Allerton Oak the Elder

…………………………………………….. will outlive you.

,

they outlived the Hundred who squabbled settled quarrelled

sheltered by Allerton’s arms

stretched out to create a roof

a courthouse

for those who had none

.

they tore themselves                                            apart

.

an emblem of persistence strength affection

their offspring seeds leaves sent to front lines

arms                               stretched                                          out

.

rot weather explosion ate them

we predicted their death a millennia after their birth

Allerton the Elder predicts to outlive it (and we hope)

.

the old soul hunches their back

reaches out for help

we take stretched                   arms                  prop them up with scaffolding

.

a congratulatory handshake

on behalf of the Hundred the soldiers

.

but what kind of reward is it, to be crowned the best of your kind, and to be placed behind not one set of bars, but two? Allerton the Elder’s protection a prison that cuts nature from nature.

,

The old soul tips their branch once more

Allerton’s acorn sprouts springs grows a new hope soul

.

Allerton Oak the Younger will outlive you.

.

By Isabel Tyldesley

Unexpected Side-Effects of a Pandemic

As someone with Fibromyalgia, the erasure of people with invisible chronic illness has been increasingly evident. So, in this time, I though I’d write a personal account on how the pandemic affects my illness, and the chronically ill community.

I knew this pandemic would cause a “flare-up” of my symptoms, but I didn’t quite expect the severity of the flare-up, nor the true cause.

This morning, I woke up with full-body chronic pain and a migraine to match. This isn’t wholly unusual for Fibromyalgia, as chronic pain is part of my day-to-day.

Fibromyalgia is different for everyone. Symptoms vary, and flare-up triggers vary, too. For me, they’re often caused by times of stress and periods of worsening mental health. I was braced for what was going to come.

What I didn’t consider is that I can’t do even the most basic of physiotherapy of walking 30-60 minutes a day to help myself throughout those flare-ups. I can still do my stretches (if you see me punching the air in my garden; mind your business) but nothing compares to actively keeping my body working. Without being able to go out and walk for those 60 minutes, my entire body seizes up: I can’t sleep. I can’t stay in one position for more than 10 minutes else I get intense cramp. And, after sitting for too long I can barely move my legs because I simply lose feeling in them.

I could embark on my once-per-day government-sanctioned walk but being young with an invisible chronic illness holds its own problems. Not only the added vulnerability with being chronically ill, but, as a young person, it feels selfish, even though it isn’t. This is partly because people cannot actually see I am chronically ill, and out to do my physiotherapy. Plus, I don’t want to be considered as part of the influx of people refusing to self-isolate in the midst of the pandemic.

So, I just greet the pain and try to get on with my day.

Flare-ups come with worsened cognitive issues, too, otherwise known as “fibro-fog”. Essentially, this means that I forgot things, I think slower, I struggle to be creative. As a writer and game designer, I depend on all these things. So, when the fog descends, doing my job and completing my degree feels like a doomed quest.

I try to do everything I can to stay active and not stagnate in the flare-up. I took today off doing “official” word and spent it playing with my dog; I’ve been pacing my garden with her as I wrote this post. Here she is, to brighten your day:

To my fellow chronically ill comrades: I am sorry for the extra stress, the added health concerns, and the invisibility you and I are feeling in this pandemic. I hear you. I see you. I wish you all the safety, happiness, and health you can find (whilst adhering to government guideline, of course!)

And to everyone else: stay safe, stay healthy, and check in on your chronically ill pals as best you can. We will come through this pandemic together (from a socially acceptable two-metres-apart distance).

What has everyone been doing to stay active during isolation? Let’s get a conversation started, spread some positivity, and help one another the best we can!

Developing the Narrative for 7TV: Lurkers from the Deep

7TV: Lurkers from the Deep: Entry Five.

In his series of blog posts, Conor Dwyer discussed the designing of the casts for 7TV: Lurkers from the Deep. In this post, we’ll be taking a closer look into the development of the narrative for this up-and-coming campaign!

Our initial aim was to create a series of episodes linked by a single narrative inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’.

Rather than a lonesome Investigator as is in Lovecraft’s tale, we opted for a G-Men centric cast with an action-focussed narrative:

A team of G-Men were sent to Marshport to investigate anonymous reports of bootlegging in the town. Shortly after arrival, all contact from them ceased. Their last known position: The Siren’s Respite, Marshport’s finest hotel.

Division-19, a squad of specialist G-Men, have been dispatched into Marshport to recover the missing team, but the crumbling town harbours more sinister secrets than Emille and her crew bargained for.

Conor and I began by plotting out a map of Marshport, so we could logically see how Division-19 would get to their next location. It wouldn’t make sense for our heroes to jump from the bridge, to the reef, to the hotel.

Without revealing all our plot points, play begins on the bridge. If the heroes win, they immediately get on with their mission and head to the last known point of contact of the missing G-Men; the hotel. If the heroes lose, Division-19 retreat to find another way into the town through the abandoned railyard.

We wanted to follow the build of terror typical for the genre. Lurkers begins with mundane locations, for example, the bridge. As the plot progresses, the settings grow more iconic with the cannery and docks. The narrative ends in a truly cosmic way; a ruinous spire of R’lyeh out on Devil’s Reef.

And so marks the end of our development posts. But, as we move into beta, there may be more to follow…

Commercial Considerations for 7TV: Lurkers from the Deep

7TV: Lurkers from the Deep: Entry Four.

Something I hadn’t considered when working on 7TV: Pulp was how to make a game commercially viable. As the project manager for Lurkers, it was at the forefront of my mind. How do we appeal to Lovecraft fans? How do we appeal to existing 7TV fans?

For fans of Lovecraft, we aimed to create a narrative experience that evokes the tone of the source material: ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’.

In true Lovecraft style, there is a slow creep of horror from the mundane to the otherworldly as the G-Men fight their way through the dilapidated settings Innsmouth is infamous for; the Hotel, the Docks, the Devil’s Reef.

In 7TV, players often create the narrative themselves, re-creating their favourite cinematic tropes through the mechanics and the cards we provide them with. It was commercially important for us to make Lurkers more than just a story.

As mentioned in our first Lurkers development entry, 7TV  players were keen for for sanity mechanics; and they’re a staple for the Lovecraft genre. Developed by Jake Litherland, the sanity mechanics are exclusive to Lurkers. They follow Lovecraft’s style of permeating panic, with the increasing opportunity for more Sanity checks as the narrative progresses.

We also wanted to provide an exciting game for players who aren’t interested in the Cthulhu Mythos.

Lurkers is the first consequential forking-path narrative written for the 7TV game system. The next episode’s location is dependent on the winner of the previous episode. The multiple paths through Marshport and the consequential repercussions in-between allows for re-playability.

We were also attentive in making each episode unique, and not just your typical Battle. Play begins with the G-Men running guns-blazing into Marshport, racing for entry before the Corrupt Cops blow the only known entrance into the town. And that’s just the first Episode…

In Lurkers, there is something for every player, whether a Lovecraft fan, a 7TV fan, or if you are new to both.

Join us later this week for our final entry: developing the narrative of Lurkers.

7TV: Lurkers from the Deep – Expanding the Team

7TV: Lurkers from the Deep: Entry Three.

When Conor Dwyer and I began our placement, we were the only two developers for 7TV: Lurkers from the Deep. Initially, we planned for Lurkers to be a short Campaign Guide, consisting of 3-6 episodes linked by a common narrative, with new sanity mechanics thrown into the mix.

However, two months into development, Conor and I began to have increasingly complex ideas that took us beyond the 3-6 episodes. Lurkers was quickly turning from a simple Campaign to a consequential forking-path narrative with a total of twelve playable episodes.

Amongst our studies and work on 7TV: Fantasy, Conor and I found we did not have time to create the game we now envisioned; and we weren’t happy to settle for less. And so, after talking to Karl Perrotton and our colleagues from 7TV: Pulp, we decided to expand our team to include the minds of Dr. Peter Wright, Jake Litherland, and Callum France.

From December 2019, we decided that I would take the role of Project Manager, overseeing the narrative and general operation of the project. Conor would become the Senior Designer, managing the game mechanics for Lurkers. Jake Litherland became our resident Lovecraft expert, writing Profile Cards, Sanity mechanics, and helping to finalise the narrative. Callum France took charge on designing new Chapter rules for the Episodes, and the Perils and Maguffins that came with. Dr. Peter Wright focussed his attention on creating the preliminary “fluff” and production notes, as well as also assisting in the finalisation of the narrative.

In its alpha stage, 7TV: Lurkers from the Deep includes:

  • 12 Episodes, with a variety of paths throughout;
  • 22 bespoke Profile Cards;
  • new Sanity mechanics;
  • 12 Mania Cards;
  • 12 Lore Cards;
  • new Peril Cards;
  • and new Maguffin Cards.

But any of this could change after playtesting, as we move into beta…

Next post: Commercial considerations in Lurkers.

Tackling Lovecraft in the Modern Day

7TV: Lurkers from the Deep Development Blog: Entry Two.

7TV: Lurkers from the Deep is inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s 1931 ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’.

Before plunging into the depths of game design, there were some careful considerations we needed to take into account: Lovecraft’s work is riddled with racism.

Much of our Villainous Cast are inspired by Deep Ones, or Fishfolk, as they are known in 7TV  – anthropomorphic fish-like humanoids devised by H.P. Lovecraft. The creation of Deep Ones, however, is deeply xenophobic.

In Lovecraft’s writing, Deep Ones reproduce through the, interbreeding of humanity with the Deep Ones, subsequentially leading to the devolution of their hybrid children. This highlighted Lovecraft’s abhorrent beliefs that the mixing of races leads to racial degeneration through the pollution of the gene-pool.

In Lurkers, we instead opted for a scientific way of creating Fishfolk. We introduced the concept of an Incubator; an occult device that sparks the conversion from Human to Fishfolk. This avoids Lovecraft’s problematic views, and instead lends itself to the themes of horror, as well as providing Lurkers with a Maguffin bespoke to the Campaign.

Additionally, the science-fiction approach falls in line with the 7TV universe, and our fictional studio: Pinnacle Pacific Pictures. Packard, the head of Pinnacle and Producer of Lurkers, found the racial degeneration of the Deep Ones deplorable. Moreover, the Incubator added a certain level of horror and action that Packard found lacking in Lovecraft’s ‘Innsmouth’.

We moreover considered it important to recognise Lovecraft’s racism directly. The ‘Hateful Prejudice’ Special Effect acknowledges Lovecraft’s xenophobic beliefs, as well as the beliefs that permeated many corrupt law-enforcement institutions throughout history and the media.

It is important to separate the works from the writer. In 7TV: Lurkers from the Deep our goal has to been open and inclusive to all players.

Next post: Expanding the team and Lurkers.

Something Lurks in the Depths…

7TV: Lurkers from the Deep: Entry One.

But – wait – what is 7TV: Lurkers from the Deep?

Rising up in 2020, 7TV: Lurkers is a Campaign Guide in expansion to 7TV: Pulp. Join a squad of specialist G-Men in their mission to find their missing comrades in decrepit Marshport. Throughout a series of linked scenarios, and a town in cahoots with an Elder God; what Division 19 discover is much more dire…

It all started at an Expo…

7TV: Pulp was published back in May 2019, at the UK Games Expo.

Left to right: Steven Kenny, Callum France, Jake Litherland, Dr. Peter Wright, Isabel Tyldesley, Natalie McCulloch, Eve Lewis, Conor Dwyer.

Conor Dwyer and I where sat on the Expo floor, a few metres from the Crooked Dice stand, watching people play Pulp. We knew we each had to do a placement for our ‘The Writer’s Life’ module at Edge Hill, and plans for 7TV: Fantasy were still up in the air.

We just weren’t ready to let 7TV go.

So – with remarkable levels of energy for towards the end of the Expo – we hurried over to the Lord of Crooked Towers, Mr. Karl Perrotton himself, and made a proposal: What if we did our placement for Crooked Dice, and developed a Pulp expansion?

Pictured: UK Games Expo 2019.

It wasn’t until July’s 7TV: Pulptastic! day ran by Wargames Illustrated at Wargames Foundry that we got a solid idea of what that expansion might be. At the event, there was on common thing players kept asking for: More Lovecraft. More Insanity.

Plans began to lurk in the depths of Crooked Towers…

Conor and I became first-time managers of our own project. It wouldn’t be until December that we expanded the team to include the minds of Jake Litherland, Callum France, and Dr Peter Wright. The game revealed itself to be greater than we could comprehend…

Roll for Spirit. Return next week to see how we set about tackling Lovecraft’s works in the modern day!

Photography – Malta – June 2019

Qawra

Valetta

Mdina

Mdina Torture Dungeons

St Julian’S Bay

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.

Snow overpowers me. Winter approaches, all run for cover. Not even the mountains that surround us can block out the snow. Nothing can defend us. Nothing can stop Christmas.

The Humans run, trample my grass with their careless feet– but soon, the trampled grass transforms into footprints in the snow as the blizzard comes down on them like a gavel.

Brown mud frosts over to white. My lakes freeze, my leaves fall, turn yellowredbrown, waste away. They leave my tree branches to reach desperately out for their fallen friends, but they too are suffocated by snow.

I am so cold.

And so lonely.

No-one protects me: only themselves.

The Humans in the South all run to the only shelter in my valley: the little barn with the sloped thatch roof and its dark spruce walls. It’s not big enough for all of them, and not all of them can run fast enough – most of the children are left behind. My poor children.

One little boy – “Nathan!” his Mother screams after him from the safety of the barn – trips over his untied shoelace. He tries to get up but slips again and cracks his head down on the black ice like a whip. The snow catches him, snowflakes quickly engulf him, covers the jumper that’s as red as his cold-bitten skin. Slowly, slowly, the change begins. His red jumper mutates into a red jacket. A black hat grows out of his head. Flesh becomes wood. His mouth hangs open. Little Nathan is the first to fall victim to Christmas. But not the last.

More Humans, from the North, charge to the barn but cannot get in. Those inside barricade the door. “No more!” they say. “No more room in the barn!”

Oh, please, let them in.

Those outside scream. They pierce through me like a bed of needles. But they soon quieten. The barn is no longer surrounded by Humans, but Snowmen. And Nutcrackers. Elves. They surround the barn, frozen, forever trying to enter.  They are the next to fall victim to Christmas. And won’t be the last.

Even if, one day, they will be safe enough to leave the barn, – their prison – no matter how much they hack and dig, shovel and plough: they will starve. No food can grow through my frozen ground. No fruit can grow on my barren trees. My water lies dead still in my lake.

There is no life.

I am so cold.

And dying.

Wait, what – what’s happening? My trees – they’re growing something… baubles. Baubles have sprouted from the leafless branches. The trees have new friends – but their new friends are too heavy. My weaker branches snap off and hit the ground with a mushroom cloud of snow.

Fairy Lights dance into the valley with their blinding light. The little grotesque creatures hop from branch to branch, nutcracker to nutcracker, dash across the snow, light glowing from their twisted wings. The disgusting things  line up in perfect formation, giggling. Are they making a path? A – runway?

Jinglejinglejingle

Jinglejinglejingle

Jinglejinglejingle

A red sleigh crashes down from my sky. The Reindeer that pull it thrash with their antlers, send Fairy Lights in all directions. Still, the Fairy Lights giggle.

“Hold! Hold! Hold!” says the big fat man in the suit redder than my little Nathan’s cold-bitten skin.

The Reindeer stop. Look around. Sniff.

The big fat man cracks a whip.

“Father’s going to find you,” the big fat man whispers.

The Reindeer stomp. Sniff.

“Are you sleeping? Are you awake?”

Fairy Lights giggle.

“Father Christmas is coming – for you!”

Fairy Lights illuminate the barn that protects my people and the Reindeer charge into action – the sleigh skates across me, cuts deep into me.

The Snowmen, Nutcrackers, and Elves that surround the barn unfreeze. They hammer on the door, walls, windows, once more. The rhythmic thump thump thump echoes around the valley until they eventually break in. And the screams begin again as the Humans are flushed out of the barn. It’s stopped snowing; at least they’re safe from that.

CRACK!

The big fat man – the Father of Christmas – cracks his whip from atop his sleigh. CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! With each and every CRACK! a Human becomes an Elf. With each and every CRACK! they forget me, who held them so carefully, so lovingly, since they were a baby, despite all they did to hurt me. With each and every CRACK! they kneel before him. Slaves to his w-w-w-will.

The snow is fal-falling again. The little br-br-brown barn is overcome by the wh-wh-white blizzard.

T-the co-cold. It’s too-too-too m-much. I-I-I I’m f-f-f-freezin-ing. N-no I must h-h-help th-them. I-

Ca-ca-ca-ca-can’t—