Arms Race Escalation : It’d be a Crimea to miss it!

My friends at “It’s a Trap!”, here in Norwich, made a rather jolly steampunk film a couple of years ago, involving steam-powered weaponry, and a terribly menacing Bolt-filled exosuit.

Such was the response that they decided to push half a league, half a league, half a league onwards, and have been working on turning the concept into a web series. If this trailer is anything to go by, it should be quite a romp!

Episode 1 will be coming on the 10th of November.

Arms Race – A new Steampunk short film – The Charge of the Heavy Brigade

This small wonder has been cooked up by my friends over at It’s a Trap productions, here in Norwich. The same fine folks who brought you “Jack Steel and the Starblade“, now with a touching Crimean tale of two plucky British soldiers, a Russian pilot, and Mrs Carruthers. If you like it, please share it with your friends (there’s a handy twitter button down below!) Small film-makers need all the help and encouragement they can get!

You can find loads more information, movie posters, and stills over at the Arms Race website.

Professor Butterburger and the Magic Chair

This is a slightly edited repost of the prelude to a NaNoWriMo entry that I never got around to finishing. If anyone else was subjected to the same sort of bizarre children’s stories I was (I’m looking at you, Enid Blyton!), they’ll know what I was shooting for here.

It’s probably an allegory for something. If I ever work out what, I shall, of course, pretend that that was my clever artistic intention all along.

Once upon a time, there was a gentleman by the name of Professor Butterburger. Professor Butterburger liked sitting on things. Hard. When he moved into the town of Jollyton, everybody had been extremely pleased to have such a learned man join their community, and he had received countless invitations to take tea. His visits would go something like this :

“Why, Professor Butterburger! How lovely to see you today. Have a seat while I make us a nice cup of tea, and maybe a spot of cake.”

“Why thankyou! Don’t mind if I do!”, he would say, targeting the nearest chair, and collapsing upon it with as much force as he could muster. KRUMPH!

“Oh my! Dear Professor, are you hurt? I am so terribly sorry.”

“My goodness. How on EARTH did that happen? It must have been broken already!”

“Yes, I suppose it must have been. Please, you must be quite shaken up. Do sit down.” KRUMPH!

“My chair!”

“My bottom! You must have woodworm! I cannot think of any other possible explanation. Let me test your other chairs.”

“No! I mean, I just remembered that I have a terribly important appointment that I really cannot be late for. I’m afraid we shall have to take tea another day.”

“Oh dear, that is a shame. Well, I bid you good day!”, and he would leave, feeling extremely pleased with himself. Upon reaching home, he would write the details of his sitting in his sitting journal, and mark himself for style, strength, and quantity.

After a time, it will not surprise you to hear that people stopped inviting him to visit.

His wicked sitting ways were not restricted to chairs of course. He had wide-ranging tastes, and no snoozing small animal or child’s toy left upon a couch was safe from being sat upon. He quickly became despised by the cats of Jollyton, who would hiss at him, from what they judged a safe distance, when he passed. Fortunately he was built for sitting, not speed.

The cooling of his social opportunities were not at all unexpected by the Professor. This was not the first, second, nor even twelfth town which he had visited, and he was sure he would have plenty more good sits in Jollyton before it’s exceptionally forgiving denizens finally stopped letting him into their homes at all. But all was not well. He took great pride in his sitting, and was concerned that without regular practise of his skills he might become rusty, and so he resolved to visit the shop of Mr Knot the carpenter to buy some emergency chairs.

Although the arrival of Professor Butterburger had been good for business, Mr Knot took a dim view of his behaviour. A craftsman does not only make things to pay the bills, but also because he finds some amount of pleasure in the act of creation, and in the thought that people used his creations. An artist does not paint so that his painting can be used as tinder, and nor does a carpenter like the idea of his works being deliberately reduced to matchwood. Still, a sale was a sale, and before long he was selling three or four chairs a week to his new customer.

On the day which this story concerns itself with, Mr Knot was feeling especially proud, as he was animatedly telling the Doctor’s wife.

“And so you see, due to the magical nature of the wood with which the pixie supplied me, the chair itself is magical! Of course, it takes a lot more skill to work magical wood than it does to create even the finest ordinary chair! It is unseemly, I know, to blow one’s own trumpet, but I can barely contain myself!”. Indeed, he seemed fit to burst, such was his effervescence. Happily, he did not.

“Such an enchanted chair! Why, that could be my opus! The pinnacle of my career!

Knot’s face paled as he turned to face his nemesis, “Professor Butterburger! I didn’t see you come in! I must regretfully inform you that this chair is not for sale. And in any case, I think you’ll find that it is MY opus, and it deserves better than you have in mind for it.”

“I must insist sir, that you sell it to me! Else I fear I may begin to feel quite faint, then I shall need to sit down.”

“You wouldn’t!”

“I would, and I shall! Repeatedly!”, cried Professor Butterburger, casting his eyes menacingly about the shop. So many targets, he could be here all afternoon!

Mr Knot knew that he was beaten, but quoted a quite extortionate price for the magical chair, in the hope that it might discourage Butterburger’s enthusiasm. The Professor was determined though, and pulled a fine collection of banknotes from his wallet, paying in full. Picking up the chair gleefully, he ran home chuckling to himself. Knot sighed sadly.

“Four legs, a seat, a back so proud.
Of ancient wood, and mortal toil,
Deserved a carpenter less cowed.
Should serveth one who would not spoil.”

The Doctor’s wife tried to console him. “You must not feel bad, Mr Knot. He would not have wavered from crushing every piece of furniture in your shop had he not gotten his way. You have a family to feed, after all.”

When Professor Butterburger got home, he first of all decided to move all his furniture to one end of the living room. As he certainly didn’t want to break his own comfy chairs, precautions were needed. This was going to be such a tremendous sitting that he thought it possible that the area of devastation might reach several yards. In the cleared space he placed his new chair.

“Ho Ho! This shall be my most awesomely wonderful sitting ever. A once in a lifetime squashing! I must savour it. I know, I’ll take a “Before” photograph for my journal!”. He dove into his study, and recovered his long-legged camera from beneath it’s shell of dirty shirts and socks. Setting it up back in the living room, he loaded the flash gun and prepared to record his greatest target for posterity.

“Say Cheese” he giggled.

“Cheese!”, said the chair.

“Good gracious! A talking chair! Though come to think of it, it’s about time you did something magical. I was beginning to think Knot had tricked me. I shall be famous for being the man that sat on the talking chair!”

“Ah yes, the, ah, sitting thing. I’ve been thinking about that, and on reflection I’d much rather you didn’t sit on me, if you don’t mind. Not in the way you’re intending. I don’t at all mind being sat on in the normal way, of course, but I don’t think I trust you enough to take the chance.”

“Ho Ho! Sit on you I shall, and you will be crushed into talking matchsticks! And then I shall crush them too! I must be careful not to get a talking splinter. That could be awkward.”

“I certainly can’t think of a fate worse than being stuck in your rear end.”

“A cheeky chair! A saucy seat! I shall crush you doubly for your impertinence!”

“Oh woe! Please, Professor Butterburger, have mercy upon me! I am a living being, sort of, and I have rights!”

“Too late! No bill of rights for you, for I have a bill of sale! Prepare to meet your maker!”

“Mr Knot?”

“Hmm, bah! Alright. Prepare to cash in your woodchips! Heheheh. To bite the sawdust! Heheheh.”, and he launched himself majestically into the air, like an elephant from a catapult, coming down with a bone-crunching KRUMPH upon the magic chair.

Or rather, where the chair had been moments before.

“Hoy! That’s cheating!”, growled Butterburger, bringing himself back to his feet, and girding himself for another leap. “Your rules, not mine!”, cried the chair, who took off about the room as fast as his four legs would carry him. “Help! Help! Murder!”

Around and around the room chased the Professor, crying vengeance with every wheeze, until suddenly he paused in horror, as an enormous round face filled his window fully. It was the Omnicaterpillar…

Jack Steel and the Starblade – Episode 12 – Showdown


Episode 12 – Showdown

In the airless void around Uranus, Jack and his companions have finally discovered a weapon that might defeat the Qaxorian invaders. But as they prepare for take off it seems that Mordred has intercepted them once more, maybe for the final time.

Alas, for we have come to the end of Season 2. Never fear though, for you can listen to all twelve episodes of Jack Steel and the Starblade through the player below!
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Jack Steel and the Starblade – Episode 11 – Allies in Adversity


Episode 11 – Allies in Adversity

In their quest to save the Earth, Jack, Charlie and Yvette have blasted off from Titan towards a mysterious space station which might hold the key to defeating the Qaxorian invaders.

If you happen to like our little show, do please share it with anyone else you think might be interested. Season one’s Episodes 1-10 are also available through the player below.
Continue reading Jack Steel and the Starblade – Episode 11 – Allies in Adversity

Jack Steel and the Starblade – Episode 10 – The Agenda of Evil!


Episode 10 – The Agenda of Evil

With the help of the Titanian Resistance the Starblade is once more ready to take to the skies. But Jack, Yvette and Charlie’s presence on the moon has brought a deadly foe in their wake.

If you happen to like our little show, do please share it with anyone else you think might be interested. Season one’s Episodes 1-9 are also available through the player below.
Continue reading Jack Steel and the Starblade – Episode 10 – The Agenda of Evil!

A Lizardman Funeral

In the absence of me feeling inspired to write anything new (I am particularly rubbish at this time of year), here is a little fragment I fiddled about with, back in the days that Dragon magazine did “Ecology of” articles. They were usually a bit of short fiction, mixed with some game background, to liven up an existing monster type. The characters and locations mentioned would be well known to the players in my own AD&D campaign, being located on the Sword Coast, south of Waterdeep in the Forgotten Realms. They long-suffered from my unwillingness to treat the mortal sentient species as simply monsters to be slain. That’s what you get for playing with a liberal DM.

The situation: Arkenor (My old wizard character from my first ever D&D campaign. Yes, it’s been confusing when I write about his antics, ever since I stole his name for my RL nickname.), visiting his old friend, Redeye, shaman of the Red Pelt clan, has been invited to the funeral of the old chief. He has been accompanied on this trip by Renthalas, a high elf deeply interested in anthropology. (Try to imagine them both sounding terribly British!)

Ren: I can’t thank you enough for this opportunity to compare the customs of the liz, ah, scalykind, with the other primitive, ah, less-advanced cultures I’ve been privileged to encounter.

Arkenor: A pleasure. Though it’s a bit of a shame about old Threesnakes. He was quite the stabilizing influence in these parts. Or rather, (he said quietly), he chose to let Redeye deal with the outside world, and he stuck to worrying about the swamp and neighbouring tribes. All worked out quite well. After all, they’re not eating you.

Ren: *Laughs* Well, I can’t blame them for considering elf-flesh to be the tastiest, tenderest morsel possible. Just as long as they don’t act on it.

Arkenor: Oh, they certainly won’t do that. In this tribe the practise of eating sentient beings is little more than a memory. Redeye has done a great job of bringing about positive social change. If Scalykind is going to survive these changing times, they need to be able to interact positively with the other races. It’s a trend I’ve seen in quite a lot of tribes over the years. There is of course a little resistance from those who remember the older ways, but really, it’s only mentioned in their sacred texts in times of war, against mortal foes, or, ah, in other very special circumstances. And although we might sometimes deserve it, they can’t afford to consider humanity like that any more.

Ren: A new age of understanding? You sound very optimistic, for you.

Arkenor: I have to. I’m rather fond of these chaps, and not at all proud about the way they’ve been treated by history. Things can only improve, I guess. On a local level, we have the assurance, by treaty with the lord of Daggerford, that no more of the marsh will ever be drained. These “Reclamation” plans are one of the greatest threats to our friends. By destroying a people’s natural habitat, at best you displace them, with all the problems that causes. At worst t’is genocide.
In any case, between their more enlightened attitudes towards the non-scaled, and certain other projects, there is the potential for a bright future for ’em.

Ren: What other projects?

Arkenor: Hmm, well the diverse and scattered scaled tribes are getting better at communicating with eachother. They have to work together, you know, present a united front and all. And there’s some other… projects occurring, but not really able to talk about them. Nothing you wouldn’t approve of, I assure you.

Ren: Of course not. I suppose it is a shame to have not been able to meet this great chief, but what with all the tales I’ve heard of him tonight I almost feel I did know him. Quite the man, umm, of action, wasn’t he?

Arkenor: Quite. Didn’t know him all that well. Didn’t really trust me, I don’t think, but we did take part in a few battles together, Sahuagin, pesky things, and a couple of ritual hunts too. Your sort of thing that, I suppose. Having to hunt Ceratosaur with just his bare claws, to prove his worthiness to continue to lead. Of course, that last one broke his neck, but he had a good innings. *Ren’s eyebrows raise inquisitively* Er, that is, he lived well, and to a good age. A paragon of lizardy virtues. They’ll be singing about him for a few centuries yet I’ll wager. The chief who united the tribes of Lizard Marsh. Bit of a bloody business, alas, but it’s all worked out. That’s one of the things I love about the scaled folks. They’re terribly pragmatic. Once it was clear that survival was best served by joining with the Blue Feathers, all the other tribes, well, the survivors anyway, joined happily, with nary a grudge. Seems rather odd to outsiders, but that’s just how they work.

Ren: Such fascinating rituals. Of course, cremation is a common form of ceremony, especially amongst societies without stonemasonry knowledge. The fire is linked to the sun-god. The smoke will carry the soul of the deceased to the spirit world, I suppose. I would guess the slow rotation of the corpse above the flame symbolizes judgement, in that we mortals know not what the judgement of the gods shall be. Perhaps he shall go up, perhaps down.
I’ve seen the priests anoint him from time to time. I would surmise that it is holy oil or somesuch religiously significant liquid, an honour to a ruler and hero. Or maybe it signifies the bond between the lizardman and the waters of the world. For from the waters did life come, if I understand their creation myth correctly, and to the waters it shall return.


Ren: What? *Laughs* Fear not, friend Ark. I’m used to being wrong about these things. Such is the nature of theorising, and I never mind being surprised. I’ll try to talk to your Redeye later, and ask him about the true meaning behind these rituals.

Arkenor: Ummm, it’s not, oh dear. It’s not a ritual. Well, it is, but not what… *Sigh* I wouldn’t have brought you if I’d remembered this part of their funeral rites. The Scaled Ones believe in wasting nothing, and what greater tribute to a leader than to take them into yourself. They’re cooking him. They’ll be serving him up soon, and if you don’t finish what you’re given they’ll take it as a mortal insult. And most likely so will his spirit, which is undoubtedly amongst us. Which will mean no pudding for you. Actually, I imagine pudding would consist of elfcake, probably followed by wafer thin slices of wizard.

Ren: ! Ugh! Urgh! So if I don’t consume the flesh of a sentient being, I could be cursed by an angry spirit? And get us both eaten?

Arkenor: *Laughs* Actually, they’d probably just kick us out, but really, it’ll make relations a bit tense. It’s not like you don’t have permission. And they don’t taste too bad at all. A lot like crocodile.

Ren: I don’t care if they taste like honeyed milk, I..

Arkenor: Actually, I think there was some honey in the marinade. Ought to be quite delicious.


Arkenor: And very low in fat.

Ren: I’m beginning to understand why so many people want to kill you…

Arkenor: Hush, and listen.

The Lizardfolk, singing mournfully, but quite beautifully. (Translated into Common.):

Thou wert strong, stronger than I.
Thine courage shone for all to see.
We’ll bake thine heart into a pie.
The bravest pie that ever be.

Thou wert the wisest of us all.
Thine cunning would’st outwit the snake.
Without it we should surely fall,
And so we bind, and catch, and bake.

The gifts you’ve granted, past death’s bound,
We’ll pass to hatchlings when we fade.
So none shall lose what has been found,
Nor cast aside what Gods have made.

And when the serpent sheds it’s skin,
Some part of thee shall that behold.
Safeguard the eggs, and guide our kin,
To lands of green, and blue, and gold.

Arkenor: *Eyes watering* There. Now do you understand? It’s quite beautiful, and spiritual when you think about it.

Ren: I think I’m going to be sick.