The following article originally appeared on an earlier iteration of See Page XX in October 2007.
Paula Dempsey, alias Mystic Moo, predicts your gaming future.
The cattle truck has just left and Hamish is putting the kettle on. We’re home from GenCow and we’ve had quite a time of it. You wouldn’t think cows would have much luggage, given we don’t do the clothes thing, but Buttercup’s got enough Indie games to open a shop and even Hamish did some shopping, indulging his Braveheart fantasies with a spiffy new “Man Kilt”. Those of you who frequent human roleplaying conventions would find much that is familiar in GenCow, although we bovines tend to prefer slightly different games (usually based around themes like running around in fields, eating grass, herding) and burgers are, of course, banned.
Elsewhere in the cowshed, Buttercup’s New Age shopping catalogue is stalling due to the UK postal strikes. One way or another neither cows nor letters are moving much at the minute. Still, orders are coming in via the inter(hay)net, so if you’ve ordered an Aberdeen Angus Oracle set, Cow Chakra Crystals or a Dreamcatcher, handmade on the prairie by genuine American bison then keep your hooves crossed that she can get them to you by cow-rier soon.
There’s a new feature for you humans this month. Those of you with nothing better to do than follow the way of the mystical cow might remember my spirit guide, Zed, a sixties wallpaper designer turned pan-dimensional guru? Zed visited me again after GenCow and has agreed to work with me on a new problem page. See below for the first lot of divinely inspired answers, and keep ’em coming!
But first, as it’s Autumn, you might be thinking about a Halloween party. I know we are here in the cowshed. Here’s some recommendations based on star signs to help your party go with a swing.
Orcs 21 March – 20 April
Give Orc guests a bit of notice and let them put their hitting and squishing skills to good use without getting arrested. Encourage them to visit local streetmarkets and supermarket fruit counters and buy huge amounts of grapes, rhubarb and other soft fruits in preparation for a great Orcian winemaking frenzy. Orcs need to get a big wooden tub in the garden (or a washing-up bowl for flat dwellers) and stomp, squish and pummel to their heart’s content. My prediction is a massive hangover by Halloween. If you’ve never seen an Orc trampling rhubarb, you should, just once as an experience. You probably wouldn’t want to see it again, mind.
Gurps 21 April – 21 May
Gurps are the most mutable sign of the role-playing zodiac. That is, the most changeable. So for a great mix of sounds get Gurp guests to DJ at your party. One minute it’ll be Sinatra, the next Cradle of Filth with the Spice Girls and the White Stripes in between. The downside is that by about 10.30 the Gurp won’t know where he is or what the hell he’s doing and will probably threaten to sue you for trauma caused. Give him another half of shandy and he’ll have changed his mind by morning.
Shoggoth 22 May – 21 June
After an unremarkable and rather damp summer, Shoggoths are feeling a bit down in the dumps. I’ve had a lot of complaints from them recently asking if the stars will ever be right. If you must invite them to your party at all, ask them to co-ordinate some spooky party games like Pin the Tentacle on Cthulhu. Remind them, though, that moving stars about using supernatural powers is forbidden under intergalactic law. Especially moving them so they spell naughty words. So just stop it.
Frodo 22 June – 22 July
Frodos are the most hygienic of the starsigns and contribute best to the party by getting there early in the afternoon and getting the burrow, er, house spick and span. One note of caution – before letting them loose with the Dyson make sure all jewellery is securely stored away. If they do wander off glinting suspiciously don’t call the police. Just get a mate (Gurp, preferably) to dress up as a wizard and get your favourite earrings back for you. Unfortunately, your entire neighbourhood may end up being trashed as a result, but at least it will be a party to remember.
Werewolf 23 July – 22 August
Werewolves make great bouncers, so if you have any fears about gatecrashers get a Werewolf over. Each guest will be individually sniffed and assessed prior to admittance, which adds some novelty although your Aunty Gladys might take offence. Just one word of warning – keep the Pernod locked up. These guys go ape-poo for aniseed. Actually, another word of warning – don’t invite Marigold to your party as she goes mad for Pernod too. And advocaat, Guinness, a nice Merlot… She nicked my sherry last week.
Cugel 23 August – 23 September
Watch Cugels. They’re deadly in a social situation. Ten minutes in and they’ve drunk your booze, snogged your girl / boy friend, helped themselves to your I Pod and got themselves an invitation to stay for another week. I would strongly advise not inviting them at all, but unfortunately they’re also the world’s best gatecrashers.
Ninja 24 September – 23 October
Ninjas are party wallflowers, bless them. The problem isn’t that they’re shy, but that they actively enjoy sliding along the walls and hiding in shadows. Getting a drink from the kitchen becomes a military operation and more sensitive guests may feel Ninjas lack a certain sociability. Where they come into their own, however, is at 3am when you’ve run out of booze and the off-licence is shut (that’s liquor store if you don’t speak Brit-Bovine). Give ’em twelve feet of rope and a can opener and as if by magic three cases of Chardonnay appear in your front room. Followed half an hour later by the local police.
Dork 24 October – 22 November
The party invitation says 7pm. Dorks turn up at 7.03 and apologise for being late. They would have been on time, but their mum insisted on popping to Sainsburys on the way over in the car. Dorks come equipped with a two litre bottle of preternaturally orange pop and a family multi-pack of cheese and onion crisps. Once inside they install themselves somewhere inconvenient and hassle the Gurp until he puts on their Rush CD. Which is just the thing to get the dancing going. Still, they don’t usually stay for long, as mum will pick them up at 10.30, and they do a better job than beer goggles at making everyone else look devilishly attractive.
Vampire 23 November – 21 December
On the subject of devilish, here come the Vampires. Cool and sophisticated, they eschew lager and request absinthe. They’ll bring some class to the party as they’ll be impeccably dressed with amazing make-up. By the witching hour, however, they’ll be out of their skulls on snakebite, watching your sister’s / daughter’s Sabrina videos and playing the Salem drinking game. I love these guys. They can party round my barn any time.
Ranger – 22 December – 20 January
Don’t really like parties that much. The music interferes with the music of the night (round here that’s a bunch of foxes mating and next door’s mog having a scrap with our Tiddles). Where Rangers come into their own is when there’s a barbecue. They can get a fire going in a minute flat and before you can blink there’s burgers, fish, fillet of weasel… And afterwards they cut a neat hole in your lawn and bury the ash. Rangers also come in useful for helping tipsy guests find their way home. And for helping Vampires find their arses with both hands.
Traveller – 20 January – 19 February.
When the party’s over, if your guest needs a lift then the Traveller is always delighted to oblige. Three streets over, next county, Alpha Centauri, all no problem.
Burrows 20 February – 20 March
A Burrows guest will email a few days before. Should she bring anything? Then she’ll ring on the day. She’s made chocolate cake. Is that OK or should she have made lemon cake? Will everyone like chocolate cake? What time should she come over? Would the Frodos like help with tidying up? Can she wash up? She’s lovely, but my goodness she wears you out. If a Burrow is invited I suggest you get a Vampire to look after her. She’s a bunny that keeps on giving after all. And keep her away from any Cugels, or it’s not fair.
Mystic Moo’s Agony Column
Dear Mystic Moo,
I have rather recently been introduced into the wonderful world of Indie RPGs. There are soo many I would like to play: Burning Wheel, Burning Empires, Dogs in the Vineyard, GUMSHOE to name just a few. On top of that I’m supposed to playtest new games from a certain rpg publisher. But my players want to continue playing their old characters and the current stories too!
My boss is unwilling to pay me for playing rpgs and wants me to work on his strange cartography software, which doesn’t leave me enough time to satisfy all my gaming cravings. What am I to do?
An over-worked, time-stretched rpg enthusiast.
Buttercup spent a lot of time and money on Indie games at GenCow. One of the nice things about them is that, generally, they are smaller than mainstream games and therefore somewhat cheaper. As you don’t need quite as much money to fuel your gaming habit, I suggest downsizing. Tell him to stuff his cartography software and get a job with fewer hours, to give you more time to play. Alternatively, think about how to curb your cravings, which do seem a little excessive. Perhaps you can get some kind of gum at the chemist? Or a patch? I was considering suggesting cold turkey until Marigold pointed out that the last time we had any cold turkeys around here, the farmer had forgotten to pay the gas bill.
Dear Mystic Moo,
How can I find fellow gamers in China?
I tried to join “The Party” but it seems they are not really into gaming.
Dear Red Panda,
I can understand your problem, but living in the most populous nation on Earth you should be able to find three or four like-minded individuals. The Chinese must be up for it as in the past they have given great games to the world – Mah Jongg, for example, or anything by Mattel. Be a pioneer and introduce roleplaying to a whole new market. Think about what games would appeal. If The Party still holds sway, offer Paranoia. Feng Shui would surely go down well. Present it as a clandestine Western activity and offer crisps. They will come.
Dear Mystic Moo,
My character, Vadis, is a runepriest of Lankhor Mhy. The women in Pavis are very mean to him, although he buys them pretty things and lets them plait ribbons and bells into his beard. He’s heard them giggle about how they made the “wankor cry”. How can Vadis meet a nice girl?
Desperate and Sticky, the Wastelands
Dear Desperate and Sticky,
If you want to get a girl be a man, man! And if you don’t know how, get a book about it! If you go shopping with the Pavis women and let them do your hair you’re just asking for it, aren’t you? Stand up for yourself and next time they wind you up remind them that the Crimson Bat sees all and you have divine knowledge that he’s, ahem, batting in your corner. Failing that, get your Gorgorma sister to beat them up.
Dear Mystic Moo,
I’m not a gamer but every year at Gen Con I work as a demonstrator hanging around a stall in a leather bikini. I do this in time off from my day job as an international fashion model because I’ve found gamers to be generally a much less bitchy crowd than international fashion models. In fact, the gaming crowd is really quite friendly and I’ve often thought I might enjoy a game of Dungeons and Dragons or Mutants and Masterminds. Not that I really know what a mutant is but I do seem to have the power myself to defy gravity. Anyway, on one of the stalls I have noticed a man, a gentleman even, of such distinction. His greying hair and dreamy foreign accent are so distracting, I can hardly remember the game I’m supposed to be promoting. But as an international fashion model I don’t think a real gamer would want anything to do with me. I really don’t know anything about the games or all those funny little dice they use. So my question to you is which game should I try out if I am to get this gamer to even look at me.
Get out of here! We have Booth Bovines at GenCow too and international fashion models they ain’t. If you were earning your cowcake on the catwalk you wouldn’t need to get togged up in a chainmail bikini and point your bits at ogling gamers just to get them to buy the latest edition of Mootants and Masterminds or whatever. Believe me girlfriend, if you are for real you have bigger problems than what games to play.
Regarding this gentleman. Don’t let an accent like Simon Cow-ell fool you. He’ll roll your dice and break your heart. And he’ll either be married or desperate, neither of which bodes well.
That’s it for this month! Moo for now.