I have, however, resolved that being busy at work should not prevent me from gaming. Playing wargames and RPGs has led me to meet many wonderful and crazy people since I moved to Sussex in 2001, and I hope to meet many more. To make work an excuse for dropping hobbies is, I realise, a road to nowhere.
Firstly, my Deadlands Noir campaign is sadly on hiatus. Again, work has largely interfered with my ability to run this. I hope to return to it at some point in the future, as we left it on somewhat of a cliffhanger, with the detectives surrounded by killer clowns.
Secondly, before the work front got too busy, I accepted the role of editor of Battlefleet, which is the journal of the Naval Wargames Society. Coming as I do from a publishing background, I'm still hoping that Battlefleet will not be too much of a challenge. I'll be doing some further investigation of both Battlefleet and the NWS in the coming months as I aim to get my first issue off the ground. More to follow on this when I have it.
Thirdly, in the absence of Deadlands, we have started another D&D 5.0 campaign, this time with Manoj in the GM's chair. We're playing in a home cooked world that has some passing resemblance to medieval England, but only passing. Every GM has their own approach to D&D, particularly if players put more of their own views and spirit into the world they present, rather than going with the default campaigns, like Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms. Our characters are all sons of previous contenders in a competition called the Trial of Champions IIRC - think Deathtrap Dungeon, only less fatal to the competitors. We won, earned the favour of the new queen, and have now been dispatched on a mission.
The campaign world is great - a living, breathing entity. Things are obviously going on behind the scenes, and there is an element of the sandbox here: we heard of riots and unrest in Scotland, but decided not to follow that up, opting for the royal patronage and a mission to Norfolk, where relations between humans and goblins have deteriorated, leading to violence and the recruitment of mercenaries by both sides. Manoj has made it clear from the start that he won't pull his punches, and that bad decision making will lead to dead characters. I like this - it adds an element of peril to the mix that is sometimes lacking - e.g. in Savage Worlds where a player has to be particularly unlucky for his character to die.
We're good at making bad decisions: this is partly because we are frequently tired at the end of the week, when we traditionally convene, but also because we are roleplaying characters who, while lucky to win the trial, are not necessarily competent. Kelvin, for example, is playing an unreliable aarakocra bard, while my human ranger is a former bandit who is young (aged 20) and surly, with poor interpersonal skills, but seeking to make the most of an opportunity that saved him from the rope (the rest of his compadres were not so lucky). He's growing up fast in an increasingly volatile situation.
This game is a political one - we spend a lot of time speaking to the various antagonists, many of whom have conflicting stories. While all this is happening, the bad guys - and we're still not clear who they may be - are escalating their scheme, and peasants are starting to be killed brutally by hobgoblins. While putting our lives on the line to get stubborn bumpkins away from marauding bugbears, we're still no closer to resolving the problems (we're not even sure the queen wants us to resolve the issues or simply assist in wiping out the goblins).
My character has detected demonic influence which may be at work here, but, given this is a Manoj game, this could be completely random too! Our heroes may have now fatally blundered, turning up to negotiations with a group of hobgoblin mercenaries who heavily outnumber us and may be about to massacre the party! Still, I'm loving the unscripted, unpredictable nature of the game.
The Armchair Trader
Finally, with all the other work going on, I've relaunched my educational site for traders, The Armchair Trader. I know this has absolutely nothing to do with gaming, but I thought I'd give it a plug here too. If you're interested in financial spread betting (if you live in the UK or Ireland), futures and options trading (in the US) or Contracts for Difference (the rest of the world), but don't know where to begin, give it a look. We'll be continually updating it throughout the year with more articles, video and infographics.