you to do the best possible job when putting it together at the start.

I think this is… just barely… feasible as an idea. If you could combine those ideas, but there are definitely some non-trivial problems:

1. Taking it to a professional level isn’t free. Sure you could do all of this – running games over Skype or Google Hangouts, hosting documents in the cloud etc, using a free wiki host, but it’s not going to look very professional. You’re going to need some sort of storefront, way of tracking subs, access etc.

2. Paperwork is going to eat into your time to do the bit you want.

3. Creativity cannot be turned on and off like a tap. Being creative full time is exhausting and you’re only as good as the last thing you’ve done.

4. What if you get sick? Can’t hold up your end of the bargain? You need a way to refund people.

5. You need a way to make sure your customers have equal access to you, fair access to you and are getting their money’s worth.

6. You need to have a rep. To be a rockstar GM, in order to attract people willing to shell out.

7. Some companies might by huge arseholes about you making money from running sessions of their games or charging for content for their games. Even though RPG magazines used to do his all the time.

This is all assuming that you’d be doing things on an individual basis. A company could match GMs and people wanting to play together and pay GMs on a game by game basis but that would be even more complex, a sort of Infrno-plus.

This isn’t something I would do. Maybe if I was still in my early twenties and was single it would be tempting to try, or if some investors could be brought together for the Infrno-plus idea. This is just an exploratory study, if you want to give it a bash, feel free to use this as the basis for your business plan and let me know how you get on.

But you’re mad.

I also write stories

Did you know that I also tell STORIES?

You can buy the finished and expanded versions at Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu and so on, but you can read the rough-and-ready first versions raw and dripping with metaphorical inky-blood over on the blog.

 Here’s the last few stories from the blog:

Rink Rash – Post apocalyptic, spicy, lesbian roller derby (no really).

The Dastard – Sword and sorcery, thievery and adventure.

Cichol’s Children – Mythos horror.

ImagiNation – Some Insights & Updates

ImagiNation is going to be powered by the same descriptive system that Neverwhere uses. What this means is that everything in the game is determined by its description. There’s a few more fiddly extras but by and large if you can describe something, then it can be in the game and can interact with the players.

For example, you might be able to describe a door:

“The door is big and old, barred with a copper pipe.”

In ImagiNation your creative abilities are your ‘powers’, at least while you’re on the mainland and in the zone of effect of the mind virus.  Reality there, to a creative mind, is mutable and through creative ability can be twisted, altered, or added to.

A writer might be able to change or add to the description, altering the properties, appearance or nature of a thing. For example…

“I take out my notebook and stare intently at the door, scribbling words on the page. The door was big and very old, barred with a corroded copper pipe.”

Thereby making the door easier to bypass.

Trying to get through the ruined tunnels of the London Underground in the dark, the explorers enter an area of reality twisted by the imaginings of a phobic, whose worse fears of dark and rats have become embodied.

“A teeming horde of ravenous, rabid rats come scrambling at speed down the tunnel towards you.”

A poet, even a rapper, pressed to action isn’t going to come up with anything Shakespearean but perhaps…

“Now it’s a teeming horde of gelatinous, faded bats that comes scrambling at speed down the tunnel.”

From being overrun by diseased rats, they’re now surrounded by unappetising flock of aerial Haribo.

The downside to this ability to shape the reality of the mainland with your talents is some kind of mental illness.

A manic may not be able to make sustained attempts, never trying anything twice. They might be easily distracted.

A depressive may find it harder and harder and harder to do anything and every new failure is another millstone around your neck, making it hard to do anything except when you’re already sure you can succeed – perhaps not even then.

A paranoiac’s delusions may become manifest as real and unspeakable forces that work against them.

Space may warp and shift around an agoraphobe or a claustrophobe.

The voices or visions of a schizophrenic my take on a perverse life of their own and may help, or hinder, the person who suffers from them.

A person who doesn’t believe in their own talent or ability. Considers themselves an imposter. May find themselves being run down by the Art Police, an embodiment of their own lack of self-belief.

Through these powers and this madness, through the imaginations of the players the landscape of fear, madness and wonder is constantly made and remade through description, success, failure and action.

You can still pledge to ImagiNation’s IndieGoGo and the next stretch goal will make a generic version of the rules available for anyone to use, adapt and sell.

Reclaiming the Succubus

The succubus is a much misused and abused monster. At best, most of the time, they’re just placeholder sexy demons a million miles from the seductresses and manipulators of men that they could be or should be. The same goes in reverse for the Incubus.

These are creatures that can know and fulfil your innermost, most secret, shameful desires and use them to twist you up and make you do the devil’s bidding. These creatures should be more like cenobites than busty playboy models.

They should be the embodiment of transgressive desires, of the kinds of things people might be ashamed of, the kind of things they might have trouble getting.

There’s a useful list of paraphilias HERE on wikipedia, but let’s take a closer look at a handful of them, Needless to say, this is going to be a bit adult.

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