Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

White Wolf: The Dirge

WhiteWolfLogo

A moment of silence for the fallen.

 

Chuck already said this better than most – and certainly better than I’m about to – but it’s a big deal in my crackly-crunchy brainjunk and I wanted to get some words onto a screen about it before it’s just a memory. I’ve not worked for White Wolf for a long time, but it still feels bizarrely personal. I found myself starting and stopping posts about it yesterday, and essentially getting nowhere. Now, I want to take Chuck’s words on all of this and use them to help frame my context for it all, because we’re coming from the same place.

As you may have heard, CCP axed the World of Darkness MMO.

Take it away, Chuck:

I don’t know what this means for the larger WOD brand, or what happens to the ragged tatters of the company that has been frayed and shredded over the years since the EVE Online developer bought the pen-and-paper company. I know it means layoffs, so, fuck. I also know that, at present, Onyx Path continues to roll out its gleaming obsidian walkway of horror-fantasy gaming delights, acting as the spiritual and also literal successor to the White Wolf voodoo — and according to Rich at Onyx Path, everything shall continue apace.

From the outside looking in, those are some important points to clarify first and foremost. Onyx Path is still releasing the RPGs on its own terms, and there’s little effect on the customer in terms of tabletop gaming – at least from what’s in the public eye. And I see no reason to believe otherwise.

Acquaintances and former colleagues have been given the chop, and that sucks. No way around that. I hear that CCP is usually very generous and helpful in terms of severance, so there’s that. But it still sucks.

It’s worth taking a moment, maybe, to note that White Wolf is part of my DNA. I grew up reading D&D, but I grew up playing White Wolf games. My first Vampire: the Masquerade character was a pre-made Nosferatu named “Sewer Billy.” (I still have his character sheet around somewhere.)”

Sewer Billy. He called his first V:tM character Sewer Billy.

That name is the most Chuck Wendig-style name (a Wendiggian monicker, if you will) in the history of absolutely fucking forever.

My first character… I can barely even summon the strength to devote thoughtspace to my first V:tM character, let alone actually type it out, because it was such unbearably self-conscious wish fulfilment. He was a horror novelist who also happened to be amazing with a Greek shortsword (because… reasons?) and was in love with a beautiful nurse, and wore trenchcoats, and had the Animalism discipline so he could ride the horses he owned, and Jesus fucking Christ just shoot me now. Even my 17-year-old brain conjured up something beyond my ambitions (which, at the time, were to be a fantasy novelist and a paramedic) and took it all the way to 11. Even my teenage thought processes realised my dreams somehow weren’t metal enough – weren’t stupid enough – and glazed them in a thick layer of raw, dripping pretension.

I remember even at the time thinking “This is a pretty stupid character…”, and that’s from the mind that at age 9 brought the world Shandaric Darkspell von Shadowblade, Level 11 Elf Ranger.

Go figure.

I loved those games so much that I knew as I got older if I was going to continue playing them while maintaining the illusion of being an adult, I had to monetize that experience, which I did by writing for the company.”

I did that, too.

I loved White Wolf’s games. They didn’t fill any void in my awkward teenage soul, or help me become a complete person, or any of that desperate solace stuff you often find in commentaries and author intros. But they called to me all the same – as great games with intuitive, smooth systems, and beautifully-written books. I loved the Gothic-Punk vibe and the way the books detailed the richness of that theme in terms of a real world atmosphere. I loved the clans, the histories, the tribes, the possibilities.

I’m not ashamed to say (and I doubt I’m alone in this) that I often enjoyed the books more than playing the game itself. Depending on the group I was with, of course.

White Wolf was, for want of a better term, cool. It took itself seriously without being too self-conscious or too preening. It didn’t hide and apologise a la D&D often felt like it did, and it never relied on the (incorrect) fallback stereotype of losers wanting to feel empowered. I loved that. Even when I was making the most stupid character when first learning the character creation rules, I still loved it, even if I was useless at realising it until I made my second character.

Also, now that I think about it, I think my first V:tM character was also a bodyguard for Madonna in the 80s. I never even thought Madonna was that hot. What kind of weird wish fulfilment was this? Whose wishes were getting fulfilled!?

I joined White Wolf as a freelancer very late in the show. The end of the World of Darkness was already a murmur behind the scenes, and although I got involved with the very tail end of the classic game lines, I spent most of my time on the new ones. Werewolf: the Forsaken rather than Werewolf: the Apocalypse, and so on. I thought the new lines had a lot going for them. They were brilliantly written in terms of accessibility and player use, and made for great Storyteller toolkits. But I don’t think that’s what people (at least not the people around me) wanted. They wanted to belong to the World of Darkness, not make their own version of it.

So I liked the new games, and loved the old ones.

My first ever writing gigs were for White Wolf, and there were plenty of them. I reached the point a lot of authors reach where – in some indefinable moment – you stop owning absolutely everything with your name on it. The feverish need to Have It All To Show People At Some Point finally eases off, and you stop worrying about it quite so much. It’s enough that you’ve done it, and you reckon you could get hold of it. It’s no longer a disaster if you don’t have it on hand to show at the drop of a hat.

I also reached a point of turning projects down if they didn’t appeal to me, rather than accepting everything blindly because Oh God, I’m Getting Published and Oh God, This Is My Dream.

Two distinct writing career stages, all before I even wrote a novel. That’s some scary perspective.

The games always amazed me and as I worked more and more with them in a freelance capacity, I got to see exactly why they amazed me — because some truly amazing people were making these goddamn games. Fellow freelancers and developers: Ken Cliffe, Justin Achilli, Ethan Skemp, Aileen Miles, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Eddy Webb, Mur Lafferty, Will Hindmarch, Matt McFarland, Jess Hartley, Rose Bailey, Mike Lee, Patrick O’Duffy, Travis Stout, David, Filamena Young, scads more. So many of folks I count as friends even still.”

I know a lot of those people.

One of those names is mine. It looks weird. And too long.

I learned to write better during my time freelancing. I learned discipline with deadlines. I found out what appealed to me about games, story, character, and horror. Really fundamental stuff.”

More wisdom. Except I also started failing to hit deadlines with White Wolf, so let’s consider that a third (and unwanted) stage in the career.

When they got bought by CCP I was hopeful, you know — more money for them, plus hey, who didn’t dream about a World of Darkness MMO? Turns out, it wasn’t to be. I don’t know why, really. From the outside, it’s easy to suggest that it was fumbled and mishandled — and, actually, even from my limited glimpses inside it looked that way, at times. But I also know that not everything works out and sometimes, shit happens, so who knows? What I know is it’s sad to see good people let go, and sad that the dream of a WOD game is now shriveled up and going dusty like a sun-cooked vampire. Eve was never a game I could really understand, but I loved how player-driven it was, and hoped to see the same here.”

Here’s where I start to sigh, just a little. I realise MMOs are a very, very, very tricky area to get into, let alone to enter and sustain yourself while clad in the illustrious monthly riches that developers use to buy fast cars and tiny dogs. I also recognise that, at this stage of my existence, I’d probably not have played it at all. I think a lot of people would, and I think it’d have been a haven for a lot of folks’ online fantasies, for better or worse. I can’t imagine, given the way pop culture is sliced around vampires and werewolves these days, that it’d have had a small user base. But what do I know? I’m just some guy.

The soreness comes from the fact that, from the outside looking in, White Wolf itself sort of… died for this. There was a huge shift from tabletop RPGs to the MMO, and then seven years of silence, rumour, and fuck-all else. It felt like every year or so, there’d be another round of layoffs announced at CCP, and more resources pulled from the WoD MMO, with yet more talk about focusing on EVE. And between the reality of the situation, deep in those nasty cracks, was the tumorous feeling of “So it was all for nothing. Whether White Wolf was sustainable or not in the RPG market, it’s dying by inches for what we can plainly see is vapourware.”

I’m not saying White Wolf was sustainable in the RPG market, of course. And CCP hardly bought the license just to let it lie untouched. There were a lot of smart, creative people on that project, and it’s an injustice to say we all knew it was vapourware, when we didn’t really know shit. But the uncomfortable feeling remains. White Wolf is no more, and this was a truly shitty ending.

“What I will say is, White Wolf has left an enduring legacy behind — the last couple days I was up in Erie, at Penn State, where students read my book, Blackbirds as part of a women’s studies / female superheroes unit (whee!). And while there, I had people still want to talk to me about gaming. I had one professor show me his first edition copy of Wraith. I had one student — college-age! — want me to sign several White Wolf books for her gaming group. Exciting stuff, and makes me proud to have been a part of all that.

*pours a cup of d10s on the curb for the World of Darkness MMO and White Wolf in general*

To those gone: best of luck to you going forward.

To those who still play the games: fuck yes.

To Onyx Path: keep on kicking ass.”

Hear, hear.

April 15, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Sevatar

Just a quickie.

I figure some of you might be interested a certain fellow shown in this artwork…:

 

poc

 

 

Here’re the details of BL’s blog post on the subject, relating to the HH Weekender.

And for no reason, here’s Shakes dressed as Spider-Man:

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And now… away!

 

 

March 27, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Video: Alexander’s Second Year

Shakes turned 2 last month. On that note, you may remember this, from a year ago.

Here’s the inevitable sequel, with a much (much…) more Irish song this time around. And just like last time, please excuse the shaky iPhone footage, several of my relatives holding their phones vertically, me being too sleepy to edit that, and Windows Movie Maker’s truly woeful options for cutting and fading.

March 13, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Look what I saw in the wild…

Actually, I’m lying. I didn’t see this in the wild, but it’s hit the desks at Black Library Towers, and I’m pretty much in love with how it looks.

"A book about baddies being bad."

I like how subtle and understated it is. It’s not wacky or cartoony, and credits the license with some intrigue and maturity. Admittedly, only in our beloved 40K license could you consider Hellpeople on Fire in the Shadows to be “subtle”, but let’s just say I’m pretty damn pleased with this one. The Night Lords Series has had some of the most consistently beautiful artwork BL has ever produced (Thanks, Jon Sullivan; look for your name in the Foreward), and even though it’s a change in direction, it’s one I’m dead pleased with.

As you may know, my sadfaced, lip-quivering rants about artwork are rare but, uh, “pointed” and “poignant”. I’ve never been afraid to sink to the lowest depths of unprofessionalism in saying I can’t stand a cover. But my last three have been this one, The Talon of Horus, and Armageddon. If it was BL’s intent to butter me up with lovely covers and shame me into hitting my deadlines, then… fuck, it might actually work.

Anyway, more details as they come in.

EDIT: Details have come in. Regarding the contents, here’s a l’il glance at what’s inside:

Literally everything I've written about Talos and co. so far.

Literally everything I’ve written about Talos and co. so far.

On another note, remember my Deathwatch Campaign? Brother-Intendant Deiphobus of the Minotaurs is rolling along with some slow painting progress. Better photos coming soon:

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With Princess Leia in the background.

March 7, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 12 Comments

Deathwatch: Mission to Tantalus

Last weekend saw our first game of Deathwatch in what’s looking to be a pretty long-running campaign,  if the initial mission was anything to go by. You may remember me mentioning it before, when I showed you all the weapons our GM had made for atmosphere and inspiration.

As you might’ve guessed from the title of the post, we’re playing through the official Watch Station Erioch storyline (or our GM’s version of it) so no spoilers, thanks.

The first session went suspiciously well. It involved plenty of “Wait, wait, wait…” moments where we brought things to a mutual halt to consult the rulebook, but those moments are an inevitable part of playing a new system. Nothing too show-stopping or game-breaking, and we were always happy enough to call a break in order to get it right. What surprised me was the difference between how the rules read and how they actually played. I’ll clarify that though, because what’ll definitely improve this blog are my boring-ass opinions on RPGs. For really reals.

All five of us have been playing RPGs for 10+ years (close to 25ish in some cases) and came to it with a wealth of experience with different rules systems – added to the fact I used to design RPGs, like, for a living. So we went into Deathwatch with open minds and a good handle on a bunch of systems. I have no real game system snobbery; I’ve played crunchy games with rules as dense as the core of a collapsed sun, and I’ve played things as frighteningly free-form as, say, Amber Diceless. Similarly, I’ve read rulebooks that were a joy to study, and rulebooks that were absolute bastards of poorly indexed and looping-back text.

Deathwatch was nowhere near the worst offender on the continuum, but all of us felt on shaky ground before playing, just from reading the rules. Some things were explained with descriptions that took us several interpretations to get right, and I reckon it’s got a good shot in the running of Most Useless RPG Index Ever. On a couple of occasions, half a rule we needed to look up would be on one page, another quarter of it was half a book away, and the last chunk would be found in somewhere between here, there, and fuck-only-knows-where. (Hi, healing rules!)

But the way it actually played? Christ, that was a different story.

Witnesses described it as "totally badass."

Witnesses described it as “totally badass.”

I love how it played. I love how the rules reflected the atmosphere – more than just the obvious lethality of being a Space Marine – down to how equipment worked and how freaking dangerous it felt to be out there in the wild worlds of M41. I don’t think any of us had any real complaints about actual in-game stuff (and let me be clear, that’s very rare for some of my friends, who can find something to complain about anything). So in short, yeah, I like the rules a lot. I like how smoothly it runs, I like the array of competent options at your disposal as a player, and I like that a lot of it was actually intuitive – again, despite the fact the rulebook read like the opposite was going to be true.

It’s nice to be able to sit down and say “Shit, this is well-designed” and really, really mean it.

Before we started, quotable nonsense was flying thick and fast:

A lot of the immersion came down to our GM, Mark. He took preparation to a whole new level, actually arriving with – I shit you not – crates of stuff.

The weapons were just the tip of the iceberg. Check some of this out:

Here's one of the dataslates that Mark made up for us. This was the image side, where we got handouts of artwork and maps on transparent plastic to lay over the computer screen background. This was to represent our commanders and our warship sending us picts before and during the mission.

Here’s one of the dataslates that Mark made up for us. This was the image side, where we got handouts of artwork and maps on transparent plastic to lay over the computer screen background. This was to represent our commanders and our warship sending us picts before and during the mission.

This is the other side of the dataslate, which is a chalkboard for recording Wounds and Ammo. Each one had its own customised Mechanicus symbol, and personalised eraser.

This is the other side of the dataslate, which is a chalkboard for recording Wounds and Ammo. Each one had its own customised Mechanicus symbol, and personalised eraser.

This is Jon's dataslate, amidst his notes and wargear cards.

This is Jon’s dataslate, amidst his notes and wargear cards.

Beyond the glorious vista offered by my Lemon Grenade mug (Thanks, Liam and Nikki!) lies my array of wargear cards. Mark made these for each of us depending on our loadouts, laminated and personalised with quotes from the lore.

Beyond the glorious vista offered by my Lemon Grenade mug (Thanks, Liam and Nikki!) lies my array of wargear cards. Mark made these for each of us depending on our loadouts, laminated and personalised with quotes from the lore.

A better shot of some of my wargear cards. You can see the back of Ross's cards - all of them have the Deathwatch Inquisition symbol on the back.

A better shot of some of my wargear cards. You can see the back of Ross’s cards – all of them have the Deathwatch Inquisition symbol on the other side.

Briefly, our kill-team’s first mission involved going to the moon Tantalus and recovering an Adeptus Mechanicus datacore of vague and dubious origin, along with secondary and tertiary objectives to achieve in the last hours before the entire moon was overrun by tyranids from Hive Fleet Dagon. In another example of Mark’s prep-work, he had prerecorded and voice-distorted distress calls to play us, as well as printed pictures of every NPC we met to be attached to the outside of his GM screen for us to see.

We didn’t roleplay all that brilliantly, in all honesty. We made decisions as our characters would’ve made them, but there was no real acting or talking in-character. Part of my problem there was that I’ve done what I always do these days, which is make the mistake of playing a quiet and/or surly and/or distant character. Not intentionally to be uncooperative (I’m enough of a vet to know how a loner can basically slaughter any RPG group with contrary stubborn bullshit, and it’s supposed to be a team effort) but I liked the idea of a paranoid, brooding typical Minotaur – with underlying distaste for other Chapters and Imperial institutions – slowly coming out of his shell into the bonds of brotherhood with his kill-team. That’s a great idea on paper, and would make for decent character development in a novel. It’s not as wonderful when it leaves you mostly silent at a gaming table, and doing no real roleplaying. It was a coward’s way out, and I’ll probably adjust it next time.

The idea behind Deiphobus, my Minotaurs Apothecary, is that he volunteered for the Deathwatch to explore a little more individuality beyond the unbreakable mass of full-scale Chapter deployment, a la standard Minotaurs tactics. There’s also the consideration of knowing your enemy: walking among the other Chapters and getting first-hand experience of how they differ from the Minotaurs, but he primarily wants to determine who he is (if anyone…) beneath the bronze armour, and test himself without the vast, vast resources of his Chapter’s hundreds of brothers at his back.

I really felt that, even if it didn’t exactly show in the roleplaying side of things. The isolation of it all; the sheer ball-aching distance of being out there, alone, with no hope of reinforcement. It was one of my fave parts of the whole game.

I was, perhaps unsurprisingly, way more into the idea of absolute violence for the most pointless of reasons when I was holding a bolt pistol in my hand.

A weapon of fine killingsmanship.

A weapon of fine killingsmanship.

And these were for progenoid storage, like the good Apothecary I am.

And these were for progenoid storage, like the good Apothecary I am.

One thing I was a little less keen on was combat, though again that’ll need some clarifying. I loved the lethality of it, how dangerous it felt. I love how true to the setting it felt, without being impossibly difficult, overwhelming, or overly complex. I thought it was awesome how some fights absolutely favoured the Devastator and his heavy bolter, while others showed the Assault Marine’s specialty, and the Tactical Marine was basically just good at everything. We’d decided not to use Squad Mode (or even much Solo Mode) on our first run-through, but I can see all the ways everyone (especially TacMarines) get even more useful when that stuff comes into play.

Apothecarying it up felt a little bland in comparison, though. I could heal like an absolute genius, and I usually enjoy support classes that buff, boost, and heal the rest of the group, no matter what game I’m playing. That worked in Deathwatch, too – just not quite as much as I’d hoped. Some of it came down to tactics, with our squad positioning being bad enough sometimes that I couldn’t really get to the others in time to heal them efficiently, but the ones I could heal jumped right back up and started killing all the Red Team again. That was cool.

What was less cool was how I was basically relegated to auto-attacking when I wasn’t healing, which was fairly often. And when I say “auto-attacking”, I mean in the MMO sense of doing basic automatic attacks while the others are using special abilities and controlling the fight. I could shoot my bolter, but with much less accuracy than the Tactical Marine and much less damage. I could use my chainsword, but only attacking once compared to the Assault Marine’s twice, and doing much less damage than him with each one. I just struggle to see an Apothecary being significantly less skilled like that, I guess.

It’s not a matter of my character’s stats (which are high, and awesome) or my dice rolls (which were stellar, for once). It also wasn’t a matter of feeling shitty for just doing less damage in combat. It’s more a matter of options. They had choices and options – special rules to get involved with – while I had a lot less of that going on. I could heal them, or do a less-useful version of what they were doing.

And looking at the advances, it seems to magnify as you level up and get more skills. Part of this is personal bias, mind you. One of my personal outlooks on Apothecaries is that they’re among the more courageous and capable fighters in a Chapter, rather than the doctor who hangs back, because they have to chainsword their way through where the fighting is thickest to recover their fallen brothers’ gene-seed. You see a little of it with Kargos in Betrayer. He’s one of the deadliest fighters among the World Eaters for precisely that reason. Not that I want to be The Very Best or whatever. Just “not significantly worse”. If you’re spending several turns healing the other guys while they do all the violent work, it feels a little like there could be some balance where you could contribute more efficiently in other ways when you’re free from kissing their aches and boo-boos.

I like kissing their aches and boo-boos. I just don’t want to be useless when I’m not doing that.

But again, we’re talking about a pretty tiny gripe in an otherwise awesome weekend. This campaign’s been the most fun I’ve had RPGing in freaking ages, and I’m itching for the second mission to get underway. Our homework for this month is to paint our Deathwatch minis, and for your viewing pleasure here’s Deiphobus “Dio” Lorec, Intendant of the Minotaurs. I was trying to go with an iconic look for an Apothecary – narthecium and chainsword – despite the fact I knew I’d almost universally be using my bolter. Aesthetic choice, etc.

If you look closely, this apparently boring Space Marine is made from bitz of 6 different kits, and took me fucking ages to get the iconic look right.

Dio’s most intriguing slice of personal renown came from standing before a kneeling, dying hive tyrant, and puncturing its skull with his reductor to take a gene-sample.

CRACK-THUNK-CLICK. SAMPLE STORED. Take that, alien bitch.

February 7, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 32 Comments

Deathwatch – The Vigil Begins

You may remember that I’m starting a Deathwatch game soon – next weekend, in fact – with a few of the members of my 40K campaign group. It’ll also be the first field test of the (finally finished) Aaronorium, which is the best name for a games room since Futurama’s “Angry Dome”, “Calamatorium”, or “the Accusing Parlour”.

I’m making an effort to blog a little more this year, especially about hobby stuff, so we’ll start with a teaser. Our GM Mark (who plays Eldar, for the record) is notorious in our gang for going all-out in terms of effort at our 40K campaign weekends. His models are insane. As an example, he pro-painted a Blood Bowl orc team for me for my birthday. But this is above and beyond the call of duty. He had actual props made for when we’re sat around the table.

Check these out…

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Holy fucking shit, right? I need a weapons rack for the Aaronorium so, so badly. 

The guys in my DW group haven’t even seen these yet, so consider yourself on the bleeding edge of my delicious but ultimately futile existence.

January 24, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 16 Comments

As 2013 Draws to a Close…

Just bolting online in a hurry to say thank you to everyone for another wonderful year. If you’re crazy enough to like my work, thanks for supporting it – whether you did so through buying it, through reviews online, or through the simple act of not throwing human waste at me if we met in public. I appreciate all three of those reactions, but perhaps the last one most of all.

Thank you – friends, family, publishers, guildies, and readers – for your patience and support, as well as your ability to tolerate my stalwart refusal to abandon the Oxford Comma.

To inject a personal note into proceedings in the spirit of Christmas, may I also take the time to say that I thought Pacific Rim was absolutely shit, and I was gutted when the awful, awful, unlikeable, awful, shallow, awful main character survived. This review is over. Personal note complete.

tl;dr –Thanks again from the Dembski-Bowden bloodline, as 2013 draws to a close. Happy Holidays and Season’s Greetings to you and yours. Please note that this is our second Christmas with the tiny heir (also known as ADB II in some circles, as well as Alexander, Shakes, and “Put that down, buddy, I’m begging you”) and he’d probably thank you too, if he wasn’t so small and largely focused on things like penguins, tractors, and books about dinosaurs.

He knows all and sees all. He is fire and he is doom.

He knows all and sees all. He is fire and he is doom.

Your money - and my royalties - hard at work.

Your money – and my royalties – hard at work on Christmas jumpers, kids’ books, and toys that needlessly require 500 AA batteries.

December 25, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 16 Comments

The Weekender Arrives (plus, some Hallowe’en Curze Art)

The Black Library Weekender is mere hours away. So close in fact that me, Katie, and Shakes are flying over tomorrow for the traditional “Having dinner with Liz and John French on the night before an event” ritual. We were also thinking of taking up the McNeills on Graham’s offer of crashing at theirs, but Shakes has started a recent habit of getting up at 5:00am, so we’re trying to spread that delightfulness around as little as possible.

I love the Weekender. I love the atmosphere, I love the fast and loose feeling the authors get to have that disguises all the organisation the staff have put in,

Last year’s Weekender featured the Fifty Shades of Geek fellows (who can be found on their homepage, as well as Facebook, and Twitter) showing up wearing T-shirts with quotes from my novels running down the front, and I was so humbled and embarrassed, I dealt with this magnanimous gesture by hinting that I never wanted them to do anything like it again. Make note, people: try not to be such an uncharitable cunt when similar moments roll around in your lives. At one point, I actually fled from three of them in the T-shirts, in case a couple of the other authors thought I’d arranged it to make myself look special.

Here they are, saved for posterity. Tim (far left) recently joined our 40K campaign, The Thracian Caul, which I’ll have more details on soon. It’s undergoing sweeping changes based on me and John (French) trying to give it some more unity and purpose, rather than getting distracted and all momentum failing as they so often do with these things. It’s looking good; I’d be interested in your opinions when we start showing some of the datasheets, and stuff. Nikki (in the middle) looks half-asleep. I don’t know why.

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Also of note, you may have seen this slice of lushness on various forums, but here’s David Sondered (from Studio Colrouphobia) ‘s freaking killer version of Konrad Curze. You might also remember his Talos, from a little while ago?

One of the things I love most about it is that he’s captured the primarch’s fundamental unhealthiness, which is something a lot of the more, uh, ‘badass’ artwork can ignore. For me, this is one of those images that becomes definitive the moment I see it, much like when I saw the cover of Aurelian, and made unstoppable sex noises for three days straight every time someone asked me about it.

David’s also one of the guys I’m musing over asking about doing some personal commissions in the near future, some based on my TOR character, some for a private project, and some for our games group. I mean, seriously. Just look at this. With the fact Jon Sullivan’s artwork doesn’t feature on the future Night Lords omnibus, I wish I’d discovered David earlier and pimped him, hardcore, to Black Library.

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Last of all, I’ve had a bunch of requests for info on my Star Wars: The Old Republic character. I can’t be bothered to go into all the details (and I admit I’ve barely touched the game in about 3 months because of work, so most of my guild has forgotten me), but suffice to say, here he is:

"I always select the Tediously Neutral alignment wheel choices."

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Seriously, though. Look at this fucking jelly bean.

Sometimes, just sometimes, the Candy Goblins will get caught in their own rattle-clanking machinery, and their saccharine corpses become yet another ingredient in the deliciousness they produce. And other times, I have no idea what happens, because just look at this fucker.

This is a jelly bean. I’m not even kidding. I can’t bring myself to throw it away.

Looks okay on one side, right? I mean, it's about 17 times larger than it should be, but whatever. That should be a feature, not a bug.

Looks okay on one side, right? I mean, it’s about 17 times larger than it should be, but whatever. That should be a feature, not a bug.

And then, flip the little fucker over, and you've got this abomination unto the Lord.

And then, flip the little fucker over, and you’ve got this abomination unto the Lord.

Initial scientific analysis suggests that it would be unwise to eat this thing.

The main evidence is that it’s as hard as a golf ball and the colour of ass cancer, but I’m still waiting to hear back from the lab.

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Deathwatch, Talon, and the Rise of the Weekender…

The Black Library Weekender is mere days away.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I’m “not a big events guy”. At GDUK, you’ll usually find me taking longer breaks than the other authors, or signing for less time, and going to spy on people’s armies instead. I like doing panels with Graham of the McNeill Clan, and John of the French bloodline (and anyone from Forge World who will sit next to me for more than three minutes with me lavishing kisses upon them), but BL’s brand new events overseer (who is called Claudia, and is lovely, by the way) was very thoughtful in arranging a slightly less hectic schedule for me than last year’s Weekender. I barely survived last year’s one. And this year, I may not have a surprise midnight kiss with a burly male prison guard to boost my morale.

So while I’ll miss the Everyone Sit In A Room With Aaron event (which was humblingly full, last year), I’ll be less frantic and rushed with 800 panels and stuff, so I won’t constantly be saying “Uh, fuck off, I have to go to a thing now” if you happen to stop me in the hallway or the bar.

You can find a schedule thingy here: http://www.blacklibrary.com/Events/weekender-2013.html.

Also of note, I think my Mum and Stepdad are showing up to collect Shakes on the Saturday morning/afternoon, so if you want to see what I’d look like if I was a couple of decades older (and female) then I’ve got you covered.

I should (should…) have finished The Talon of Horus by the weekend, as well. If you ask me about it at the event, and all I do is hang my head and weep soulfully, then you’ll know just how well that intention worked out in the end. As with every book I write, I hate it and I’m sure everyone will hate it, too. We’ll see if time plays it out that way. It’s the story of the warriors who form the Black Legion first coming together to seek the lost First Captain Abaddon, and ends with Abaddon’s inevitable return to confront the clones of Horus – the first thing of note in the Black Legion/Sons of Horus’s famous post-Terra history.

Which all obviously leads into the second novel being about the Black Legion’s first few years of struggle.

I’m a little worried about a storm of 1-star reviews (“Abaddon doesn’t show up until really late!”) just because he’s on the cover, but whatever. If I wasn’t second-guessing myself and rewriting every line three times in a state of awkward discomfort, it wouldn’t be me. I’d be, y’know, someone brave instead.

I feel a little guilty about anyone who makes the main characters, though. First Claw aren’t equipped to be great on the tabletop, but at least they’re pretty easy to model. The ‘main character squad’ equivalent in The Talon of Horus (and going forward through the series) is the Ezekarion, and they’re not going to be easy to model. They’re also not actually tabletop legal, and would cost about 3,000 points if they were. So I apologise in advance.

The Tale of Five Heretics is, as you can see, massively delayed. I’ve accidentally started a Minotaurs army, and the maddest thing is that – for once – I’m actually painting them. And it’s fun. I’m enjoying it. This is progress on an unprecedented scale for me, given that I’m the guy that recently fielded 1,000 points of unpainted Chaos Marines, and still claim victory with 4,000 points of unpainted High Elves in my teens. The good news is that from mid-November onwards, I have a lot more free time again. I’ll have a proper update around then, hopefully with my first 3-man Sky Hunter Squad in the bag. I went from hating those models to absolutely adoring them in the space of about a week, and now I can’t get enough of them.

In other news, here are some of the fruits of my Facebook wall and various inboxes.

Is it inboxes? Inboxii. Inbeexes.

Whatever. You may recognise Defreee’s freaking killer representation of these fine, polite young men:

'Sons of Nostramo', by Defreeee.

‘Sons of Nostramo’, by Defreeee. I may have given a small, ladylike sigh of contentment at seeing this.

Here’s Benjamin Sephton-Smith’s Warhound with an ursus claw armament. My exact comment on seeing it was “Sacred bronze balls of Mars, that’s fucking mega!”

Jai Livingstone's Celestial Lion Scout. I'm in love with the gold and the skin tone.

Jai Livingstone’s Celestial Lion Scout. I’m in love with the gold and the skin tone.

Michael Garbo's First Claw. I never get sick of seeing these guys, and this is one of the most beautiful versions of them I've ever seen.

Michael Garbo’s First Claw. I never get sick of seeing these guys, and this is one of the most beautiful versions of them I’ve ever seen.

And here's Keith Bruce's "Rough WIP" (in his words) of Abaddon. How much do I fucking love this one? The answer is "Lots".

And here’s Keith Bruce’s “Rough WIP” (in his words) of Abaddon. How much do I fucking love this one? The answer is “Lots”.

Before I go, did I tell you a few of us are gearing up to play some Deathwatch in January? Hopefully a long-running campaign, and we’re looking to make it more than just a series of shooty-death-kill scenes. I’ll have more info soon, but right now the line-up runs a little like this:

  • Varianus Noster, Praesarius of the Ultramarines 5th Company. [Devastator]
  • Jorran, Battle-Brother of the Imperial Fists 5th Company. [Tactical]
  • Droitus Mallory, Battle-Brother of the Lamenters. [Assault]
  • Deiphobus Lorec, Intendant of the Minotaurs. [Apothecary]

Given my shameless love of Apothecaries, it’ll be no surprise that I’m playing Dio. It was hard resisting Devastator, Tactical, and Librarian (because of heavy bolter, awesome bolter, and psychic powers, respectively) but nothing beats a narthecium.

Some interesting tensions between the Chapters, too. Hope it works out.

And lastly, you can see Katie thinking about whether to join in or not, over at her blog right here. It’s a conundrum. She likes her D&D gnome, and Space Marines… aren’t D&D gnomes.

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 12 Comments

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