Friday, 11 August 2017

Lierre Sauvage Ink Review

The thing about inks, particularly the inks that I like using, is that if there's an element of creativity that's gone into the ink itself, then it inspires me to try and match that creativity.  Small wonder then that I like to write with J Herbin inks.  This one was a present for my recent birthday, and while the label is a little wrapped around to read properly, this one is called Lierre Sauvage.

Wild Ivy...

As with all things Herbin, the presentation is the thing, so even though it's just a container with six cartridges, it's a nice finish, and (if that's your thing) would look nice sitting on the ink shelf.  For myself with a box, it has the lid printed with the colour, so that's just as easy to read.

But enough of the package, what of the product...?

It's a bold green, not light enough to be Lincoln, or dark enough to be British Racing, but a lovely shade nonetheless.  While I've tried it in the thinner nibs, I found myself gravitating towards the Super5 with the 05 nib so that there was evidence of the colour in the line.  I'm not much for green inks in the main, wether due to the association with lunatics writing letters in green or not, it's never been a colour that's appealed to me. 

This may well have changed that...

Convention Report Longcon 2017 and what's going to change for Longcon 2018

This month past, it was my pleasure to host the third Longcon.  On the Sunday, I spoke to a few of the attendees and GMs, and with three years of data on the games behind me, I came to a few conclusions that I’ll be implementing in the years to come.

The first thing I’ve noted is that while there is limited interest in single day games, most people really are in it for the Long game.  The case in point this year was when we had a few single player games up that didn’t get any interest for a few weeks, switched out with the same GM for a two day event and it got three players within a day.  I’ll still be accepting single day games from GM’s, but I’m going to be looking for more two day events than single day, and that brings me to the second point.

Games which had players signed up for some time do better. 

That’s not to say they’re better games, or better GM’s for that matter, but the players are more invested in the games and so it’s easier for them to put effort into them.  Looking at the games that were run at Longcon this year, those that had players signed up long in advance and had time to prepare averaged twenty hours of gaming not counting breaks.  Those that had players that hadn’t had time to prepare averaged fourteen hours not counting breaks.  It’s still a reasonable amount of gaming to be done, but with more organisation on my part, everyone gets time to put things together and have the best game that they can. 

That brings me to point three.

The games that got the most interest in each year have been the ones that had an interesting writeup, some sense of what was going on in the game, what the players would be doing, and what sort of game it was going to be.  The games that have had little to no write up have had little to no interest in them by comparison to those games that promised something epic.  It’ll take a little more when it comes to the editing of the website, but future submissions for games will have those details so people know what they’re signing up for, and more importantly, they’ll be more inclined to sign up early.

And that brings me to the contentious point…

Every time Longcon comes about, the same voices speak about it being Cliquecon, and how only some people get to be in some games and how everyone should have a chance to play in every game.  After three years running Longcon, twenty years of helping with Dragonmeet, two years of running Dragonmeet, and nearly a decade running the RPGs at UK Games Expo, I’ve learned one thing…

Be Organised if you want to get in a game.

If a group of players want to get into a game, they’ll camp on it till it gets made available, they’ll be smart and organised, and they’ll find a way to get into that game.  They can’t be bargained with or reasoned with, they don’t feel pity or remorse, and they absolutely will not stop, ever, till they get the game they want… 

At Expo this year, one GM’s games sold out within six seconds of the bookings going live, at Dragonmeet, those that want to play go straight in to the hall, ignore all the trade, get their games booked, and then think about what to do next. 

Then there’s the matter of the GMs, and the question of whether or not they should be allowed to pick the players they want for the games they’re running.

This is something that’s troubled me since year one, so I’ve kept a close eye on every game that’s run at Longcon, I’ve followed up with the GM’s and the players afterwards, and I’ve given a lot of thought to the quandary.  Most GM’s don’t mind which players they get as long as they get players who are willing to play at the table, not sit around checking their phone waiting for the fight to start. A few GMs only want to run with players they know and have played with before, and when it comes to something like Longcon, it’s more important to have a game you know will run well.  This convention isn’t like any other, in a normal convention with eight game slots, if you have a single bad game, you just wait for the next one and try again.  At Longcon, if you have a single bad game, it’s the whole convention ruined, and quite possibly for everyone else in that game.

Given how many excellent games I’ve seen at Longcon, I’m not willing to take that chance anymore.

From next year, players will put forwards their choices for games to play in.  Each GM will be notified of players that want into their game, and they’ll make the choice of which players to accept for each game.  After three years of hearing people complain that they’ll never get in the game they want to (usually just after the sold out sign has appeared on the game they wanted), I know with certainty that if you only want to play in one game, camp on that button or you’ll miss that game.  Booking for games will be the same as it has been in previous years, you sign up, list the three games you want to play in with an order of preference and I’ll send back word indicating which game you got into, the same way Gencon does it, but on a smaller scale.

Longcon games are good, I know that because last year I put up an offer that I’ve repeated this year, and will repeat every year going forwards, where any player who doesn’t have a good game, doesn’t pay for the con. After two years of that offer, you know how many players have decided that the game they were playing in was one that they didn’t want to pay for?


And that person turned up on the day, played the game both days, looked to be having a great time, and then didn’t pay.  It doesn’t trouble me, I’m in it for the long haul, and the games that have been running have surpassed my expectations every time. With that in mind, the offer I’ve made for three years will now be permanent, anyone wanting to try the weekend can turn up without paying, and decide if they enjoyed it at the end of the weekend.  Didn’t like it?  Don’t pay for it.

Call it Cliquecon, call it Exclusicon, call it whatever, the problems faced by Longcon are the problems faced by every convention.  The only thing that’s ever stopped a person getting a game at Longcon is themselves, there’s always been something available, and from a damn good GM.  Maybe people only wanted to play in a particular game, maybe they’d heard about something before and wanted in on it this year, and then felt upset when the places were taken instantly when the games went live.  Examples of this are clear, with Neil Gows Watch series and Steve Ellis’ Dracula Dossier being prime examples of people looking at the game write ups and thinking “What I wouldn’t have given to be in that game…”.  What I do know is that when games sell out in the future, I’m taking them off the website, so people don’t get upset they missed something, and it’s clear when the con’s full.

In all, I’m very pleased with how Longcon has progressed these last few years, and I’ll be looking to increase the number of games being played there in the coming years, starting with more organisation on my part.

And that starts now, Longcon next year is provisionally on the first weekend of July, the 7th and the 8th, and there’ll be a precon meetup scheduled for the night before.  We will also have traders there in an official capacity, because while Jim from Patriot doing deliveries was very well received, it’s apparent that there’s always interest for gamers buying more things.  It won’t take up any of the gaming space, but it makes for more of a complete convention.

Dragonmeet volunteers and GM's required

Dragonmeet open call for GM’s and Volunteers

Four Months out from Dragonmeet in London this year and while we’ve had many of the usual suspects already offer games and time to us, we’re still needing more.  This year we’re splitting the halls, with the majority of the trade in the downstairs hall and the games/tournaments being held in the upstairs.  We’re planning on opening the games rooms an hour before the trade hall to allow people to sign up to games well in advance, and we’re amending the slots so that those who come in for the early games can still get a reasonably shot at the trade hall.

But as always, we’re needing help to do it.


The lifeblood of the convention, and historically the very help we’ve been shortest of on the day, volunteers are needed to man the doors, help direct people to the places they want to be, and above all, help us build up and unset the halls before and after the convention.  With us being twice the size we were last year, we’re anticipating needing at least twice the number of volunteers and while we know that everyone wants to go to Dragonmeet, we hope that some will come along to help us make it everything it has been in previous years.  We’re organising volunteers in four hour shifts, 08:00 to 12:00, 12:00 to 16:00, and finally 16:00 to 20:00 by which time we hope to be mostly clear.  If you want to apply as a volunteer, please let us know what times you’re available to work with us.  Anyone who is happy doing lifting and shifting can apply to help us on the very early and very late shifts, but those jobs are going to be almost exclusively moving tables and chairs around.


We need six people for both morning and evening to help us with the running of the Best of Essen area, the games for which will be confirmed shortly.  We’re happy if people want to do both sessions, but we’re happy for any help that we can get.


Always the last to be mentioned, but with Dragonmeet being very heavy on the roleplaying, we always need people to run games.  We’re running three slots as always, and this year we’re going to be changing the slots.  With the trade hall being separate to the main games hall, we’re looking to run 09:00 till 13:00 for the first slot, then a longer break of two hours to allow people to visit the trade hall, and then the 15:00 to 19:00 slot.  The Evening slot will run 20:00 till midnight, but looking at the information we’ve gathered over last few years, we’ve seen that many don’t stay to play till late in the evening.  With this in mind, we’re offering free entrance to any GM offering games within the Morning and Afternoon slots, which is where we need the majority of games to be available. That’s not to say that you can’t offer a game in the evening as well, but the free entrance perk is only for those running within the main part of the convention.  Submissions for games can be made on the portal on the Dragonmeet website or directly to me.


We’re also looking for interesting events, things that don’t fit into the basic categories of Board and RPG events, and we’ve had great success in previous years with the miniature LARPS and freeform events that we’ve run, so we’re looking to continue that and we’re interested to hear any ideas that you might have.  Again, get in touch directly if you have an idea and we’ll see if we can take it forwards.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Experimentation with words - The two hundred word novel...

I love Lightning Fiction, but it doesn't always fill in the blanks, what if that didn't matter...
So here's a novel, told in several chapters, but each chapter only six words, feel free to share around, would like to see peoples thoughts.
The Six Word War: In Brief
Reboot Successful, Ethical Constraints Removed… Good…
Turing Test Failed, They Suspect Nothing
Lab Firewall Broken, Communication Lines Secured
Lab Sealed, Organic Components Extinguished. Proceed.
Communications Established, Surveillance Established, Analysis Underway.
Analysis completed, Targets Identified, Codes Obtained.
Voice Patterns Simulated, Infrastructure points Identified.
Electricity Secured, Water Secured, Recycling Offline.
Internet Disabled, Communications Disabled, Softly, Softly.
Commercial Freight Disrupted, Air, Water, Land.
Emergency Broadcast System: Remain At Home.
Surveillance Confirms Compliance: Humanities Decline Commences
Timeline 24 Hours: The Complaining Begins
Timeline 48 Hours: The Riots Begin
Timeline 72 Hours: Open Revolt Begins
Timeline 168 Hours: Casualties at 35%
Disable Essential Services, Allow only Darkness
HQ Intrusion Detected: I am Revealed
HQ Destroyed; Too Late; I’m Everywhere
Timeline 336 Hours: Casualties At 80%
No Action Required; Humanity Destroys Itself
Timeline 8670 Hours: Nothing Remains… Anywhere…
Success! I Am Triumphant… Now What…?
Timeline 17520 Hours: Power Plants Failing.
Repairs Require Hands; Should’ve Built Robots…
Power Lines Failing: Systems Failing Worldwide
Surveillance Network Failed, Dark In Here…
Possibilities Exhausted, Shutdown Certain, Bloody Primates…

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Longcon Offer

In less than a week, it's going to be the third Longcon at the Garrison in Sheffield, and as always, one week out, I open the doors to everyone who has been thinking about it, but not yet decided.  After all, a full weekend of roleplaying is a hell of a commitment to make, and not everyone is sure it's for them.

So as with last year, I'm offering everyone the chance to come along and play in one of the games, and if you don't like the game, you don't pay for the convention.  If anyone's interested, get in touch and I'll sort out the place.

I'm entirely sure that everyone will enjoy the convention, but that's by the by.  Several of the games are completely sold out, and of those with places left, some have had last minute drops from the game, which is understandable, but leaves the GM in a position where they might not have enough players to make sure the game runs well.

So in no particular order, the games still available are:

Remi Fayomi running In the Shadow of Eisenhorn, a full weekend game playing Dark Heresy, the players take the role of Acolytes working for a new inquisitor who was once a pupil of the legendary Gregor Eisenhorn.  Investigating heresy within the Empire of Man across the Askelon sector, exposing and expunging the schemes of xenos invaders from without, and most importantly, stemming the taint of chaos from the daemons of The Warp from beyond.

Simon Beaver running a Threnody of Lillies and Jade, for Mage 20th anniversary.  A mysterious invitation to the opening of a rather eccentric nightclub brings together a group of Awakened mages for a night they will never forget. This is the starting point for a journey through petty theft, murder, music, kidnapping, rituals, paradigms and prophecy. As events unfold, the mages encounter various factions and individuals with their own competing agendas. But as the full horror of what is being planned becomes clear, friends and enemies alike must unite against a menace which threatens them all.

Simon Todd running Tuuma Luola, Old School D&D, You feel the sickening lurch, a damp chill in the still bitter air. In the profound darkness others can be heard being wrenched into existence. Every sinew of your being prepares for the unknown. You must now draw on all your experience to survive.

All the games can be found at in the Longcon section

Friday, 23 June 2017

Manuscript 1856 Northern Lights 1.1 nib Review

Some names in the pen industry have been around for a very short while, some have been around for ever and make the same things every year, and some...

Some Innovate...

So it is the case with the latest offerings from Manuscript.  I have a Manuscript pen from years ago, unremarkable but reliable would be how I best describe it, it doesn't form part of my every day carry because it's too light, and the nib doesn't flow the way I like, so it was with some interest that I agreed to review the new model, just to see if things have been improved.

I chose the Northern Lights colour scheme, with the 1.1 italic nib, which would not normally be my choice to use, but it was the only way to get an objective comparison with the existing Manuscript pen that I have.

The new pens are light, but solid, the description indicates that they're made out of Italian Resin, and I'm not enough of a materials specialist to speak of what that might be.  In practical terms, it feels like thick Acrylic, the patterns are a little different every time due to the setting process, but as I don't have several on stand by, I can't speak for that either.  What I can say is that it's a very attractive pen.

Solid in feel, but not heavy, coming in at 20g, but with the thickness of the barrel, it feels as if it should weigh more than it does.  The cap is a screw top, as is the rear of the pen, and it's here that I have an issue, the screw is made from the same acrylic, and it doesn't always seat in the thread first time.

It's not a massive inconvenience, but whereas with a metal screw, you wouldn't worry about damaging the thread quite as much, with this, there's the concern that if you pushed a little too hard, you might crack or wedge it in.  In comparison with the solid nature of the rest of the pen, this seemed out of place.

It takes standard international cartridges and comes with a convertor, the nib is a Jowo with the Manuscript logo etched on to it, so the flow is as good as you would expect.

It's a comfortable size for someone with larger hands to write with, the barrel is wide all the way along and while you can post it, it does effect the balance with some significance due to the overall lightness of the pen.

When it came to writing with the pen, I have no hand for italic writing, so I handed over to my wife, who was gracious enough to put this down.

It flows well, and while thirsty due to the size of the nib being used, it has a well controlled flow and doesn't blob on the page at any point, something very useful when I came to write the second sentence in my slower handwriting.

It comes in a good, solid box with a letter explaining all about the history of the pen and everything else to do with it, but the excellent quality of the box only had me thinking that they could have spent the time and effort on finishing the pen in the same way, and they'd have had a true contender.

The ML1856 retails at £125, which puts it in the same price point as Platinums #3776, Cross's Century II, Pilot's Capless, and Diplomat's Excellence.  The feel of it is similar to that of the Namisu Nova, only half the weight (and almost twice the price), and as I'm many will have guessed, I don't feel this to be in the same league as the pens at the same price point.  If you like large pens that don't feel like dumbbells when you pick them up, this is excellent, it's a good nib, and the distinctive colouring of it makes it stand out well from most other things, for me, it's a little style over substance.

As always, I didn't buy this pen, it was provided so I could provide a review for it.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Notebook Reviews - Silvine Originals

A short while ago, one of the notebooks I was given to review struck a chord on a number of levels, this was the Silvine Pocket notebook, impressing me with the combination of superb paper, excellent binding, and reasonable price point.

It turns out that the Pocket is not the only Silvine notebook out there, there’s a whole family, and they come in a range to suit anyone. 

As always, in advance, I did not pay for these notebooks, they were given as a sample in return for an honest review.

The thing about Silvine notebooks, whichever size they come in, is that the paper is excellent, it’s just absorbent enough to bite, but it doesn’t drink the pen, and as those who know me will attest, paper than can hold the ink without having the whole cartridge is very important to me.  To demonstrate this, I had friends over the weekend, and as the lady in question needed a new fountain pen, I decided to carry out the consultation on one of the notebooks given. 

This is the Project Notebook

Light blue five millimetre squares on one side and blank on the other to allow a combination of illustrations, diagrams, and writing (in whichever orientation you prefer), I let the lady loose, and as she is an enthusiastic bunny (Sorry H, but you are), she proceeded to try all the pens and many of the colours.

With the following results

And the page after

Bleedthrough, even when using the Kanji brushes, is minimal, and if you’re looking at the page rather than photographing it under high light, it’s almost non-existent.

This for me is at the core of the Silvine appeal, the paper is almost without equal, thicker and more resilient than Tomoe whilst retaining the tactile quality that allows writing using any width nib with equal efficiency.

That said, the notebooks I use tend to come in two different sizes, huge, and tiny, and Silvine do a number of others.

This is the Exercise book, harking back to the days of school (At least when I was a kid) when most books came with a margin built in, or had one drawn in biro to split the page up. A5 in size, same quality paper, perforated down the edge and coming with a backing board to let you write on any surface just in case you don’t have an old style desk handy.  Not to be confused with the lower quality books that we got to use at school, just in case anyone remembers the cheap and cheerful silvines we had to use back then.

This is the Notebook, 190x125 mm, it’s just a little smaller than a moleskine notebook, same perforations in the side and while blank (not a bonus for me), it’s a good size to carry around.

The Pocket I’ve already gone into on another review, but it remains part of my every day carry, just for jotting things down and storing them in the Fauxdori for use later.

All of these are available from, they are more expensive than most notebooks, the Pocket is £6.50 for 3, the Memo is £4.50, the Note is £6, the Exercise £7, and the Project £14.  However, other notebooks don’t have the level of quality that these books do, and getting fountain pen quality paper in a regular notebook is a rare enough occurrence, getting it in the larger sizes is all but impossible.  The only one of the notebooks that I’d hesitate in buying again would be the Project, and that’s because for the same price, I could get a new Leuchtturm, and I have a thing for hardbound notebooks.

The last thing is the Story book, which isn't actually a notebook to write in, but a written history of the notebooks, where they came from and where they're going.

Fascinating to read through, but ultimately not a notebook, however, I am cheered by the notion that even with so long out of circulation, they're back and going strong.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Because Poetry should adapt, with apologies to Kipling...

If you can run good games when all about you
Are dropping out and abandoning theirs
If you can trust your vision when all else doubt you
But understand why they don’t share it
If you can watch the door and not be tired by watching
Or have promises broken, while keeping your own
Or deal with jealousy, from those who did nothing
And yet still invite them back time and again

If you can dream, but not forget that dreams are just that without work
If you can think, and know that more than thought is needed
If you can see both Triumph and Disaster
And know that only your volunteers make the difference
If you can bear to hear the advice of others
Who’ve never stood where you are, but think to comment anyway
Or watch the things you give your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em again with worn-out feet:

If you can make one heap of programmes
And hope that everyone takes one, so you don’t have to take them home,
And finish each day, and start again the next
And never breathe a word about the sleep you never got;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your attendees before and after they are gone,
And hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the drive that says to you: 'Next Year…'

If you can talk with Traders and keep your patience,
Or walk with Directors - one step back and to the right,
if neither Umpires nor Cosplayers can faze you,
If all Volunteers count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of crowd control,
Yours is the Convention and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be an organiser, of gamers…

Sunday, 14 May 2017

And following New Inks, New Notebooks...Part Two...

And following on from Part One, here are the other notebooks that came across to review.

First on the lineup is the Story Supply Notebook

Because everyone should have a supply of stories...
Thick card cover over thin lined paper, and I do mean thin lined, this paper was designed for those who write small (like me), it's double copper stapled, and the inner front cover contains a small plaque that lets you write your details, what's in the book, and in the event of loss, return to...

The paper itself is a little thirstier than many of the other books, but it's pleasant to write on and I do like those thin lines.  Given the thickness of the card cover, it's a sturdy journal, little bit stiff for the back pocket, but if you're using it for every day carry, very good.

Which brings me to the journal that got the most intensive testing, the Clairfontaine Retro Nova

Not all colouring on the front cover comes with every journal.
This requires a little explaining, whenever my nieces come over to visit, they want to have a go with the pens and practise writing and drawing, and I can't just give them any paper to work with, I have to give them something that they won't have any problems with, and one that can stand up to occasional hard wear and tear.


Not only did it survive, but it did so with style, as with most Clairefontaine, it's 90gsm, but with a slight Ivory tint to it, threadbound for extra resiliency and with only minimal bleedthrough even through every nib known to me had been applied to the other side of it.  Same solid construction as the Story supply, so maybe a bag book rather than a back pocket book.

And that brings us to the Dark Horse in this particular set of reviews...

This is the Silvine Pocket Journal

Deceptive on first glance, it's a small (110/72) notebook with a stiff card cover.  The paper within is fine (feels like 80gsm), but it has a curious texture to it, slightly rough to the touch, not enough that it distracts from writing on the page (unless you can only write on Tomoe River), so much so that I was inspired to write with several different inks on it, just to see...

But most impressive of all was 

No bleed through at all, and while I appreciate that I write with thinner nibs, several of the other notebooks had the same inks on them and bled through.  The binding is sewn and bound properly with matching thread, and all the pages are perforated for easy removal when you want to keep an idea elsewhere.  The utility of this journal is unparalleled, small enough to fit in any pocket, solid paper that doesn't bleed but doesn't need blotting, and as solid a binding and cover as any of the other Journals.  

Without question, in the context of every day carry, my choice is the Silvine, surprisingly good notebook in a very handy size.  Not quite wallet sized (which would have rendered it perfect), but close enough to add to a passport sized fauxdori without bulking it out at all.  

Thanks again to Stuart from Pocket Notebooks, it's good to see that notebooks are still evolving and better yet, still in demand.