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August 28, 2005

Winding Up for the Pitch

Unfortunately, today's planned brainstomring session didn't go exactly has planned. An urgent family matter sprang up on Seth late last night, which meant he couldn't make it. Vickie, Boots, Gav and I got together via Skype to decide what we wanted to do and to test the software; however, Boots and Gav had intermittent drop-out problems.

The first session of any Primetime Adventures game is dedicated to "the pitch". This term is used in TV-land (and movie-land, I believe) to refer to the selling of an idea for a new TV show (or movie) to network (or studio) executives. In Primetime Adventures, the Pitch is the session where the basics of our fictional TV series are hammered out - where and when it is, what the principal cast usually do every episode, what sort of characters would be cool. As it's important that every player have an investment in the series and at least likes what is finally decided upon, I felt it vital that nobody playing in the game be left out of the Pitch. This meant we either waited for Seth, or pressed on ourselves.

We all agreed that we wanted Seth in the game, and set Wednesday, September the 14th as the date when we'd get together for the Pitch (pending Seth, of course). I'm also having a look at alternate voice chat programs, including TeamSpeak and Ventrilo, in the hope that a server-based system won't have (as many) drops out.

August 27, 2005

Time Lord

Just one more item on the full-frontal nerdity (thanks, Aaron) topic before I go and do something else (although what, I'm not sure, as today is doing a pretty good job of being rainy and miserable): A couple of days ago, I discovered that the second official Doctor Who roleplaying game, Time Lord (originally published in the early nineties by the Virgin imprint Doctor Who Books), is available for free as a PDF document. It means, of course, that you'll have to print and bind it yourself, and as the original book's art was all copyright of the BBC, it's just basic layout Arial font. But it exists and can be downloaded.

At the time of publishing, I think the general consensus was that Time Lord was the best RPG for creating and playing Doctor Who-style adventures. nowadays, especially with the character-based turn that the new series has taken, I'd be more tempted to consider Primetime Adventures, as the characters' actions and decisions are more directly tied into their personal issues (especially the Doctor's - and yes, he has some now, and they make sense).

Of course, it helps that Vickie got me Episodes One to Three of the new Doctor Who on DVD for our anniversary. I'm thinking of statting up the Ninth Doctor and Rose for Time Lord, as well as some notes on the Time War. You know, just as a geeky exercise.

Oh, the first Doctor Who RPG? That was originally done by FASA, sometime in the mid-eighties, I beieve.

PtA Tomorow Night

Speaking of full-frontal nerdity, I hope that at 2PM tomorrow, Vickie and I will be gaming for the first time as a couple since we got up here! After the usual organisational fits and starts (see: "herding cats"), we've managed to get a pretty stable group of three Skype-enabled people (or at least, they promise to be Skype-enabled by 2PM tomorrow), namely Seth, Gav and Boots, available for the pre-game prep session (and possibly a pilot episode) for Primetime Adventures.

With any luck, I'm hoping we can get a regular session going; probably once a month. I'm looking forward to it.

Vickie isn't. :-D

Here's hoping this damned cold doesn't get any worse before then...

Yes, I Am A Nerd.

One of the first things that were done for us new employees (another person started at the same time I did) was the showing of a News Corporation Induction Video, welcoming new employees to the firm and telling them what a strong multinational company theyíre starting with.

Of course, there were the usual snippets of Fox movies and programming, but what surprised me was that they actually included some footage from Aliens in there. Hereís how you know how much of a nerd I am, though. The footage didnít include any Aliens, or Ripley, or any ships, gear or other characters: It was footage from Hudsonís scan of the atmosphere processor, looking for the colonists; specifically, the part where the computerised map zooms in to show their location. Basically, it was there, to quote the 12th Man, as ďcolourful and high-techĒ transition filler, as the video went from one topic to the next.

It was only there for a split second, and then only used twice, but I noticed it.

Nerd, huh?

Actually, there is one more thing which would further illustrate my nerd status: I actually popped my Aliens Special Edition DVD into my PC's DVD drive and cued up the scene, just to make sure I had the reference correct.

Getting Up Even Earlier

The first week at my new job with the Post is over, and Iím getting a better idea of just what it is Iím going to be doing. Basically, as sales administrator, I help ensure that the advertising sales team can do their jobs as smoothly as possible. This means taking messages and liaising with clients when necessary, but most (I think) of what Iíll be doing revolves around ensuring adverts are booked and prepared properly. As such, I was given a fairly thorough tour of the various departments involved in advertising this week, including the design, proofing and layout areas. I was also taken on a tour of the actual press building yesterday, which was very interesting (and noisy); somehow, though, I thought itíd be bigger than it was!

Iím still getting used to the hours. As the only parking available is either on the street or at the nearby casino, Iím commuting by bus. Itís not bad; I get to relax and read on the way into and out of work. The only problem is that the only bus that gets me to work before eight thirty leaves Gordonvale at a quarter to seven and gets into Cairns at twenty past. Again, itís not bad. Thereís something nice about being in a city ďbefore hoursĒ, when few people are around and everythingís closed. I noticed that once in Sydney, and although a fair few people are up and moving at half past seven, Cairns is still fairly quiet (even the big chain supermarkets donít open any earlier than eight). Still, it means I get up at five thirty.

I finally got assigned to a desk yesterday, and the last full-time person to have it left quite a few things behind, including a big bowl and a spoon. So I might just buy myself a box of cereal at Woolworths one morning and have breakfast at work, so I can get up at six (as I did when I was driving in for Centrelink) instead of half five!

Unfortunately, it looks as though Iíve caught another cold, quite probably from the Postís air-conditioners, so Iím sucking on VapoDrops today and trying (not entirely successfully) to avoid passing it on to Vickie. In fact, if youíll excuse me, Iím just going to make myself a Lemsip MaxÖ

August 20, 2005

They're Mad, I Tell You! MAD!

Let me direct you, gentle reader, to this web page about Walsh's Pyramid. This is a free-standing mountain situated to the West of Gordonvale. Not far west, mind you; it pretty much dominates the town. Make careful note of its height, and the estimated round-trip time for experienced hikers.

Now let me direct you to the official website of the Great Pyramid Race. Every year, roughly one hundred runners test their mettle by ascending to the peak and descending back down again in the quickest time they can achieve.

Today, Saturday August the 20th, is the day of this year's Pyramid Race. As you can see from the official website, the starter's gun goes off at half past two in the afternoon.

I wouldn't blame you for thinking "typical bloody Queenslanders". However, if this website is to be believed, competitors are drawn from not just the town of Gordonvale, the city of Cairns and the state of Queensland, but also the whole country and even the globe.

No, I have no intention of making the run any time in the foreseeable future (i.e. my life).

Vickie's son Karl was thinking about entering next year's run, though.

Yes, he was born in Queensland.

August 17, 2005

At the Local Rag

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's official: I am now a permanent, full time employee of the Cairns Post! I commence in my position of Sales Administrator on Monday. My job will to assist the ad sales team sell column inches and keep on good terms with their clients; this will include such duties as maintaining schedules, taking phone calls from clients, proofing ads and that sort of thing.

I finish up at Centrelink with a not undue sense of relief. While I'll miss everyone there, the work itself was getting pretty darned repetitive, and the systems troubles over the past couple of weeks were driving everyone batty. (Not that there's any guarantee that the Post will be an improvement in the latter regard.)

Of course, as the Post is News Corporation's local rag, this means my soul is now wholly owned by Sir Rupert Murdoch...

August 14, 2005

Has It Been A Year Already?

Rob & Vickie's Wedding

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, today is the first anniversary of the wedding of Vickie and I. On August the fourteenth, 2004, a simple ceremony was held in our living room at Fraser Road with family and friends in attendance, after which we all piled down to the Normanhurst Pizza Cafe to meet most of the rest of our friends for the reception.

On one hand, it barely seems like a year's been by; time is flashing past so quickly nowadays, I wonder how we suddenly got to one year after the event.

On the other hand, we've done so much in the past twelve months, including packing up and moving to Cairns, that it already seems as though we've been together our whole lives - it's hard sometimes to imagine life before we got together!

So what're we up to today? Not much, really - there's been a sudden cold snap up here and neither of us is particularly keen on poking our noses out of the back door, let alone the front! Make no mistake, though, we will be celebrating the occasion, with a fine dinner at the Breezes Restaurant at the Hilton Cairns tonight.

August 13, 2005

From an E-Mail to Military Simulations

"Can't tell my arse from my Armour Class some days!"

- Rob Farquhar, E-mail, Thursday, August 11th, 2005

Almost there... Alllmost therrre...

So I went to the second interview at the other job I applied for on Thursday, and things went pretty well. I met the person I'd be working for, and the details of the job were explained to me. It sounds quite challenging, but after almost six months of doing the same stuff over and over, I'm definitely up for a challenge, and said as much.

That evening, before the Radio for the Print Handicapped broadcast, I had a phone call from the recruiter. The firm is keen to have me on, and she wanted to make sure I was still keen once I'd had time to mull over what the position entailed. I told her I still am. She told me she'd do a reference check on Friday, and if my references were positive, she'd give me a call on Monday to go in and sign a contract of employment, with a start date of Monday week.

I had a minor heart attack when it turned out that the mobile number of one of my referees had changed, but I managed to track her down on Thursday night and got her new number, which I immediately e-mailed to the recruiter. The other two still work at my old firm, and the one I was able to reach, aside from still being amenable to providing a reference, said he'd let the other know to expect a phone call.

Things are looking good!

August 12, 2005

Those Magnificent Men at Mongoose and MilSims

I'd like to take up some of your time with some much-deserved - how do the young people say it nowadays? - "mad props" to a couple of RPG companies.

Now, as any regular reader surely knows, Mongoose Publishing are the company that publish Starship Troopers: The Roleplaying Game, a copy of which I purchased through Melbourne-based mail order firm Military Simulations a few weeks ago now (as I think I wrote not long after we moved up, there are no Friendly Local Gaming Stores in Cairns). Over the past few weeks, people have been posting on the Mongoose boards that the glue in the bindings of their copies of the book had been coming loose; the pages weren't sticking to the spine any more, with only the binding string holding them together. About a week ago, I noticed the same started happening with my copy; first the tops of the pages came away, and then the whole long edge of the page where it met the binding! (I think the symptoms started a little earlier than that, with the residue that usually holds the inside edge of the pages to each other going).

Mongoose staff member and forum monitor Matt discussed the issue with the posters. Matt made an offer: If a forum member e-mailed photos of their copy of the book demonstrating evidence of the binding problem, Mongoose would send out a new copy free of charge - even as far out as Australia. (Oddly enough, the books were from the printing press who usually did their work, and none of their previous products had had the problem.)

Needless to say, I found my digital camera and took photos of my copy of the book, showing how the pages had come loose. I forwarded my order confirmation e-mail from Military Simulations to Mongoose as a proof of purchase and attached the photos. I received an e-mail this morning from Mongoose, telling me the new copy was on its way.

I also sent an e-mail to Military Simulations, explaining the situation so they could take any appropriate action with their stock, and included a link to the thread in Mongoose Publishing's forum. Colin from MilSims replied, telling me to put the book I'd bought back in the post addressed to their Reply Paid number. Once he received it, he'd send a new one to me.

So, I bundled the book into a plastic bag and put it back into the box it came in, and popped it into the post today.

As I hope I've demonstrated, the teams at Mongoose Publishing and Military Simulations have given great customer service; they've responded in a timely and, especially in the case of Mongoose Publishing, very generous manner. When I started out in the hobby, I used to order product from MilSims all the time, and after this, I'll be glad to give them my patronage again. As for Mongoose, I'll quote one of the forum members, a gent who, appropriately nough, posts under the handle "Sgt Zim":

"Despite the growing pains of any new line of items...rpg and mini... you have done well by your customers in all ways.

"Perhaps because I tend to expect poor customer service as a rule, I am more than pleasantly surprised when I see "old style" attention to customer satisfaction and retention.

"I have been overjoyed that despite a few truly negative posts on the various SST lines, overall the criticism has been constructive and earnest for the success of Starship Troopers. That Mongoose responds so quickly and so positively to our concerns is a credit to the company, and to our hobbies."

Myself, I'd also like to highlight the trust that Mongoose has shown its customers and fan base, in choosing to offer a rapid response and timely replacement when they could have justifiably insisted on return of the actual products themselves.

So what'll I do with two copies of Starship Troopers: The Roleplaying Game?

That, my friends and readers, is an interesting question...

August 07, 2005

Capsules and Capsule Drops

Now, let me just say that I've not gone back on my earlier comments regarding the Starship Troopers RPG now that I've had the chance to read it from cover to cover. It does have its problems, though, which this review over on RPG.net covers quite ably.

The problem that bothers me most, though, is one that the review doesn't mention, and that's the paucity of information available on capsule drops.

For those of you who've only seen Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers film, one of the most interesting features of the Robert A. Heinlein novel, which was also carried over into the Roughnecks animated series, is that the Mobile Infantry aren't normally deployed in landing shuttles a'la Aliens - they're actually shot out of orbiting starships in one-man re-entry capsules, then use parachutes and jump jets to slow and guide their descent.

Now, I can certainly understand not including any game statistics or rules for capsule drops - players will rarely have anything to do until just before landing. But introducing a concept in passing and not bothering to explain it with at least a paragraph or two of text, especially when it was such a major feature of the novel and at least one of its subsequent adaptations, seems almost criminal to me.

So, in a little free time, I exercised my keyboard skills and came up with these paragraphs, which I subsequently wikified for discussion.

August 03, 2005

Movement on the Job Front

Well, well! After months with nary a twitch, it looks as though I now have two strong possibilities on the job front!

Centrelink are looking at expanding their Cairns call centre staff, with roughly twenty permanent CSO positions advertised in today's Cairns Post. Applications are by phone only (presumably to test out your phone manner) so I whipped up a quick summary, rang in and left a message.

Also, I applied for another job online last week. I had a response within a day; the person running recruitment for the firm worked at the Cairns job agency I first signed up with before we moved. She remembered me and had put me on the short list! I finally got a call from her earlier today, and I'm off for interview tomorrow at one!

So, it looks as though I might just have my pick and choice of jobs...

August 01, 2005

War of the Worlds on the Wiki

As I can't seem to get access to the Cylon Alliance forums any more, and since the last few revisions I sent to the guy who runs the website have gone unanswered, I've posted the most recent re-write of my War of the Worlds retrospective on the IMAGinES Wiki. It's been revised to include information on the Spielberg/Cruise film. A lot of that revision is drawn from my review, and I intend to go back to that sometime soon and try and discuss it more broadly.

On the (at-choo!) Bounce, Trooper!

I hate colds. Have I ever told you that? I really hate them. Especially when you're in Cairns. It's meant to be too warm for colds!

I'm blaming Reefcon for this. One of those bloody Brisbane bods brought his bug up with him and passed it on, I bet you. I mightn't have heard any sneezing, coughing or splutterings on Saturday night, but it must've been from there.

In case you hadn't guessed, I've spent the day at home. I've been pretty much ignoring my darling wife all day, which is wrong, especially when she has a cold too. I've spent the day largely fiddling with my copy of the Starship Troopers RPG that came in the mail on Saturday. My opinion? It's all about making Bug-killing combat wombats, and by God, I love it! Maybe it's that dose of RPGA-member mindset that I got infected by (along with the cold) on Saturday, but the book turned up at just the right time. There's just something really refreshing about dropping all that focus on characterisation and angst in favour of "Here's your rifle, there're the big ugly man-eating insects. Do us proud, trooper." I really think the RPGA crowd would enjoy it.

I'm glad I've got that battlemat tucked away. After playing the combats in Star Wars with one on Saturday night, I can see it working really well for Starship Troopers. Now all I need are some miniatures...

One thing I'd like to know after making a couple of characters (one starting PC and one fourteenth-level Lieutenant for NPC purposes), I'm wondering whether anyone's adapted Thomas Kathmann's Star Wars Calculating Character Sheet for Starship Troopers - if not, I'm almost tempted to give it a burl. If there's one thing I've noticed about most D20 games, it's that making a mdeium-to-high-level non-player character can be a right bugger...

Anyway, I'm going to go and relax now. Vickie's making a Lemsip with Crushed Chilli, a very effective, (if rather painful) head-clearer, for me. With any luck, I'll be up at six tomorrow morning, raring to go to work.