Sunday, June 28, 2020

Once Upon A Time: Character Reference Sheets

Today's GM

Today's player

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about the game she was going to be playing in today. Her question was whether or not she needed to do a lot of preparation, like a detailed Character Reference Sheet.

There's been a lot of discussion about these in various forums and on various blogs, and I think you might find the thoughts of people like D. H. Boggs interesting. The general feeling, as near as I can tell, is that the surviving early sheets might be able to tell us about how those early games were played, and how the rules being used in those far-off days were written and used. I'm no authority on either, so I'd suggest a little web- searching might be in order for people who want to learn more.

We didn't have these sheets out at Phil's back when I got out there; they hadn't been invented yet, and all we had were 3" x 5" index cards, which Phil color-coded by our PCs temple, and we noted the various facts about our alter-egos on these. Phil's invariable rule was that if it wasn't on your card, you didn't have it. Period. As a result, we got really good about making sure that anything we had on our person was on the card, and anything else we owned was noted as being 'somewhere' on the card in a separate column.

This led, over time, into what might be described as a minor obsession with our baggage - which was helped along by our having to make notes about what was 'hold' luggage and what was 'cabin' luggage when we went on our voyages with dear old Harchar. Phil had had some ocean voyages under his belt, so he knew just exactly how long it would take to root around down in the hold to get out some particular trunk. The same thing happened in our legion days, when we had whole baggage trains to work with.

This led to our other primary record-keeping device, the note pad. I still hand these out at games, along with pencils and pens, and I advise players in the strongest possible terms to write things down. (Notes on game play also got taken, too.) I kept all this for my archives, and these are the basis for my accounts of our adventures in "To Serve The Petal Throne".

Such are the humble beginnings of the sheets we have today. Take a look around the Internet, and see what people have to say about them. All she needed for today was her gear and stuff, because she was playing in a very vintage game. A very, very vintage game...

And today's GM? Bob Meyer. Today's player? Chandra Reyer. The game? The One True Blackmoor.

Yes! My friend the Shieldmaiden is gaming with The Blackmoor Bunch.

It's a fine day, here at The Workbench.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

'WYSIWYG'? Theater Of The Mind? Let's Have A Parade!

My tiny parade
(Lord Chirine, who wishes he had some for the legion)
Getting ready for the real thing
(China News Agency)

The parade today in Red Square had eleven T-34/85s and seven Su-100s leading the Mobile Column, and I thought that it was impressive as anything that a) as many vintage tanks as this were in one place, b) they didn't run over anything that they weren't supposed to, and c) they all ran just fine, despite being pretty ancient by the standards of armored vehicles.

What this has to do with gaming is a style of gaming; in his recent interview (link in my post on Rings Of Dragon Summoning) Mr. Mornard talked about 'theater of the mind' games, where the GM/ referee described the situation and you pictured in in your head. This is a perfectly fine style of gaming; I've used it myself, as did Those Three Guys I often talk about. Phil did it quite memorably, and scared the kilts off of us doing it.

He also did what's been called 'What You See Is What You Get'; back in his salad days, he'd glue new weapons and stuff onto his little hand-carved wooden figures as they collected the stuff in his games. He still did this when I happened by, and I wound up sticking stuff onto the figures I did for our games with him over the years. I still do it, which leads to our little parade of die-cast armor.

One of the first things one learns about armored vehicles is that visibility from inside them is pretty poor; this leads to all sorts of unwelcome attention from people who are unhappy with you. While keeping one's accompanying infantry happy so that they keep a look-out for you, the prudent tanker will keep the hatches open as long as possible and keep one's head out the top and on a swivel to make sure that people with hostile intentions can be dealt with quickly and surely. Not paying attention can - and often will - get one in serious trouble.

So, in my style of game, where what you see is what you get, I like to have a way to show that the crew of the vehicle is either in or out; in this case, Anne of Bad Squiddo has thoughtfully provided a set of tank crew figures in her Red Army Women range. Since I am loath to drill into my vintage 1:43 die-cast russian toys, I got two sets of her figures and mounted them on removeable bases which can be put onto the armor to show that somebody is heads up - or not, as the case may be. And being the kind of modeler that I am, I also did the hatches as per the prototype. It's an easy way for players to see just what the current status of their situation that they are in, and it pleases my sense of how things should look.

So, we have, from left to right: 'Krokodil', with commander and loader up top; 'Fighting Girlfriend IV', with commander; 'Alligator', buttoned up; 'Sisters-in-arms', with commander; and 'Dragon', again with commander and loader. There are two different poses for the commanders, and I am very seriously thinking about getting out the very fine drill bits and drilling the one commander's hand to take the signal flags often used by Red Army tankers.

I should note that that last idea would be very important in an early-war game, where only platoon-level and higher commanders had radios. Communications at the platoon (or battery, for the self-propelled guns) level was by signal flag from the platoon commander - this makes for a truly Arnesonian style of game, as once the commanders button up nobody can talk to anybody else on the table.

Mayhem always ensues, which is why I like to run my games this way.

However, seasoned players in my games - like Mr. Mornard - have gotten wise to this over the years and so make a point of handing me a Coca-Cola; while I'm fiddling around with the bottle opener (called in Tsolyani the 'viyunlu', the 'device for creating the state of openness' - M. A. R. Barker, who ought to know) they carefully look over the game table and their forces to see what surprises I might have lurking in the dark shadows and odd corners.

'What You See Is What You Get', because I like building stuff and hearing the screams of glee and terror from my players.

Mayhem always ensues. :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Interlude - Father's Day (Late, I know, but...)

Sunday's message traffic

First Daughter
Fifth, Third, Fourth, and Second Daughters
Seventh and Sixth Daughters
Their Mother, Queen of the Internet

I do go on a bit every now and then about my family. I've been asked if they really exist, so here's the photos. There are also two sons-in-law, two grandchildren, and assorted significant others.

That's the lot; and I am very, very proud of them all.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Rings Of Dragon Summoning - I Did Warn You, Remember?

A pair of 1/48 scale P-40s for the Red Army Women
Something for the D&D side of the game...

Why, look - a perfectly good pair of Rings Of Dragon Summoning! I wonder what would happen if we touched them together?

I've been asked how, if I'm putting all this work into "Death Among The Rutabagas", I could possibly top that game with the actual S&S game. The answer is, as anyone who has seen any of my games knows, I've already gotten the end-game in hand. I will top myself; I always do.

My lovely Missus, of course, has had a lot to do this. She found us the two P-40s, one of which I repainted into Soviet colors; the other is in V AAF colors in honor of my dad who served in that formation. We'll see if the Red Army players get some air support. (JoAnn Fabrics, in the kids' crafts section.)

The giant dragon, which has eyes that glow in the dark when you throw the switch, is for the D&D players to have as their air support. (Home Depot, after-Halloween sale). She still needs her coat of gold paint, which is for a summer weekend yet to come. The flying boat is my contribution, as are the magical flying stands.


And for your delight, Mr. Mornard has appeared in an interview:

His interview starts about 1:50:00 into the show, and I suggest you give him a listen as he talks about our style of gaming. It is a long interview - maybe two hours plus, but worth listening to.


And yes, I do have the actual Rings. Three of them; one belongs to Lord Chirine, who got it from Gertie, the Great Golden Dragon of Blackmoor, and the matched pair belonging to his twin children who got them from their Dragon Godmother as a christening gift. Who happens to be that very same Great Golden Dragon.

We have some family history, here at the House of Wonders.

Friday, June 19, 2020

An Essay in Game Design - Mayhem Will Ensue!

You can lead the players to the bridge, but you can't make them cross it.

The question has been asked how all this essay on my games has anything to do with modern table-top role-playing gaming. It may very well not; what I'm doing is - hopefully- a window into a time and place in gaming where I learned some things from some people you may have heard of. Back then, we didn't have the myriad sets of rules that are out there in the market today; we had to make it up as we went along, and that - in turn - generated a lot of new rules sets.

What I'm doing is applying those lessons learned to the games I run. In this particular case, it's 'historical miniatures' - in the same way the first Braunsteins were. You recruit your players, you give them what they have to work with, you give them their objectives, and then you stand back and let the mayhem happen.

It always does, given good clever players. It's why I am in this hobby, to watch the fun as it unfolds.

More to come!