Thirty Thousand Streets

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Every Roleplaying character I've ever played 2

Sun Cleric

I think this dude might have been about the only cleric I ever played. After all, let's face it, clerics are sort of lame... even in a world where gods actually exist! And what's with just using non-edged weaponry? I wonder if this might have been inspired by the church banning crossbows on Mediaeval battlefields because they were 'too barbaric' but I could be wrong (begin caveat) I remember reading that somewhere anywhere (end caveat).

Anyway, I only played him about twice, but typically got reet into designing his outfit, which I envisaged as being ornate, full gothic plate. I also originally drew his shield with the sun's cantons extruding as huge flanges. Will (for he was GM in this solo game) said "Y'know, they'd get hacked right off in a fight". "What, even if they were made out of metal? no way!" I answered, defensively. I think he might have been right though, and have hence changed that.

Oh, yeah, sun shield, sun armour, who did he worship? A sun god, of course. I think once of the conceipts I came up for this character was that he actually worshipped the sun, by lying in the sun, until his skin was nearly black (sunbathing, essentially), I think I got that from seeing 'The Holiday Programme' on the Beeb in around 1990, when they described holidayers visiting hotter climes as 'sun-worshippers'. I quite liked the concept. I think Will laughed.

Anyway, a two handed war hammer is obviously going to present problems when also using a shield, but I'm sort of envisaging this guy as some kind of Soulcaliber style combatant, with an outrageous, kinetic fighting style.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I'm back in Victoria. for the second week, and the third time I've worked here in total. Victoria is weird though. Busy and bustling, yet ultimately hard to attribute any kind of personality to.

Victoria represents a kind of architectural pile-up. If you suffered from acute tunnel vision, and were dropped, blindfolded, in the middle of this no-man's-land and told to orient yourself in time and space, depending on where your gaze alighted, you could probably infer yourself to have arrived in any decade out of the last twenty or so, which I guess is true of much of London, just much more acute here, where each and every building seems to be participating in an 'every-edifice-for-itself' slug-fest with its neighbours.

Victoria is dominated by the huge train station in the centre of course, and the more out-flung coach station round the corner, and these two seem to dictate much of the 'personality' of Victoria such as it is, with the exterior of the train staion having much of the flavour on the inside, with the same phalanx of anodyne coffee shops and sandwich bars clone-tooled up and down the length of its bustling pavements. And in truth, it does sometimes feel that there is very little to do in Victoria, other than go and buy a sandwich. Victoria is full of people, but in keeping with its nature as a mass-transit hub, most seem intent on heading somewhere else.

"Why did the chicken go to Victoria" one might ask. "to get to the other side" would be the only possible answer, surely.

That's possibly not the entire story. If musicals are your thing there's Billy Elliot – the musical, and Wicked, but they do almost seem incidental to the area. Bizarrely, the one club I can think of in the area is the London venue of glam Ibiza club Pacha, plonked incongruously in the grey environs of the the bus station. Other than that, you're left with an array of regular-less boozers, where the clientele imbibe liquids between modes of transport in a sticky-tabled purgatory, and the odd Pizza Express, frequented by tourists.

Step off, into the hinterland of side streets and there are some moderately interesting buildings, but even here there seems precious little incentive to linger, rather than press on. Victoria is so impersonal it feels almost incidental to itself, and you'd probably have to head to a motorway flyover, to find a place less conducive to the pleasant passage of time. Ultimately, so long as I'm working, I feel justified in being here, but not a moment longer.

No matter though. Lunchtime approacheth, and with it the big decision of the day, in effect: what sandwich to eat.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Every Roleplaying character I've ever played

Roleplaying. If you say the word to your average man on the street, they're probably going to think of some excruciating exercise on a corporate training day, where you take on the part of an employee attempting to placate an aggrieved customer. But what I'm talking about here is the species of dice-based games, poularised to some extent by Dungeons & Dragons, and popular with adolescent (and not so adolescent) boys, and yeah, maybe even the odd girl.

Basically, you'd take on the role of a hero, in some world of the imagination, wandering through dungeons, dispatching orcs, getting drunk in taverns or whatever was appropriate, really – after all, there were a variety of systems and worlds to situate the games in, such as the realm of Michael Moorcock's Young Kingdoms, or the more familiar, yet still perilous, parallel world of 30s New England which was the setting for the Lovecraft themed 'Call of Cthulu'.

Of course all this stuff actually had quite a lot of stigma attached. Going round to your mates of a weekend to sequester yourself in a room to roll dice and attempt to defeat, say, an imaginary wizard, is probably never going to appear as conventionally 'cool' as hanging out in the park, drinking cider and smoking Benson & Hedges, which some people at school were doing at that point (that came later, for me), and I think it bemused my parents, who used to call it 'gnome wrangling' (sigh).

Of course, with the advent of things like Second Life and World of Warcraft, it perhaps suddenly doesn't seem all that odd really. Indeed, the internet provides such manifold opportunities for all and sundry to massage into life bizarre fictionalised avatars, that really, it all seems perhaps a little sweet, not to mention pioneering, eh? At least we actually went and hung out together when pretending to be people we weren't, rather than squinting at a screen in an ill-lit room somewhere.

And it was all pretty cerebral, if not actually intellectual, and the beauty of it was that it could be totally non-linear. If you wanted to do completely random stuff for the hell of it, you could, though of course it was very easy to derail entire games by doing that. Its beauty lay in that it was creative, and improvisational – and escapist. For a few hours you could take on the part of a muscle-bound axe-wielding dwarf (though that example possibly isn't selling it in that well, I suspect).

Many of the characters I played I got quite attached to, some less so, depending on how long I played them for. I can't really remember what happened to most of them, but I think most of the games just trailed off, rather than them actually dying. So who knows? maybe they battle on still in some parallel universe, or are frozen for eternity, waiting for me to resume control of their destiny, a little like the end of every episode of early 90s TV kids show, Knightmare ("Warning Team").

Anyway. In an attempt to lay these spectres to rest, I'm going to ressurect, over the next couple of weeks, EVERY ROLEPLAYING CHARACTER I"VE EVER PLAYED (or at least the ones I can remember). You lucky people. Some off it's going to be a little vague I fear, some of their names I don't even remember – and I'm going to excercise some creative license in their appearance – so if you're concerned as to whether they were clad in full or half-plate armour, take it from me I probably don't remember anyway (some of this ocurred the best part of two decades ago, ferrchrissakes). Some of them are so sketchy in my memory I'm not even going to bother with – such as the 'warrior' I played on a Saturday morning club at a school in Reddish, who was erased from existence when a passing truck ploughed through a puddle on the way home, deluging me, and reducing his 'character sheet' (a page of statistics relating to said chap) to pulpy, inky ruin. Suffice to say though, if you imagine Arnie in Conan the barbarian, he was probably something like that. After I've drawn them all, and written about them, I'll probably combine them all in Photoshop, print them out, then hope any girls in the real world still want to speak to me.

Anyway, I'll start of with a lesser character.


I actually got the name for this guy from hearing the 'Round The Horne' tapes my dad used to play in the car, which had a sketch with Kenneth Williams just saying all this random stuff in his outrageously croaky, camp voice (though I don't think it was the Julian and Sandy sketch where they chatted away in Polari).

Anyway, it was a reference to the biblical figures of Shadrach, Meshach and Abendigo, and I kind of liked the name, so nicked it for this guy.

Basically, he was a sorceror, and I didn't play him for very long, so he never got very advanced in terms of his spellcasting. Hence probably the most combat-effective incantation he posessed was 'Magic Missile', which he's shown casting here. This was a solo game I played with my friend Will.

Other things about this guy were that I designed a symbol for him (on his brooch here) which was a open palm with a star in the centre.

Anyway, here he is.

More to come soon (bet you're excited!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

BT Bill

When is an itemised phone bill, not an itemised phone bill? When it's a BT itemised phone bill, where roughly half the calls show up as 'non-itemised'.

The irony of this is not lost on me, now the sole user of the landline, and faintly concerned I didn't make them – or indeed as to what the hell numbers they were that doubled my average spend. Despite promising otherwise, my flatmate whose name the bill was in, failed to get a breakdown of calls, and apparently, now a month has elapsed, the trail has gone cold forever. It's entirely possible that it was Lord Lucan ringing Elvis from Shergar's back, while we were all at work, but I guess I'll never know now.

I could, I suppose, try my luck ringing someone in Mumbai, but I don't think I can be bothered shovelling yet more cash at a telecoms provider for the BT's intercontinental version of the bland call centre apology, which will inevitably only ever tell me what I already know.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

West Hampstead

This afternoon I hiked up to West Hampstead, to say hi to my friends Will and Sam, and their wee bairn Zac, who is small, cute, and generally baby-ish. I even held him, with the aid of an odd cushion that sort of resembles half a life ring – especially as it's engineered to sit around your midriff. It was good to hear Will's got off to a good start with the lad's education, by reading him science fiction (James Tiptree Junior) and watching horror films with him (Rosemary's Baby).

But West Hampstead: I forget about West Hampstead, though actually quite like it, in spite of its slightly prim, moneyed demeanour. And why not. In spite of my Southside blogging credentials, many things aspirational appeal to me, so a place as peppered with delis and the like as West Hampstead is right up my street.

And of course, before I'd even moved to London, many, many moons ago (10 years worth of moons, in fact) I used to visit West Hampstead a lot, as that was where Will and Sam lived, in a tiny flat between 'Wampstead's' main drag, and the bustling environs of the Finchley road.

For this reason it always evokes a faintly cosy sense of nostalgia, as I wander alongside those gentrified mansions, especially as West Hampstead is, for London anyway, fairly non-threatening – or as Douglas Adams might have it 'mostly harmless'. Yet it did serve to illustrate how living anywhere redically changes your perception of it – or to put it another way, the closer you get to something, the more it seems to disappear.

I think there are many examples that point to this slightly sombre truth, but an example that springs to mind was given by a lecturer at university at Bristol, who described the analogy of two lovers running to meet one another across a field, who at the moment prior to embracing discover they are separated utterly by an invisible barrier, which they detect when their breath condenses upon it. Either that or by clobbering themselves unconcious, one presumes.

My early memories of London were of its utter cyclopean vastness – huge avenues yawning off into the theoretical distance. But as you live somewhere, you gradually piece together the composite parts into a tapestry of sorts – that promptly shrinks in the wash. That vast, fobidding London is gone for me now, to be replaced by something smaller, more prosaic, though still exciting, challenging (and really, still impressively vast).

But I catch glimpses of that other London still – in a shaft of sunlight outside Selectadisc on Soho's Berwick Street, pushing through a mass of bodies at Notting Hill or crossing Waterloo Bridge in the evening. Perhaps no more than in West Hampstead though, where I sometimes feel a nostalic affinity for the ghost of of my younger self, out and about in London, and this sudden shift in perspective is like glimpsing a street you know well, from the window of a swiftly moving train – fleet and momentary, to be relished while it lasts.

From such sub-philosophical rambling I returned earthward to my flat, to discover my housemate huffing, puffing and generally martyring herself because she's doing her chores after a stint at the pub she works at. Working in Victoria tomorrow, more on that then, no doubt.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Too much Posse Pocket

Got this fishing vest in the post today. I ordered it off Yoox in their sale, thinking it was just from Woolrich's main line, and was pleasantly surprised to find it was from their 'Woolen Mills' collection, designed by workwear obsessive Daiko Suzuki (also the man behind Engineered Garments).

I've got a bit of a thing for workwear and utilitarian garments, and furthermore, I do like a pocket or two. This guy here has 17 of the things! including a huge one on the back, to carry, um, fish or something.

Weather was pretty repulsive today. Staggered around feeling hot and irritated. Bought the New Order Republic album, with art direction on the cover art by Peter Saville, from about the time he discovered layer masks in Photoshop. People often turn their noses up at this period of his work, but I still think it looks great though (I love his 'wave paintings' from this era).

Saville's got an undeniable confidence and lightness of touch with most things he designs, and it's precisely because Photoshop filters are such a cliche that his use of them is somehow commendably bold, I feel, and sets off the plastic-looking photo-library images he sourced for this with to deliciously ironic effect. In fact, one of my favourite covers ever is that from the World single, which blends stock imagery of a mountain range and cityscape at night to haunting effect. I get shivvers just thinking about it.

The weather's done its Summer 08 thing, and the clouds fucked off at around half five. Quite nice now. Off to Peckham shortly, for beer and barbequed food (I never learn) then off up to London Bridge (maybe) for a soul night.