Category Archives: writing

My Life as a Grog(nard)

So I’ve not been posting much here on My Life as a Grog for a number of reasons.

I have a deep love of ArM5 and I’m proud of the material I’ve contributed to the game over the years (both in the official line but also through this blog, the early days of Marko’s Light of Andorra PBP online Saga, and the fanzines Hermes Portal and the two incarnations of Sub Rosa). However, going back and rejigging the pages of this site with all I’ve learnt about blogging and recycling the material isn’t a high priority for me sorry.

As much as I want this site to be a “Point of Light” between Ars Magica editions as suggested recently by Timothy on the forums, I’m really not going to be feeding the flame as actively as once I was able to and my interests aren’t really “vanilla” ArM5 in any case.

So I’ve gone back to my roots a bit more, shifted to a different main nom de plume (“The Ranting Savant”) and looked back on “Old School Roleplaying” and some of my juvenilia – mainly Planescape material when Jon Winter’s I am the Mimir was more than a husk floating in the digital Astral Sea…

My current active blogs are:

I’m still contactable via the Atlas Forums as Jarkman or by my various RPG related private email addresses for specific questions about aspects of my work, but I’ve enjoying the nostalgia trip and working in a more “rules-lite” design space for now.

Who knows I may be back from Twilight at some stage but for now…

Vale sodales!





The Grog in Review (2014)

OK, so I received this new report about this blog when I was on leave, and therefore this is a bit late but I really had better things to do on New Year’s eve fortunately and I’ve now had some time to reflect on this and digest it’s significance.

I think it’s been a good year, at least for the ‘Grog overall, and my development as a writer in general. Although I don’t really have a prior summary (apart from this interim review I generated myself), over the last year I seem to have blogged more, blogged better and generated a whole lot more interest in the site – something I’m very thankful for, although clearly I’m still a long way away from quitting my day job…

Continue reading The Grog in Review (2014)

Sub Rosa Issue Contents Collated

I often refer to Sub Rosa for inspiration and ideas.

There’s now well over 100 articles written for ArM5 to date.

Sub Rosa Website May 2014

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a collected contents (like the one for its predecessor Hermes Portal found here) or an index, so decided to bug Mark and Ben about it. Although there is some information in the review thread over at the Atlas Games Forums, they both thought it was a good idea.

I understand that indexes take a long time to compile. Then I thought apart from some repetitive formatting tasks, a contents summary is relatively easy to construct, so I decided I may as well just save them some trouble and make one myself.

Click here for the collated contents, which I’ll try and keep up to date as new issues are released and notify the forums when I do an update.

For those of you interested in older fanzine articles, the compiled contents of the 15 issues of Sub Rosa’s predecessor, Hermes Portal (2001-2005, edited by Eric Kouris) can be found here. Although dealing mainly with ArM4, all the past issues have been made available as free PDF downloads and there are a load of good ideas to be found.

Also, I don’t speak French, but if you do or if you employ  Google Chrome’s Translate function you might be able to access the old French fanzine, Ars Mag(published up until 2001 IIRC, also by Eric Kouris, but the link appears to be currently broken (someone let me know if they have access to these).


Hooking in to the latest supplement

ArM5 Hooks

I’m enjoying my recently picked up copy of Hooks, the latest ArM5 supplement released in softcover this last month.

It’s an interesting concept for a book, part a collection of starter adventures, part primer and part… something else.

I think it’s going to take a while for me to work out how best to use this from a writing perspective, although I’ve written some thoughts about the book here in the newly renamed “Reflections” tab  – as I never really intended to write reviews, so this seems a better group name for the pages here.

I need to digest the format a bit more I think, but it looks like a structure I might be able to have a bit of fun with for a few projects (Provencal, Mythic Genoa, perhaps the Mythos concepts).





Inklewriter as a Tool for Ars Fiction?

So I’m in Paris… on vacation. Which means I’m reading a lot of books (and rereading PDF versions of my collection of ArM5 products, including the recently released in PDF format, Against the Dark) , mainly via my Kindle app on my iPad Mini (saves on luggage weight definitely).  In addition, I’ve been stumbling my way through two old favourites, the first  two books of Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, except this time around they’ve been reinvented as by Inkle apps with graphics, an interactive map and some basic animation. The whole presentation gives the same effect as the original books but in a smoother format.

The basic engine behind the app is Inklewriter, an online editor that allows writing, tracking and compilation of multi-path stories (without graphics and animation effects admittedly). A bookmarking system and in-built logic allows for conditional events to restrict or open up various options in the main story line depending on choices made earlier eg. the paths available become dependent on choosing a certain route earlier, obtaining a particular item or otherwise interacting with the non-linear story in a definite way. Importantly, the site includes a tutorial using the same format to clearly demonstrate how the editor works and a sample story “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual”, a Sherlock Holmes piece that highlights the reading process. Additional optional functionality includes capacity to publish to e-Book and Kindle format but requires registration and/or a small conversion fee.

I think the format has a lot of potential, although perhaps its application to Ars Magica may seem limited at first when faced with the complexity of the ArM5 magic system and the near limitless number of options available to a beginning Hermetic magus. However, a story based around grogs, Companions (including Redcaps) and perhaps even apprentices seems very possible.

Perhaps next years’s NaGaDeMon or NaNoWriMo challenge?

My NaGaDeMon Epic Fail :(

OK, so 30 Redcap Magic Items in a month seemed achievable right?

Wrong. 😦

Life does that – sickness in the family, unexpected pressures at work, trying to buy (and sell) a house while planning a trip to Europe etc etc.

Although it doesn’t excuse anything, I notice that the other attempts at NaNoWriMo / NaGaDeMon similarly stalled. (Although Timothy’s “Vanilla Covenant” project seems to be faring well, even though he is the first to admit he’s not really playing by the rules).

Still, it was a real fun start and one post and page per week on this blog wasn’t a bad achievement compared to some of the months I’ve been blogging. I’m really proud of the makila (walking sticks) and lickstone concepts – sure I lifted the latter concept completely from Timothy and just rebadged it for ArM5, but it seems a given to me that magical golden dental plates are a must for any self-respecting fashion conscious 13th century Redcap! 🙂

I found by focusing on a particular topic I actually managed to accumulate a lot of interesting ideas that I’ll hopefully use in the future – tattoos, Faeries as Items, magical feathers and much much more – perhaps even Marco’s amazing Faerie shoes. It also got me thinking about some other concepts: low-level common items with basic magics, the role of hedge magic items for Redcaps, mutable items complements, guidelines for single-use items and their replacements, Redcaps using stories as items, Faerie Item Companions, the interaction between Faerie charms and Redcaps… I think there’s actually a lot to be explored here so I do want to eventually write a full 30 posts / pages on Redcap magic items.

On a technical note, I also learnt quite a bit more about blogging style and formatting, which I think will help as I evolve the rest of the blog and go back and correct some of the issues I had initially with formatting exported text from cut files of supplements or Sub Rosa articles.

Thanks to those who commented on the Atlas Games forums or here on the blog!

Storytelling 101

I’ve decided to enrol in an online storytelling course called the “Future of Storytelling” over at iversity here. I’m hoping it may give me some insight into writing about Faeries, and also about storytelling in the context of ArM5 – telling stories through RPG design but I suspect it will also be intellectually stimulating in its own right.

I have no idea how I’m going to keep up with any course work but the lectures are weekly and can be viewed online, so perhaps the stimulation and material will be get me motivated enough?

Shameless Plug for House Diedne…

House Diedne
Matt Ryan and Tobias Wheeler, authors of the recent article “The Watchers in Diana‘s Sphere” article on House Diedne in Sub Rosa #13 have announced they plan to update their blog every Friday with new material on the Thirteenth House.

I’ve enjoyed the first two entries greatly and look forward to further entries to come – so head over there and sign up to follow them for updates in the weeks to come!

(And then come back here and browse around – more material coming soon!)

There is no Mythic India, there is only al-Hind

SindhTransoxbordersmapThe land of Al-Hind, on the far banks of the great river Indus, is mentioned briefly in The Cradle and the Crescent as a possible destination of merchants, the source of over-sized fantastic elephants and a place of many other marvels. There are vague references to the Mythic Muslim holdings of al-Sindh on the near banks of the Indus but much of this material was later cut.

Mythic India is deliberately not mentioned.

This is because it does not exist.

Continue reading There is no Mythic India, there is only al-Hind

Thanks to Games From Folktales

Timothy Ferguson, an inspiration and great help to me with my writing, has kindly posted about this blog over at Games from Folktales. Given that “My Life as a Grog” was inspired by his own blog, it’s much appreciated.

Therefore in a blatant attempt at self-reciprocating back-scratching, I’d strongly suggest you check out his blog in kind to see where I’m headed with this (and then of course come back here and keep reading!)