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Issue 11 Autumn 2011      The Magazine for Dysfunctional Roleplayers

Hi everyone,

After a coma so long it's amazing Robin Williams hasn't turned up to try some kind of miracle cure on it, Critical Miss is back. Like the parrot, it was indeed, not dead, but merely sleeping.

A lot's changed since the first issue of Critical Miss back in the 20th century's 1998. Back then, the fastest a civilian airliner could do was Mach two and the largest number of astronauts that could be lifted into space by a single spacecraft was seven. In addition, we had experienced the end of history, the stock markets were booming, and we were looking ahead to an era of peace and prosperity.


In my own life, in the five and a half years since Issue 10, I've written a novel, moved to Brighton (and yes, I might have just a few too many books!), become a bus spotter, bollocked my mother for denying me my own chance to experience, even second-hand, genuine space exploration, ranted about being shafted by my web hosters, ranted about being shafted by my cable company, spotted a dream home that never was, won a prize for roleplaying, had a previous Critical Miss article go viral, got trapped in my own bathroom, tried my hand at Star Trek fan fiction, lost loved ones, reviewed suitcases, avenged 2005's failure by successfully climbing Arthur's Seat (some crap pictures, some better pictures), and found a crashed Victorian spaceship in Pall Mall that led to a giant, mechanical, walking elephant, with people on board. As you do.

Anyway, here's Issue 11. Hope it was worth the wait.

Jonny Nexus, Editor and Chief-Writer, Critical Miss Magazine.

P.S. Since our last issue, some thirty-five dog/Internet years ago, we've seen the rise of the apparently unstoppable juggernaut that is Facebook. There are many fears and concerns about Facebook's attitude to privacy and competition, all of which I've completely ignored in creating a Facebook page for Critical Miss. If you want to tell me what you thought about either this issue of Critical Miss or any of the previous ones, please head on over to

P.P.S. I've taken the liberty of reproducing a few pieces that I previously published on my blog. Just so that regular blog readers know to skip these, I've marked them with a big •RECYCLED• tag.

General Features

Guide Man Down - How To Handle Player Absence

Life is complicated, and has a habit of getting in the way. We can't always make every game session, and sometimes the game has to go ahead without us. But what is the best way to deal with a player's absence? We discuss some of the options.

Tale Jonny: The Early Years

Long-time readers will be familiar with the Critical Miss gang: Bubba, General Tangent, Bog Boy, John, Mark, TAFKAC and the others. But those weren't the guys I started roleplaying with. I've not much mentioned my teenaged roleplaying years, largely because the memories were too traumatic. But now I will.

Free Game It's Me, Dave!

A fun and simple, albeit mildly sociopathic, game of bluff, bullshit and social manipulation. Can you convince a random member of the public that you're his long-lost mate, Dave?

Fiction Game Night

Six gods sit down to spend an evening roleplaying. Really badly.

Tale The Night I Broke Monopoly

In Issue 10 of CM, I wrote an article about how to play "real Monopoly": that is by the actual rules as written. But many years previously, in a fit of youthful hubris, I tried adding some new rules to Monopoly. And broke more than just the game.

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The New Hero

The New Hero is an anthology of short stories featuring iconic pulp heroes from new fiction publisher Stone Skin Press (an offshoot of renowned RPG publisher Pelgrane Press). It's part of an ongoing series edited by the seriously cool Robin Laws, which will feature stories from such noted authors as Ed Greenwood, Adam Marek, Alex Bledsoe, Jesse Bullington, Richard Dansky, Monte Cook, Matt Forbeck, Julia Bond Ellingboe, Kyla Ward, and, erm, me, Jonny Nexus (and lots of other quality writers).

I wrote a little piece about my story "On Her Majesty's Deep Space Service" on my blog. Some of the other authors have also written "teaser pieces": Monte Cook describes "Sundown in Sorrow's Hollow"; Matt Forbeck describes "Friends Like These"; Jesse Bullington describes "Saturday's Children"; Graeme Davis describes "Against the Air Pirates"; and Kenneth Hite describes "Bad Beat For Aaron Burr". I'm really excited about being in The New Hero, can't wait for it to come out, and hope that you'll all check it out when it does.

* * * * *

Free Game Yes I Sank Your Fucking Barge

A fun and quick, Battleships-like, family game for up to four players, inspired, of course, by this and this. (And for those wondering what happened to my London Underground based game, "Slot Bob Crow", that one still needs a bit more playtesting).

Links Me Voici en Français

Dans le numéro precedent, j'ai remarqué que l'un des mes articles avait été traduit en français par les gars responsables de la version française de Places to Go, People to Be. Depuis lors, cette équipe en a traduit beaucoup plus des mes articles. Si êtes francophone, voilà les liens. Sinon, désolé.

Spotlight The Elfish Gene •RECYCLED•

To describe Mark Barrowcliffe's 2007 roleplaying memoir "The Elfish Gene" as "mildly controversial" would be something of an understatement. One guy I met summarised the book's take on roleplaying as: Imagine if at the end of Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby turned round and said that he didn't watch football anymore, because only wankers watch football.

Since I heard those words, I've met Mark and he's become quite a good mate. But before then, I took a look at this apparently incendary work and found it to be actually rather good.

Thought Grabbing Chekhov's Gun

When Chekhov delivered his famous bit of advice he was talking about plays and books. But can his literary technique be of any help to us roleplayers?

Report Blockbuster - Cop Show Meets The Norfolk Broads •PARTLY RECYCLED•

James Wallis's Cop Show, unpublished, but playtested at various conventions, is the RPG of bad 70s and 80s police action TV programmes. I was looking for something fun and fast to GM (perhaps inspired by this post), so I dropped James a line and asked if I could have a copy. He said yes. Here's what happened. And for more James, check out this brilliant geophyical analysis of the World of Warcraft world.

(Extra: James has let me know that he's gone back to work on Cop Show and is planning on releasing it later this year. If you want to know more, check out his blog.)

Tale The Ghosts of Magic Past •RECYCLED•

In which my previous, negative strategies playing Magic: The Gathering come back to haunt me during a game of RoboRally.

Guide You Utter Munchkin!

What better way could there be for a man to bond with his fiancé and his daughter than through a nice, friendly game of Munchkin? Tim Maidment thought he'd give it a try, but things didn't quite go as he'd intended...

Free Game Jukebox Musical - A Game of Plots and Writing •PARTLY RECYCLED•

A game for those into creative writing. Do you think you've got the plot-fu skills to take on your friends? Well here's a fun and creative way of finding out.

Spotlight Troops

Troops, Kevin Rubio's 1997 Cops parody set in the Star Wars universe is still, 14 years later, probably the best fan film I have ever seen. It's got brilliant production qualities, a witty, clever script, and very good acting. Personally, I think it's the best Star Wars film to come out since Return of the Jedi, and yes, I am including the prequels in that. So having recently discovered that, hard though it is to believe, there are some people who haven't seen it, I clearly had to spotlight it here.

Of course, having just watched it again, I now really want to go and play a police/cops/detective series set in the Star Wars universe, with some nice neat Gumshoe rules.

Convention Reports

Report GenCon 2008 •PARTLY RECYCLED•

We - me, Jules, Bubba and Syleth (Mrs Bubba) - went to GenCon to try and sell copies of my novel. Here's the story, with pics.

Report Eastercon 2010 •RECYCLED•

Before Game Night was published, my fan experience had been limited purely to gaming conventions. But my quest to sell copies of my book led me to the entirely new world of science-fiction conventions - a world just as geeky, but rather wonderfully different. After selling Game Night at Eastercon 2008 and Eastercon 2009, I headed for 2010's edition...

Critical Miss for Dogs

Since the last issue of Critical Miss, I've acquired a dog. You can find her on Twitter as @4pawsnexus. With her help, I've put together this section for the benefit of our four-legged friends. (The dog ones that is. I'm afraid 4Paw's views on cats could be described as somewhat prejudicial and reactionary.)

Guide Dog Chess

Dog Chess is a game suitable for dogs of all shapes and sizes. It requires only a ball, a reasonably clear playing area, and an owner vulnerable to psychological manipulation.

Snippet Things My Dog Has Taught Me •RECYCLED•

4Paws has taught me many things since she wandered into my life. Here are just a few.

Agony Ask Dr 4Paws

Contrary to popular belief, a dog's life can be quite confusing and difficult sometimes. 4Paws delves into some of our four-legged reader's problems.

That's about it, but there are two things I'd like to say. Firstly, if you're a new reader, remember to check out the ten back issues of Critical Miss.

Secondly, if you haven't already done so, you can check out our Critical Miss Facebook page, for discussions on this issue, and to be alerted when we publish another.

Thirdly, please consider buying a copy of my novel Game Night, which at the moment is priced at a bargain 99c/75p. You can find details here. I've never asked for a penny for Critical Miss. It's always been absolutely free with not even a tip jar. It's still free, but think of Game Night as that tip jar. If you want to say thanks for Critical Miss, this is how. And besides, this is the book that Steve Darlington of RPGNet described as: "the best novel ever written about gaming." If you like Critical Miss, I'm pretty sure you'll love Game Night.

Lastly, thanks to Steve Dempsey for the French translations (in this issue itself). I appreciate it.

And that really is it, for now. Thank you and good night...

Critical Miss Magazine is published four times a year  three times a year when we can be arsed, by the Critical Miss Gaming Society Jonny Nexus.

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