Wimpole to Orwell

Photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?vanity=jack.vickeridge&set=a.10104003128715130

I extended my walk with a short leg joining up Wimpole Hall to Orwell, a nearby village, which joins to another long distance trail I criss-crossed before, the Greenwich Meridian Trail (running roughly south to London).

Now, along with my short walk from Waterbeach up the river to Bottisham Lock along the Fen Rivers Way (which goes from Cambridge to King's Lynn), that joins up bits of route all the way from Bottisham Lock along the river to Cambridge, and the through Cambridge past the CMS and West Cambridge Site to Coton, and on through the villages to Wimpile Hall and thence Orwell. You can also comment at https://jack.dreamwidth.org/1134130.html using OpenID. comment count unavailable comments so far.


I've no idea why I'm apparently early in the queue, if my GP just had a surplus of slots, or if it's based on my weight, or something else.

But I've been saying for months not to quibble, just take what's offered, so I must just take my own medicine. On Saturday! In Barnwell.

I'll be able to do things again. At some point. Very eventually. But maybe I'll feel it's responsible to do SOME more things before that, given our current high level of caution. But eventually, public face licking parties! :)

Many condolences to people who have come up unlucky in the queue, especially people who were more vulnerable to start with. That's a lot about the national situation that should have been different. But it's still nice to celebrate some victories whether or not the best victories

I've almost forgotten how to be excited by things. I'm trying to consciously remind myself. I can't have a party (yet), but I used all caps. Non-ironically!!

Go me! Go me! You can also comment at https://jack.dreamwidth.org/1132739.html using OpenID. comment count unavailable comments so far.

Turtlepeligo RPG (adventure 2, session 10 retrospective: What could still be improved

Do you like the way I said "what could still be improved", rather than "what went badly" as if doing creative things is an ongoing journey rather than a pass/fail test? I hope so because it's hard work making my brain do that, but I think the rewards are worth it.

I had to force myself to sit down and go through all the major pieces of prep I did and ask "would the session have gone as well without it" to get my list of "what went well" because my first instinct was to assume that all the things the players did awesomely would have happened anyway, even though when I looked closer, a lot of them wouldn't.

Invent not "Who Are They" But "What are They Trying to Do"

In roleplaying -- or linear narrative fiction like books, tv, computer games -- any interaction is more interesting if the participants are actually interacting. If the PCs have a clear goal for the scene which could succeed or fail. And the NPCs are not just passive, but are pushing in a direction -- be it "make the guests happy" or "make friends" or "do a street performance (without being interrupted)" or "don't let anyone past the bridge".

But I just verbalised that dichotomy now, despite reading a lot of similar advice (goals, "what's my motivation for this scene", every scene should be about resolving a conflict of potentially thwarted success, etc)

So in the past a lot of my worldbuilding was too static -- a status quo of "this person/animal/society usually does this" instead of "is currently trying to do that", like a painting instead of a "in media res". I will try to do the opposite!

And further, not just minor conflict, but I always empathise too much with NPCs, I need NPCs who want something unreasonable and aren't willing to compromise, and even NPCs who are just antagonistic, so there is significant conflict for the players to overcome!

FWIW, I think some mediums make the opposite mistake, e.g. art, fictional encyclopaedias, exploration games are much better suited to showing a snapshot than an unfolding narrative. The same applies to larger bodies of work: The Robin Hood or Arthurian legends, or the stories about a pantheon of gods usually paint a picture of what the characters are like much more than presenting a beginning-to-end story. I think Magic:The Gathering is much better suited to showing what a world IS like than by showing some great transition, and I wish they would take an approach more like greek myths and less like the MCU.

Have clear goal

Related to the above, I tried to have a clear goal "a demon has escaped from the spirit forest, find it and fix it". I even explicitly asked people to think about a few ways that scenario could end. But I think it wasn't immediate enough, and didn't build on people's existing awareness enough, so it felt very abstract and not like a clear goal.

I could have fast-forwarded to start the party in the ruin of a farmstead, with an immediate "help, help, stop it, it went that way" or similar.

Or I could have done a cut-away scene to show the spirit demon causing mayhem even if they didn't know that in character yet, so they had a strong motivation to stop it.

I tried to establish the important points by having the party encounter a lesser dangerous spirit immediately, to establish rules of "how to deal with dangerous spirits" and "what damage they could do" and that helped, but I don't think it did enough.

More minor scene-to-scene goals (e.g. convince X to let you take her boat, scale the cliffs at Y) would also give more stakes and opportunity for establishing trade-offs -- sometimes you fail that thing you wanted, without failing the whole mission, and that makes the whole thing more interesting.

Have meaningful action resolution

I hadn't realised I'd done this, but half the session was "find out about the mission, get in a boat, go there", which was great for getting people used to the setting and mechanics, but didn't have a lot of "Can I do X?" "OK, well, roll, and we'll see", simply because I tried to seed in obstacles to the campaign, but I didn't think of every interaction as one that might go either way, even when choosing an NPC's attitude differently might have turned the conversation from "she gives you a quest" to "you try to convince her you're up to it" or turned "you get in a boat" to "oh no, a character acted out one of their flaws and now the situation is harder, can you fix it?"


I knew with six people, two of whom are 9 and 12, it would be hard to fit things in, and I pared the plot down a lot to a simple "establish premise, dangerous encounter [with fish], some more role-playing to establish characters, climax confrontation", but even so, people were losing concentration after a couple of hours. So we had a good session, hopefully memorable (especially the bees and the fighting the fish), and people got used to the characters and mechanics, but I feel like I could have done better to make two hours thrilling from the start.

Cookie economy

Because there just wasn't enough difficult resolution, people had few opportunities to spend cookies, so they loved earning them, but they didn't matter often enough so there was no real chance of running out, or a sense of how close they were to losing a conflict over something. Partly, I need more opportunities to make actions that matter, maybe I need to reduce the number of cookies.

Minor bits of prep

There were lots of minor things that would have helped. I planned to use physical counters for cookies but that was a bit risky with Ms Under One's inquisitive hands around, but I think they were much less resonant when they weren't being added and spent all the time. I wished I'd had a chance to prep my helpers a bit more specifically with like, this bit could be written small, this bit could be big so everyone can see, that are automatic if you're used to running games, but you don't necessarily know if you don't.

There were a few practical inconveniences like, how do I print out a few copies of the quick start rules and make it obvious at a glance which bits of paper are duplicates and which people should try to look at both of. You can also comment at https://jack.dreamwidth.org/1132502.html using OpenID. comment count unavailable comments so far.

Turtlepeligo RPG (adventure 2, session 10 retrospective: What went well

I put a lot of thought into how to make a game work where there were six players who want a variety of different things. I don't usually recommend that, but I wanted to play with all the support bubble! In particular, I wanted to avoid a system like DnD that defaults to "we kill it". But I also wanted to include some conflict along the lines of combat where you have a particular ability, and you use it, and get the thrill of rolling a dice and being effective.


I predicted this and I was super right, that drawing a map of the area the PCs would go to would be incredibly useful. I got a lot of "ooh, what's that" and "can we go there" which was exactly what I hoped for -- it gave the players a meaningful sense of being familiar with the islands on these specific turtles, and immediately conveyed the general "how big is this" without me having to describe it verbally.

I drew a (very provisional) sketch of the whole turtlepeligo: one big miles-long grandma turtle with the spirit forest on her back, and a dozen young-to-middle-age turtles with villages, pastures, seaweed, etc, etc. And players were immediately invested in "where do I live" "what's the turtle like on my island".

And I drew the three islands the players were likely to visit, so they could rapidly see the status quo and decide where to go. It would have been well worth drawing some of the specific locations too.

It also forced me to realise specifics about layout I might not otherwise have thought of, like "there should always be a few boats drawn up on the beach, right?"

I didn't even expect to use the maps for trying to have people move around, which I think was the right approach. The main focus was giving the PCs handles to interact with the world. Although in a scuffle I might break out a map and PC/NPC standees, not to judge exact distances, but to see "who's fighting who"

Character sheets

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Jack and adventures in dishwasher unclogging land

I feel really stupid that I live in a house and don't understand how to fix it (with either competence or money). But slow progress!

Dishes were clean. Bailed standing water out successfully. Unscrewed the filter drain bit at the bottom

I had the magic right size star screwdriver, so +1000 past Jack for buying a too extensive screwdriver set. Why are there so many different shapes of screw? WHY CAN'T THERE JUST BE ONE?

Took out a little basket, and some related bits. Really needed cleaning, vinegar plus soaking plus scrubbing made them a lot more palatable! That's the bit I've done before but should do more regularly

Actually those bits came out first, before I got to the screws. But once the screws are off, the larger filter drain component seems like it only comes off from underneath the dishwasher

Waggling the dishwasher out from under the counter looks possible but difficult You can also comment at https://jack.dreamwidth.org/1131603.html using OpenID. comment count unavailable comments so far.

Me: Time to get things done.

Me: Time to get things done.
My brain: Ooh, lets write a story where Tony Stark teases Bruce Banner about the six snakes he had to fight for theses defence.
Me: Exactly! Thank you, that's what I'm talking about. You can also comment at https://jack.dreamwidth.org/1131012.html using OpenID. comment count unavailable comments so far.

Alpacaoids in Coton

Alpacaoids at Coton!

Went for a muddy walk :) Think I went that way decades ago when it was a footpath behind the CMS, before a lot of the nice path was put in.

I cycled to West Cambridge site and walked along the cycle path bridge to Coton, dodging road works.

Near Coton church, looking very lively

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THREE SEPARATE stories about Greek n mythology

Now I'm consuming THREE SEPARATE stories about Greek n mythology: reading Percy Jackson, playing Hades, and reading digital comic Lore Olympus. It's not as confusing as you might think! All the characters are very different in each, but that COULD be the same people seen from different perspectives You can also comment at https://jack.dreamwidth.org/1130244.html using OpenID. comment count unavailable comments so far.

Vaccinations also rising


Nice to see the vaccination graph still going upwards. If that's accurate the UK is 4.5% vaccinated, rising at about 5% per month. (?) I hope we can ramp up further (we ideally need to get to like 170% or something) but that's a good start!

I know it's not meaningful but it feels nice to have numbers of people having been vaccinated starting to rival number of people who have been infected. You can also comment at https://jack.dreamwidth.org/1129993.html using OpenID. comment count unavailable comments so far.