Saturday 13 July 2024

New Crown should mean new booklets, business sheets, eventually.

From a BBC news report:

Royal Mail has announced a change in its brand logo, which is known as the cruciform.

The Cruciform is comprised of the words ‘Royal Mail’ (or ‘Post Brenhinol’ for Wales) in yellow double line lettering below St Edward’s Crown and is used on the company’s vehicle livery, building logos, online branding and stationery.

The Cruciform will now feature the Tudor Crown, used by King Charles, and will be seen on assets as the business begins the transition to using the new logo. In line with guidance from the Royal Household, the new cruciform will be applied to new and replacement signage, stationery and vehicles to avoid unnecessary expenditure or waste.



The Royal Cypher on postboxes in Scotland
The King’s cypher will not be applied to new postboxes in Scotland. Since 1955 Scottish postboxes have been distinguished by the St Andrews crown rather than the monarch’s cypher. There will be no change of policy on future postboxes in Scotland.

In theory this would mean a change to the covers of all retail booklets and business sheets.


Thursday 11 July 2024

Gamers alert: Dungeons and Dragons stamp issue 25 July 2024

These stamps mark the 50th anniversary of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS®, the iconic fantasy roleplaying game that has become a cultural phenomenon. 

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2024, brought a bold new type of game to tabletops all over the world, one in which players collaborate by telling an open-ended story guided by books, dice and their own imaginations. By inviting participants to imagine themselves as wizards, warriors and other adventurers in exciting and treacherous fantasy worlds, the game opened doors to whole new universes of creativity for generations of players.

From its Midwestern roots as a niche pastime, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS has grown into a global phenomenon, with an estimated 64 million fans worldwide since its debut in 1974.

If you think that doesn't read like Royal Mail's usual style it is because that is the blurb from the United States Postal Service, which issues its own commemoration on 1 August.

Back to Royal Mail (edited for typos)

D&D role-playing game involves storytelling in worlds of swords and sorcery, driven by imagination. Unlike a game of make-believe, D&D gives structure to the stories to determine the consequences of the adventurers’ actions. Players roll polyhedral dice to resolve whether their attacks hit or miss or what actions their adventurers can complete next. The game has no real end, when one story or quest wraps up, another can begin. 

Both the stamps and the miniature sheet have been illustrated by British artist Wayne Reynolds. Reynolds has worked on various D&D games, handbooks and guides over the years. When shining an ultra-violet light over the stamps, a mystical surprise will be revealed.

The Stamps

Set of 8 Dungeons and Dragons stamps (4 x 1st, 4 x £2.50) issued 25 July 2024.



D&D icons revealed by ultra-violet light, in the same order as above.

1st class:
Red Dragon: A breed of chromatic dragon, evil creatures who are fearsome and cruel.
Owlbear: A monstrous cross between a giant owl and a bear, aggressive and ferocious in nature.
Vecna: A powerful wizard turned lich (spellcasters who seek to defy death by magic).
Gelatinous Cube: A ten-foot cube of transparent gelatinous ooze that can absorb and digest organic matter.

£2.50:
Mind Flayer: Also known as illithids, Mind Flayers are humanoid creatures with an octopus-like face and can control the minds of others.
Mimic: A shape-shifting monster that can disguise itself as an inanimate object, commonly a chest.
Displacer Beast: A monstrous cat-like creature who happily lures, traps and toys with a target before turning it into their next meal.
Beholder: A terrifying aberration comprising of a floating body with large-fanged mouth and single eye.

Miniature Sheet

A set of 6 1st class stamps set in an illustration showing some of the choices of characters in the game: Tiefling Rogue, Human Bard, Halfling Cleric, Elf Fighter, Dwarf Paladin and Dragonborn Wizard.

All 1st class: 

Tiefling Rogue: A versatile and powerful character build, descended from devils, a creature of darkness and finesse. 
Human Bard:  A master of song, speech and magic
Halfling Cleric:  A blend of the diminutive yet charismatic Halfling race with the divine healing powers of a Cleric.
Elf Fighter: A super-effective ranged fighter, with intelligence, dark vision and a proficiency in perception.
Dwarf Paladin: Often soldiers who are trained to protect the dwarven clerics from dangers, regarded as priests who focus on martial arts for defending others instead of themselves.
Dragonborn Wizard: Tall, muscular reptiles with the blood of the dragons, who look very much like dragons but lack wings or a tail. They master a particular skill as a lifetime goal.

Technical Details

The 35 x 37 mm stamps were designed by Common Curiosity and Royal Mail Group Ltd, using illustrations by Wayne Reynolds. They are printed in sheets of 48 by Cartor Security Printers in lithography perforated 14½ x 14 on ordinary gummed paper.  

The 192 x 74 mm miniature sheet is printed in lithography on self-adhesive paper. The stamps sizes are 27 x 37 mm, except for Dragonborn Wizard (60 x 21 mm), and Dwarf Paladin (50 x 30 mm). Perforations 14, except Dragonbord Wizard (14½ x 14).

Dungeons & Dragons, D&D, and the ampersand logo are © 2024 and trademark Wizards of the Coast LLC and used with permission.

Prestige Stamp Book

Panes 1 & 2 (stamps) are printed in litho and PVA gum. The mixed definitive pane 3, is printed in gravure & self-adhesive. The Minisheet stamp panes 4&5 are printed in litho & self-adhesive, the same as the minisheet. The minisheet stamps will have separate individual catalogue numbers.  




Collector Sheet

A commemorative collectible featuring 10 stamps from the mint stamp set with accompanying labels showing ten of the locations of the game. The sheet includes ten of the Dungeons & Dragons stamps – the eight stamps in the main set with the 1st Class Red Dragon, and the £2.50 Monster; Beholder, repeated.
Note: All stamps and accompanying labels are printed in litho and self-adhesive, making these different from the stamp set which are litho and PVA Gum.

Dungeons and Dragons Collectors Sheet of 10 stamps and labels.

Products

Set of 8 stamps, miniature sheet, first day covers (3), presentation pack, prestige stamp book, limited edition PSB, press sheet of 8 miniature sheets, collectors sheet, medal covers, ingot covers, fan sheets (Owlbear, Vecna), framed products, signed-by-the-illustrator products.


USPS set of 10 Dungeons & Dragons Forever (ie inland letter rate NVI) stamps issued 1 August 2024.

[The stamps are produced in a pane of 20; the description is in the order of the top two rows, whilst the illustration is of the lower tow rows!]

A bronze dragon wearing a necklace glances down at a blue plesiosaur in an illustration that appeared in the 2023 book The Practically Complete Guide to Dragons.

The five-headed Tiamat, queen of evil dragons, appears in an illustration that appeared in the 2021 book Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons. Tiamat has been featured in D&D materials since the 1970s and was first encountered by name in the 1977 Monster Manual.

A lone figure lost in a maze, perhaps the victim of a ten-minute “maze” spell, appears in an illustration that appeared in the 2020 book Wizards and Spells: A Young Adventurer’s Guide.

A blue-robed figure casts a “magic missile” spell in artwork that appeared in the 2014 edition of the Player’s Handbook.

The archlich Acererak raises an army of the dead in an illustration that appeared on the cover of the 2014 edition of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Acererak has appeared in D&D materials since 1978, when he debuted in the classic adventure Tomb of Horrors.

Drizzt Do’Urden, the heroic drow ranger featured in dozens of novels and numerous D&D gaming materials since 1988, stands against a wintry backdrop. Drizzt is known for breaking from an evil cult in the Underdark in favor of heroism and friendship on the surface.

A warrior with his back to the viewer fights a massive red dragon in a detail from an illustration that appeared on the box cover of the popular 1983 D&D Basic Set, often known simply as the “red box.” This illustration has since become one of the most recognizable pieces of art in the history of the game.

A character holds a pan of toxic green dragon’s blood over her head, preparing to bathe in it in the hope of gaining magical powers, in an illustration that appeared in the 2021 book Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons.

A death knight rides a nightmare, backed by an army of the undead and a sinister, flame-shrouded castle, in an illustration that appeared in the 2020 book Beasts and Behemoths: A Young Adventurer’s Guide.

A purple worm, a fearsome creature that burrows through the earth and leaves massive tunnels in its wake, rises from the ground and coils, its teeth on display, in an illustration that appeared in the 2014 edition of the Monster Manual.

These stamps (face value $7.30) may be bought from the USPS website - although some collectors have reported difficulties in buying online from outside the USPS. If you cannot buy from your usual dealer, I may be able to help.


Royal Mail has taken the unusual step of reproducing the text of the Presentation Pack "to help with knowledge and context of the Dungeons and Dragons phenomena". (Links added by me.)

Dungeons & Dragons was created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in Wisconsin, USA. Their joint design was published in 1974 and was imported to the UK by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson soon after. Since then, through multiple editions and revisions, an estimated 50 million people around the world have rolled dice in what is often cited as the first modern role-playing game.

D&D’s almost immediate success led to many other tabletop games adopting its conventions and mechanics, such as dice and character sheets, as well as the concept of 'levelling up', effectively reinventing the tabletop gaming industry. Although many prewritten adventures and campaigns are available, lots of D&D players and DMs come up with their own bespoke campaigns, classes and characters, leading to a thriving homegrown community online. The only items that players technically need to participate in a game of D&D are their character sheet, a set of six polyhedral dice and the basic D&D rules and player guide, known as the Player’s Handbook, or PHB. Some campaigns use player models and miniature terrain for visual reference during key set pieces, though this is not strictly necessary – many players and DMs prefer to use their own imagination to picture settings and scenarios; this is known as 'theatre of the mind'.

In 1997, the game was acquired by Wizards of the Coast. Five decades after its creation, D&D has recently enjoyed something of a renaissance. Television shows such as Community and Stranger Things helped challenge negative cultural stereotypes about the game and its players, while online actual play shows – D&D campaigns played as-live on YouTube and Twitch, such as Critical Role and High Rollers – helped demystify the entire process of playing the game, which can seem complex to the uninitiated. People can now watch hundreds of hours of incredibly popular play sessions that showcase the fun, chaos and creativity of a good campaign. Thanks in part to these shows, the new rules and the emergence of online tools to help D&D groups play with each other remotely, an even more vibrant and diverse community has emerged, expanding the world of D&D with cosplay, fan art, animation and countless other endeavours that showcase the limitless imagination role-playing games can inspire in their players. 

At its heart, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is a role-playing game that involves storytelling and improvisation. A group of players imagines the exciting journeys of a party of adventurers, with many key actions and moments dictated by the chance roll of a die. One person in a game takes on the role of the Dungeon Master, or DM, who acts as both a referee and the lead storyteller. While each of the other players gets to create and speak as a single character, the DM fills the role of everyone and anyone else the player characters may encounter on their adventure, while also describing the world and events as they unfold around the party. A play session of D&D can take multiple hours to complete, and adventures that take place over many play sessions are known as campaigns. Different D&D groups get together for campaigns that span weeks, months or even years, although ‘one-shots’ – single games that are just a few hours long – are also popular.

No two sessions of D&D will ever be the same, as much of the excitement, creativity and adventure is driven by the players’ imagination. In a typical D&D session, the DM may set puzzles or traps for the group to work together to solve, engage them in combat against other humanoids or monsters, or simply allow them to explore the world, improvising as the players role-play their character’s interactions with the fantasy world around them. The tone can be as serious or as comical as the group decides. The success of all the interactions is dictated by players’ individual ability scores, skills and attributes, recorded on their character sheets. These vary depending on a given character’s class, level and species, as well as any proficiencies that character may possess and any powers granted through special weapons, spells or potions.

All players have six basic scores: Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, Wisdom, Constitution and Charisma. In addition, different skills are listed on the character sheet; for example, Intimidation and Persuasion for Charisma, and Stealth and Acrobatics for Dexterity. When the DM presents a party with a dilemma – a locked door, for instance – it is then up to the players how to go about tackling the obstacle based on their ingenuity and creativity, as well as their classes and specific skills. A barbarian may choose to try to smash the door down, for example, while a rogue might try to pick the lock. Another player might try to find a different way to progress entirely: a bard might try and sweet-talk someone into unlocking the door for them, while a druid might shapeshift into a spider and crawl under the frame. 

Once the player describes what it is they want to attempt, the DM will have them roll an ability check with a 20-sided dice, or a ‘d20’. The more difficult the proposed action, the higher the player must roll to succeed. If the player rolls higher than that number, they are successful in performing their action. Sometimes, the DM will also have players roll dice to avoid certain outcomes. Other dice, with a different number of sides, are also used in D&D, most often to see what damage is dealt with an attack or spell. 

Combat sees players pitted against all kinds of fantastical monsters, from dragons to iconic D&D creatures such as gelatinous cubes, owlbears, mimics and beholders. How players may attack or defend themselves and their group is largely down to their class: Sorcerers will have many spectacular spellcasting abilities, while a bard can use their innate charisma to inspire their friends to victory. Of course, the group need not fight the monster – perhaps they could befriend it instead? With the right skills or spells and a lucky dice roll, that is certainly possible.

The real fun of D&D comes when players use their abilities and spells in creative ways to overcome obstacles and the DM encourages this spirit of ingenuity to foster an exciting and collaborative atmosphere, where it feels like anything can happen.


Friday 5 July 2024

July Slogan Postmarks and other interesting postal markings.

With the general election campaign in full swing, the Postal Vote slogan continued into July.  Other postmarks which I suggested might appear in June did not, and Dog Awareness Week is marked this month.

The reminder to return Postal Votes early.   A very clear example from Birmingham Mail Centre dated 02/07/2024 has been sent by JG,

Return your
postal vote early
for 4 July election
 

Postal Vote slogan Birmingham Mail Centre 02/07/2024


That was the last day for the voting slogan, and it was replaced the next day with the Dog Awareness Week slogan with the usual circular design, but without the dates, and with the added slogan Protect Your Postie.  Here's one from JG from SE Wales 03/07/2024.

DOG Awareness Week slogan, De Dd Cymru SE Wales 03/07/2024

UPDATE:  Thanks to JE for the other layout of this slogan from Croydon Mail Centre 04-07-2024

DOG Awareness Week slogan, Croydon Mail Centre 04-07-2024

 






OTHER POSTMARKS AND POSTAL MARKINGS


<Nothing to report yet>




If you have any other slogans used this month, or any other interesting postal markings from any period or place, please send them to the email address in the top right of this blog.  Thank you.

Remember, all postmarks appearing in July will be added to this post, so check here before you spend time scanning and emailing. 


Tuesday 2 July 2024

You can use stamps for posting Special Delivery and other premium mail.

You knew that, of course?  We all do - we've been using the postal service for up to 60 years and we know what's what, more or less - until the rules change.

So why raise the point?  Well the problem lies mainly with Business users, but I can see that the misinformation currently being spread by Royal Mail could also start coming from Post Office especially as more and more new people are employed in customer-facing positions.


Just as an aside on this last point, after the stamp alongside was withdrawn from sale in mid-2021, I took some mail to a sub-PO counter in a local Co-op corner shop.  

It weighed more than 100g, so I used one of these stamps and others. The person who served me didn't recognise it, didn't know how much it was worth, so didn't know whether the item was fully paid, and declined to accept it.  I had to take it to the local Crown Office where no such problems exist.

Anyway, I digress.  This (below in red) is what a business user was told by Royal Mail Business Customer Service when he tried to claim on a delayed Special Delivery packet:

that Postage Stamps would not be valid for paying the fee and that the use of barcodes (which we have on rolls of 250/500) could not be used.

That this was being phased out and that customers were advised last January. People using these barcodes and postage stamps as payment would have the item Surcharged.

She said that you have 3 ways to get a Barcode and have it paid for.

1) Online and Pay by credit card

2) Take it to the Post Office and get a computer generated Barcode.

3) Use a Franking Machine

 

Like I said above, misinformation - in the extreme.  So I also phoned Royal Mail Business Customer Service and had a very interesting discussion. 

Being an ex-civil servant and knowing the way bureaucracies work, I declined to accept what I was told (which was much the same).  I pointed out that until recently Royal Mail actually issued stamps which had a Special Delivery inscription for two weights.

I politely suggested that the Customer Service Assistant went and asked someone who had worked in Royal Mail for a long time, as I had - just the previous week - sent some invalidated stamps to the Swapout scheme, using stamps to pay for Special Delivery, and another by International Tracked to Canada.

(It would be nice if Royal Mail changed their 'hold' music from a short loop.  (When I called my car insurance company this week I was treated to a long play list of Beatles hits!)  It doesn't take long for it to become tedious.)

Eventually the point was conceded, but I was reminded that the items must be posted at a Post Office counter, not in a street box.  I should have held back, but replied that, "yes, that is the way that it has been since registration was introduced in the 19th century".   

I have now got written (email) confirmation of the point - although this really only addresses people posting at Post Office, but not businesses who have their mail collected.  I hope to get clarification on that soon.



 

Monday 1 July 2024

Small stock of Regional Machins found - were we sold out when you ordered?

In a stockbook which I though had all used stamps in,  I found a very small stock of later Regional Machin definitives.

All at our usual low prices, there are no more than two of each.  If you ordered before and I told you we were sold out, email again and remind me when you placed the original order. Those people will get priority, but if anyone else needs these, please email very soon. 

I'm listing the SG numbers only, you all have a version of the Concise catalogue don't you?  😁

Northern Ireland: 

39 - 40 - 44 - 47 - 49 - 51 - 55 - 56  - 57 - 58 - 61 - 63 - 65 - 66 - 67 - 68

Scotland:

54 - 55 - 56 - 58 - 60 - 62 - 64 - 66 - 67 - 69 - 70 - 73 - 75 - 77 - 78 - 79 - 80

Wales:

40 - 41 - 45 - 48 - 50 - 52 - 56 - 57 - 58 - 59 - 62 - 64 - 66 - 67 - 68 - 69 - 70 - 73 - 76 - 77