Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Yearly Update - December 6th, 1956 - Six Decades, Would You Believe It?

You must read this book. Period.

From Forge Of Ice - "A sleazy merchant and his guards"

It is my sixtieth birthday today, and I am delighted to be around to enjoy it - especially after the brain bleed four years ago. I'm a little older, and a little more dyslexic, and I don't do being cold anymore, but that's it. I am very lucky to be alive, and to be here for my family.

The family, for their part, has showered me with felicitations and sundry gifts. You've seen Akho, the new TRE Games trieme model, which came out of The Birthday Fund, and the wonderful "Temple of Set" figures from Dark Fable Miniatures, which also came out of the same source. I have also been very happily surprised by a new book, seen above, which deserves a place on everybody's bookshelf. I started reading it, and simply could not put it down until I finished it.

And the family invested in Alex Bate's new Kickstarter for his 'Forge of Ice' miniatures - he does not have a website, but he is on Facebook - and I am looking forward to getting the archtypical 'sleazy merchant' and his guards. Four of them need more sleep, and two are alert; this, to me, looks like a fun game all set up and ready to go. Alex has some wonderful figures; I have his two "Snake Priestesses", who are in with the Temple of Set crowd, and I can see some interesting times ahead for parties of adventurers.

This time of the year is also more then a little sad for me as well. It was this time last year that an old friend brought his game group over for an evening's tour of the game room and the game lounge, to see all the miniatures, games, artifacts, and costumes we'd built over the decades. It was a very pleasant time, and I was delighted to be able to talk about gaming with Phil and our travels around his world.

That is, it was a lot of fun until my friend's involvement with local LGBTQ politics came up; he announced to his game group - which was supposed to be doing Tekumel gaming - that his old Tekumel player-character had been driven out of Yan Kor (he was Yan Koryani) by, quote, "gay persecution". I was pretty flabbergasted, as this came right out of left field, and his game group - which, it turned out, was made up of LGBTQ people - were equally astounded; they were even more astounded when my friend, after dropping this conversational hand grenade, left and I wound up entertaining his gamers for another couple of very uneasy hours. It was impossible to tell who was more uncomfortable, them or I.

What really, really hurt was that my friend seemed to have forgotten that he was playing in Tekumel before he'd come out as gay, and that his PC had never come out as gay - and that I had been the GM for those games. After his guests had left my house, I went back and looked in my old game journals and listened to the tapes we'd made of those games we'd played back in the late 1980s. Couldn't find anything like he'd described; nothing. It turned out later, I found out from mutual friends, that it was all about enhancing one's position in local LGBTQ circles; politics, in other words.

I'm still hurt by all of this, and haven't been able to run a game session since. I don't know if I ever will, at this point, but we'll have to see. I've had worse happen to me and the Missus over the decades; I have hope, and look forward to the future.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, December 4th, 2016 - Sakbe Road Tower Work

Big tower to the fore, interval towers to the rear

It's been a pleasant afternoon, here at the Workbench, with a bit of work on the Sakbe road towers now done and waiting for the glue to dry. The big tower has the little watchtowers all glued on, the external facing on the outer face done, and the upper parapets in place. Next up will be the inner parapets. The two interval towers now have their lowest roadway sections glued on, and their parapets started. Lots more to do of course, including a session on the table saw to make MDF bases for all of the sections; that will probably have to wait for warmer weather, as I'll have to do it in the back yard due to the sheer size of the sheets being cut.

So far, all of this work has been in extruded styrene foam, available in from the 'big-box' DIY stores as 4' x 8' sheets. I used a lot of salvaged pink foam from a very unsuccessful set of game scenery, cut down as needed; the blue foam is part of a full sheet that I had in stock. Lots of razor knives, lots of glue, lots of right-angle try-squares, and the very handy picture-framing saw that we have. This has preset detents for all of the usual angles, and so cuts the time needed for a project like this in half - and makes accurate angled cuts very easy. Have a look:

Working in foam also makes this a very easy - and light-weight! - project. If we'd tried this back in the old days, the thing would have been made out of wood and we'd still be cutting and gluing the thing to this day.

The question has been asked,  by a great many people over the years about my projects, "Why do something like this?" My answer is, as it always has been, "Why not?"

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard somebody say, "Oh, we can't do that! It's too hard!" I could retire to a life of luxury. I freely admit that I do big projects, but then I also point to the great response that I get from gamers who walk into the game room and stop dead in astonishment at the game they are about to play.

My Scots cousins - Macdougal of Lorne, to be precise - like to quote a popular (in some circles) toast:

"He either fears his fate too much, or his desserts are small, 
who dares not put it to the touch, to win or lose it all!"

Or, as those men - like the late and very lamented Sir Christopher Lee - who wear the wings of the goddess Isis like to put it:

"Who dares, wins!"

Dare to dream. Your games will be a lot more fun, if you do...

Friday, December 2, 2016

Proof - As If You Needed It - That I Am Nuttier Than A Fruitcake; The 'Big' Sakbe Road Set

The 'big' set, in all it's foam glory

Anch'ke, nested in the new crate

The 'big' road set was a project I began almost a decade ago, and am now finally coming back to. I can only plead that getting five daughters occupied a lot of my time...

The set is fully modular, and has six roadway sections, two interval towers, and one big multi-turreted tower with gate house. The whole thing stretches about fourteen feet when all assembled as one unit. Lots of work yet to be done, like the merlons and such, but at least it is back out of storage.

There's also a storage / shipping crate, so that's done.

Anch'ke  is now in the new crate I made for it, and it too will go out to the shed when I can dragoon somebody into helping lift the box. I have to move the crate Castle Tilketl is in at the same time, but it's a half-hour bit of work to do.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, November 27th, 2016 - My Very First Real Game of D&D; Ever!

Dear old Chirine, as a 1st Level D&D PC

I'd been invited to come and play in a D&D campaign at the FLGS, and I had my first session yesterday. Several players were astonished to hear that this was my very first real game of D&D, and I had to point out that the previous GMs I'd had (Dave, Phil, and Gary) were not much into rules mechanics but rather into setting and story; as a result, I'd never really played the game 'by the book'.

The GM came up with a very good replication of Chirine as he was in early 1976; the character sheet is above. We were in Blackmoor castle's dungeon, starting on level two and moving up to level one. This was the modern d20 version of Blackmoor, not the FFG early version. The players were the usual diverse bunch, with a very useful variety of classes and skills, and they worked well together; very solid playing, very solid approach, and while I did offer some tactical advice from time to time, they really did a great job and provided this newbie with a wonderful time.

I did find a couple of things disconcerting, though. This was D&D 5.0, and I was amazed at all the numbers and number-crunching that had to be done in order to do the simplest actions. I was also amazed, after reading the rules books, at just how much 'gaming lore' had to be spelled out for people - but then, if you're selling a game to people with no knowledge of what the game is and how it works, then you have to have this kind of thing.

I also read through the two d20 Blackmoor books, and I have to say that while they are great books and a good grounding in Blackmoor, I had problems with them. I played with Dave when Blackmoor was in an earlier incarnation, and the d20 version is later and - frankly - doesn't seem to have much Dave Arneson in it. Lots of things, like Gertie the Great Golden Dragon on her island in the bay, are gone; Blackmoor is now a Very Serious Place, where Serious Gamers play Serious Games. The whimsy that marked Dave's games isn't there, and I felt very out of place and out of time.

What made this game, however, were the players and the GM. Great fun, lots of laughs, and I had a great time. (Which, I think, is what the game is all about.) My heartfelt thanks to all of them for a wonderful time!

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Sakbe Road at Anch'ke - It Seemed Like A Good Idea, At The Time (2)

Looking down the length of the set...

The Battle of Anch'ke was originally fought in Phil's campaign, as part of his 'Hekellu - Sirsum' micro-campaign. We, the Tsolyani, were trying to being the benefits of Imperial civilization to the tribal clans east of Hekellu; they, on the other hand, felt that they didn't particularly need the benefits of Imperial Civilization, thank you very much. Our little army consisted of Chris (Bear) Huddle's Legion of the Translucent Emerald (32nd Imperial Mediums) and my tiny Legion of the All-Consuming Flame (which may be descended from Searing Flame, 10th Heavies) as well as some Vridd clan troops. 6,000 - 800 - 600, respectively. Not a very big force, but a good one.

A day's march out of Hekellu on the dilapidated and not very big Sakbe road to Sirsum, we realized that the Young Master (the local version of the Mahdi) had the tribes out in force, and we were in deep trouble. Phil obviously knew his history of warfare on India's Northwest Frontier, and had us right where the Afghans had had the British on several occasions. In short, we were in deep trouble and likely to get wiped out.

What Phil didn't know - mostly because he didn't allow gunpowder weapons on his game table, I suspect - was that I really liked 'colonial warfare', and had read up on the history of the fabled Frontier in preparation for this micro-campaign. Phil sprang his ambush just that little bit too soon, and I attacked into him with my cohorts. It was the only time in over a decade of gaming with him that I caught him flat-footed; I won the fight, and kept us all alive to fight another day.

A number of years ago, as part of my series of Tekumel-based games at the FLGS, I built the battlefield from the map that Phil had drawn for us, scaled to fit the 140" table they had. Anch'ke requires a set of specific terrain, as it plays a major role in the fight; there's two ranges of low hills to hid the ambushing tribesmen, and the dilapidated Sakbe road that we fought around.

I varied from my usual practice of using extruded styrene foam, and used expanded foam instead; the latter has a 'pebbled' texture, which I thought would look good on the model. (This was my first project that I did with Third Daughter and Second Son-in-law, by the way, so I have kind of a special place in my hart for this model.) We went and re-fought the battle at the FLGS, with very bad result for the Tsolyani.

So, my question for all of you: I am standardizing my table sizes, and the largest table I use these days is 60" x 120". The big table at the FLGS is 140" long; I really don't do games there, at this point. Should I cut down the roadway (by lopping 10" off each end, most likely) or leave it as it and live with the extra length hanging off the 120" table?