philmophlegm: (Ben Folds)
Since this doesn't happen very often, I thought I'd record it here. Now that I'm getting older (44), maybe I will get ill more often, but I think this is my first illness of 2016 which isn't bad.

Anyway, I've had some weird fluey thing. I gave it to bunn too, who had very similar (but not quite identical) symptoms. Today was my first day back doing proper work since last Wednesday, which was good because I had the last lecture of the term for my MBA students, a joint lecture with the head of the Business School. He'd had it too. As had two of the four students. As had the small daughter of one of the others. The remaining student spent the entire lecture breathing through her handkerchief.

The key symptom for me has been complete lack of energy, for days on end. That and weight loss. I've lost ten pounds in five days. That can't be healthy. And in fact it wasn't.

Feeling much better now. I had a productive day of work which means that I'm pretty much on top of my dmbsf bttpdjbuft work but way, way behind on where I want to be in terms of Shop on the Borderlands admin. And have barely started Christmas shopping. And we don't have any decorations up. Not to mention overdue housework etc.
philmophlegm: (Traveller: The New Era)
OK, before I get to the review, I need to get a disclaimer out of the way. This is a novel based on the Traveller RPG, written by the game's creator, Marc Miller. It was funded by a Kickstarter, which I backed. And Mr Miller is an online friend of mine. In fact, for a time, The Shop on the Borderlands was the only place outside of the US where you could buy a paperback or hardback copy.

So I would have bought this book whatever. I like Travelleresque science fiction (I may have mentioned that once or twice in the past), and obviously this is Travelleresque. However, the first thing that surprised me is that Miller didn't just write a novel about a free trader crew odd-jobbing around the Spinward Marches (in other words, the classic Traveller campaign format) or a mercenary company fighting bush wars on frontier planets against Zhodani-backed separatists (the other classic Traveller campaign format). Instead, this is something rather more ambitious. Here's the blurb:

"Jonathan Bland is a Decider, empowered by the Emperor himself to deal with the inevitable crises of empire. In the service of the Empire, he has killed more people than anyone in the history of Humanity, to save a hundred times as many. He died centuries ago, but they re-activate his recorded personality whenever a new threat appears. When the crisis is over, they expect he will meekly return to oblivion.

He has other ideas.

The chronicle of Bland reveals secrets of the history of the star-spanning Third Imperium and spans 400 years from early Imperium (about year 300) through the mid-post Civil War period (about year 700) touching known and unknown events you may have encountered in your own reading of the Imperium: everyday events, political intrigue, deadly dangers, Arbellatra, Capital, Encyclopediopolis, the Karand's Palace, and a Tigress-class Dreadnought.

If you know the Traveller science-fiction role-playing game, then some of this is already familiar; if not, no matter; this story introduces the vast human-dominated interstellar empire of the far future in ways only the designer and chronicler of this particular universe can."

With its episodic nature, the work it most reminded me of was Asimov's Foundation series, or at least the first two or three books. Neither author dwells too much on characterisation, preferring to get on with setting, plot and action. Each of Bland's activations is pretty much a self-contained short story, at least at first. As you get further into the book, longer term plot arcs make themselves felt in quite a subtle way. It's really a cleverly structured work of science fiction.

And that brings me to the second thing that surprised me about this book - it's a very accomplished piece of writing for a debut novelist. Really good in fact. Not coming from a major publisher probably counted against it in terms of awards, but it was shortlsted for the Dragon and got some Hugo buzz (although ultimately didn't make the shortlist). I read it not long after reading the much-hyped and much-awarded Ancillary Justice which I thought was pretty mediocre to be honest. This is in the same space opera sub-genre and was far, far better. In fact, it's the best novel I've read so far this year. Highly recommended. Consider it essential if you play or have played Traveller, and highly recommended if you don't or haven't but you like ambitious, high concept space opera.

And now a plug: you can still buy it from The Shop on the Borderlands! (and not from many other bookshops, at least outside of eBook formats)
philmophlegm: (The Shop on the Borderlands)
We've started our sale here at The Shop on the Borderlands. I won't actually start advertising this until Thursday night (ready for Black Friday), so here's your opportunity to snatch some bargains among the classic roleplaying games and boardgames. Well over 1,000 items reduced, and more than 500 of those are half price or better.

Obviously there are far too many bargains to list here, but I will pick out some of what I think are the best deals:

Our entire 13th Age range, including the core rulebook, brand new and 15% off.
Cirque for Traveller 5 - half price.
Star Wars: Edge of the Empire specialisation decks - all 35% off (and brand new)
Designers & Dragons - The Complete Four Volume History of the Roleplaying Game Industry - 25% off (and brand new, from the Kickstarter)
Dreaming Spires boardgame (brand new) 15% off
5th edition D&D Starter Set (brand new) 15% off
Numenera Core Rulebook and Player's Guide - both brand new and 15% off
Out of the Abyss Campaign for 5th edition D&D (brand new) 15% off
Princes of the Apocalypse Campaign for 5th edition D&D (brand new) 15% off
Tons of d20 and 3rd edition D&D slashed to £1, £2 or £3.
Tome of Magic (2nd edition AD&D hardback) - was £29 now £7!
Elven Fire (Shadowrun adventure) - 75% off!
GURPS Space - was £40, now £10
Horror on the Orient Express 1st edition (not the new one) - was £150 now £37.50!
Skills & Powers (AD&D 2.5th edition hardback) - 75% off!
Ruins of Zhentil Keep (AD&D boxed set) - 75% off!
RA3 Touch of Death (Ravenloft adventure) - was £30 now £7.50
HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourceboo (2nd edition AD&D) - was £36 now £9
HR2 Charlemagne's Paladins - half price
Sorcerors of Pan Tang (Stormbringer) - 75% off!
Big reductions on Shadowrun
Ars Magica 2nd edition rulebook - half price
Book of Vile Darkness (3rd edition D&D) - half price
Challenge magazines - half price
Dragon magazines - half price
Changeling: The Dreaming (World of Darkness) - half price
City of Splendors (AD&D Forgotten Realms boxed set) - half price
Dawn of the Emperors (BECMI D&D boxed set) - half-price
Droyne (Classic Traveller) - half price

...and there's loads more, but if I told you about all the great bargains now, it would take away the fun of browsing through the lists wouldn't it?

The full list of all of our SALE STOCK is here.

Oh, and we now sell Shop on the Borderlands gift vouchers too. Face it, I just solved your Christmas present buying problems, didn't I?

Odd dream

Mar. 31st, 2015 10:51 pm
philmophlegm: (The Shop on the Borderlands)
I had a really odd dream last night.

I dreamed that I'd woken up this morning (and it was explicitly this morning - specifically the 31st March) and that I'd had a huge sale overnight - for over £5000. In the dream, I knew it was the 31st March because I remember thinking that I would beat my sales target for the month after all. At first, I was surprised that the order came to so much, but on closer examination, it included 46 copies of a biography of Bill Shankly, the former Liverpool manager. Clever people will realise that this would still mean that these biographies had sold for £100+ each. Cleverer people will wonder why a shop selling classic roleplaying games is selling biographies of football managers. Stranger still, the order was to be delivered to a stall at the Labour Party conference.

While I was looking at this order, another one appeared - I'd somehow sold several books on Greek and Roman History (I don't remember all of them, but one was definitely 'From Solon to Socrates', by Victor Ehrenberg and another was 'From the Gracchi to Nero' by H.H. Scullard, which were my two main A-level textbooks) to a Francis Urquhart. This order was for £588.83 (I remember the amount exactly). There was also a third order, but I don't recall anything about that one.


  • I don't remember ever being aware of today's date in a dream before. Is this common?

  • Yes, I have been watching 'House of Cards' recently. I got the boxed set for Christmas.

  • Why would there be a stall at the Labour Party conference selling Bill Shankly biographies?

  • Why was I dreaming about Bill Shankly anyway?

philmophlegm: (The Shop on the Borderlands)
Had a fairly large order to post for the shop today - a whole bunch of 4th edition D&D books worth about £100 and weighing several kilogrammes. Interesting that while sending this in one parcel via Royal Mail would have cost in excess of £20 and only have been insured for £20 of value, by packing the order into four parcels of no more than 2kg*, it only cost £11.20, with each parcel being covered up to £20. Those postal scales I bought a while back have been a sound investment.

* One of them came to 1.964kg. It was close enough that I didn't even include the invoice to save on weight.
philmophlegm: (The Shop on the Borderlands)
We've just had a bunch of new stock in at The Shop on the Borderlands. One item in particular that I thought mighty possibly be of interest to some people here is a brand new boardgame called 'Dreaming Spires'...

Read more... )
philmophlegm: (911)
I don't do posts like this very often, so possibly people don't know what I'm up to.

Read more... )
philmophlegm: (3D Monster Maze)

Bah humbug.

Two things have really got me annoyed this afternoon and frankly put me in something of a bad mood. This is a shame, because earlier I was in a good mood, having returned from lunch with a friend to find that my RPG shop had taken two substantial orders from France in my absence.

Both those orders came on the back of a little bit of digital marketing. I wrote a couple of blog posts. The first simply reproduced Dungeon Magazine's 2004 list of the 30 Greatest D&D Adventures of All Time, while the second explained what was wrong with the original article and suggested 20 more adventures. I then included both posts in an email newsletter, sent the newsletter to existing customers and posted about the articles on a couple of relevant facebook groups. Lots of interest, discussion, likes etc on the facebook page, and subsequently these two sales this afternoon.

And then one guy posted this in response: )

philmophlegm: (D&D Basic)

I have a new business. It's called The Shop on the Borderlands and it's an online retailer of used / secondhand / classic / old / out-of-print roleplaying games. Please have a look around, and if you know any roleplayers point them at it. We're also on Facebook and Twitter (@ShopBorderlands), so like and follow the shop too if you're interested.


philmophlegm: (Default)

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