Jul 04

I Was A Goblin: Roll 3d6

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Role-playing is a resource-intensive hobby. Aside from the ridiculous number of available rulebooks, supplements, pre-written adventures and so on, you need two things: time and people. I had plenty of time – people were more of a problem. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends at school, it was just that explaining D & D to them posed a problem. In fact explaining D & D to anyone posed a problem: no board, no winning, no losing, no end – ergo no point. Those absences were the very qualities the game wore as a badge of honour – the rulebooks for D & D, more than any other game, always had an evangelical tone: we few, we brave few who understand the freedom that role-playing games can bring are setting out to battle the primitive boardgames with their slim rules booklet and laughable single type of dice. (This emphasis on free-thinking was ironic given that D & D was notorious for encouraging strict enforcement of its many preposterous rules. But in the first flush of wonder I had no idea about that. I was a convert.)

I may not have had anyone to play the game with, but that was no barrier to the game eating up my time. A hobby whose basis is sitting around a table talking, role-playing nevertheless has a solitary, solipsistic side. There were rules to be swotted up, of course, but there were also characters to create, and the characters had to be written down on character sheets, which needed to be designed, and then of course you could start designing dungeons… the image of gamers as inadequate bedroom hermits was always a little unfair (RPGs are inherently social), but only a little.

Three months or so after I was given the D&D Basic Set, I played my first game. My parents used to take me to a group for Gifted Children which took over a school once a month and ran (in theory) lots creative activities. I don’t remember ever having to prove I was ‘gifted’ in order to attend these things and my suspicion now is that they were opportunities for right-thinking Mums and Dads to tell each other how clever their kids were and eat a lot of cake. The activities were puny: one potters wheel which was always being used by someone else, and a lot of chess. But one weekend someone had been allowed to run a D&D game.

How did I like it? I loved it. It was everything the rulebooks had promised – the secret of roleplaying is that if you’re an imaginative kid the referee hardly needs to do any work to ‘sell’ the story to you, you’re filling in the blanks all the time yourself. It was a simple adventure – two groups of monsters at war with each other, the players getting stuck into the feud, and I think that (yes!) a gelatinous cube was involved too, though I never encountered it. But it seemed incredibly rich and immersive – wounded and separated from the other players, I had to bargain for my life with a monster: I was the center of attention, the lead actor, except I had no idea what would happen next, and it was stupendously exciting. And – for a fairly shy boy – liberating.

The entire of my roleplaying ‘career’ was a mostly unsuccessful attempt to capture that feeling again, or to spark it in other people. Because by the time I got home I knew that I didn’t just want to play D&D, I wanted to be the person creating the magic that I’d just felt. I had to run games, and I had to do it soon.

Jul 04

See look how popular showjumping was in the 1980’s.

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See look how popular showjumping was in the 1980’s. There was even a Commodore 64 game – “Harvey Smith Showjumper“. And the copyright issues – possibly the BBC wanting to do their own Showjumping game for the BBC Model B (imagine) meant they could not use the Horse Of The Year Show music.

The screen shots make it look rubbish. Horses never looked good on those early computers. That said I don’t imagine the version on the current Olympics game is any better. It is unclear for the grabs but the game seems to ignore the hill?

And in tomorrows showjumping update, we will talk all about THE HILL.

What’s so sporty about Chocolate?

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What’s so sporty about Chocolate?

Jul 04

Whatever happened to show jumping?

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Whatever happened to show jumping? These days it is barely seen on television, probably just as part of three day eventing in the Olympics (and trust me, there is plenty of time over the next few weeks to talk about horse walking sideways). When I was a kid though show jumping was everywhere. One of the few times a year I was allowed to stay up late was for the finale of the Horse Of The Year show. No-one in my family particularly liked horses, but there was a feeling that this was an important event. These days, it does not even get a look in.

This was prompted by a brief view of the show-jumping at Hickstead on Belgian television. The Belgians were coming third so it was perhaps due to their high standing in the sport that it had more presence (the Brits were second though.) The initial interest was flickered by the generic yet different layout of the course. I wondered if the obstacles were regulation (pretty much yes) and if the order and distances were also ruled upon (again yes, but loosely). However the whole thing became much more humorous when a show-jumper, name of Robert Smith turned up.

As our brains clicked over trying to think of suitably horsey takes on Cure songs*, we watched Robert make a good fist of the course, with just one fault. There is something about this kind of horsemanship which, if it were not for its utter pointlessness, would be very impressive. A near miss on the water made us all wince. And I remembered that here, like in ski-ing and bobsleigh, the attempt to beat an already extant time can actually be quite thrilling. (Which prompts me to say something about Downhill Racer on Do You See here). And then the question came up: Robert Smith – is he any relation to Harvey Smith? And then I remembered why everyone liked show-jumping in the seventies. Harvey Smith – the class warrior who conquered show-jumping. More to follow on class, show-jumping, Harvey Smith and why my parents watched show-jumping. After I have asked them.

*Which were nigh on impossible. One for the comments box I think.

Surf entrepreneurs take note

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Surf entrepreneurs take note: I can’t get too worked up over a degree in surfing being available – hey, if you want one it’s your student loan repayments – but the reasons for offering one seem disingenuous. Surf graduates will help the UK “grab a slice” of the $2.6bn surfing industry, we’re told. But the UK surfing industry, such as it is, does pretty much as well as it can do, given that to the best of my knowledge you can count the surf-worthy UK beaches on one hand. At the moment, we are told, Australia, Hawaii and California make all the money out of surfers. The injustice! TMFD would humbly suggest that this is perhaps down to them having i) beaches and ii) great big waves in the iii) same place, rather than their superior education systems.

(By the way why are these degrees called “Mickey Mouse” rather than anything else?)

Jul 04

“These people need to get out more for the sake of their health and sanity”

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“These people need to get out more for the sake of their health and sanity”

(No, this isn’t D&D-related.)

bcz the Julia Lennon Theory also applies to sport

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bcz the Julia Lennon Theory also applies to sport

(= there is no such thing as “backstage”)

(=not the same thing yet as “commentators now know how to integrate this bedroom dimension into their analysis”)

Jul 04

I Was A Goblin: Introduction

FT + TMFD3 comments • 1,708 views


I was 9 when I first heard of Dungeons And Dragons. I was 22 when I played my last role-playing game. When I think about or talk about being a teenager I tend to put the heaviest stress on music and how important it was to me. Then books and comics, and then maybe a nod to the angst and sexual frustration side of things. Dungeons And Dragons, and its warty kin, don’t get much of a mention. As I was saying in the pub the other day – it’s not that I’m ashamed of them exactly, but it’s not the kind of thing you talk about with people who didn’t, er, do it.



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Brazil win Copa America

A strange final, full of fluctuating tempos. Perhaps tiredness caught up with the players, but at times it resembled training, Argentina keeping possession and Brazil just keeping their eye on them.

The final few minutes were out of all proportion to what had already passed. Argentina struck three minutes from time, justifying their possession. As the subs linked together, arms around shoulders, Brazil equalised with the final kick of the game. The goal was Adriano’s 7th of the Copa. The first time anyone had scored more than 6 since Pele. The Argentines remonstrated with the referee; unfocused rants about hand-ball, offside, not fair. It looked a legitimate goal from my sofa.

Brazil had momentum. Argentina wore the body language of sulking teenagers and missed their first two penalties. Brazil never flinched and didn’t miss.

Jul 04

Poker bids to become Olympic sport

TMFD1 comment • 894 views

Poker bids to become Olympic sport. Despite not actually being a sport. The article mentions that they want to get recognition like chess or bridge, neither of which are Olympic sports. Because they are not sports.

I don’t want to drift into some sub-Wittgensteinian debate here, but what is it that makes a sport? Is it athletic ability, fitness, display of skill. I agree it is easy to think of counter-examples to nearly all of these (though darts plays are supremely fit in their arms). The poker chappies seem to think that an arternative definition of sport is “is it on ESPN/Sky Sports?”

My main reason for opposing this is rather enjoying watching competitive poker, especially in the Late Night Poker guise. But I utterly despise the Olympics. So the two really should not mix.

On the despising tip, I note that the BBC website has a “count down to the Olympics” clock. Only twenty-one days, and five hours to go. Well, at least that sorts out my dissertation. There is no way that guff will distract me. Distinction here I come.