Thursday, November 26, 2015

Appendix 'N',, and Political Correctness...

Take a really good look at this photo. Then read this post.

Reader of this little effort will know that over in the left-hand column of this page is a section of links to various blogs; these are not always people who agree with me, but they are the voices of people that I think are worth listening to. One of the recent posters caught my eye:

This had a link to a series of articles on TOR Publishing's website, which I think you might want to have a look at for yourself:

Gary's 'Appendix N', of course, is a list of the books and authors that inspired him when he was creating D&D; it, by and large, is also Dave Arneson's and M. A. R. Barker's. (Although Phil did not like Tolkein. At all.) Phil, I might also add, was reading a lot of these people back in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, before they became famous.

According to the authors of the series - I did read all of the articles - Appendix 'N' is a compendium of the politically incorrect; racism, misogyny, sexism, you name it. Well, all right; people are, in my probably constitutionalist-biased view, certainly entitled to their opinions and to have a venue with which to express them. This sort of commentary is also to be found on quite a few Internet forums (fora?), where people seem to get outraged about something at the drop of a hat.

Frank Frazetta has been added to the list of the politically incorrect, I gather. He's in distinguished company; practically every artist and / or author from the early days of gaming have been denounced in various game forums (fora?) on the Internet. We are informed that we need to be more 'inclusive', more 'accepting', and more aware of all of the social injustices that gaming has contained within it.

Well, all right, I can understand that as well; you're reading the musings of a guy who has two daughters who are on Vladimir Putin's "I think you are a poopie-butt" list, for their activism in support of gay rights in Russia and elsewhere. The Missus and I used to pay for the publication of an LGBT 'zine put out by a couple of local LGBT activists - "Spit Exchange" - so I think this family has paid their dues. (1)

Have a good look at the photo at the top of this post. Please, if you would, tell me which of these people are 'Lesbian', 'Gay', 'Bi', and 'Trans'; or, for that matter, 'Straight', 'Asexual', 'Jewish', 'Atheist' 'Pagan', 'Christian', or whatever label you want to hang on somebody. Can't you tell? Just by looking at them? I can't; I have to sit down and work at remembering that that the extraordinary and gifted role-player Mr. Lander - I never called him by his first name; he was just too civilized for anything other then 'Mr. Lander' - was A Person Of Color. (2)

My players, as were the players in the original Thursday Night Group, role-players first and foremost. We didn't much care what you were; we cared about how well you played. We didn't hang labels on anybody; we didn't worry about it. That's the way I run my games today, and that's the way I'm going to be running them in the future. If you think you might be having issues with that; I'll be happy to discuss it with you.

However, do have a look at the TOR articles first; if you find yourself being offended by the authors listed, then I would politely and respectfully suggest that you might not like the mayhem and tomfoolery that goes on in my game room. Likewise, if you find the prospect of little lead people with very little clothes on to be worrisome, you might want to stay away on that basis as well. (Yes, it has come up.)

Otherwise, come on in; pull up a chair and some dice, and make yourself at home. I'll try to be entertaining.

(1) In the interests of transparency, I should note that I stopped paying for this publication after one of the authors and their associates kept referring to myself, The Missus, and people like us as 'breeders'; this used to be the term of art in the local LGBT fannish community for 'straight' people - rather like how many 'real fans' would refer to people outside fandom as 'mundanes'; one fan I know now uses the term 'muggles'. I did point out that their comments were on the order of 'biting the hand that feeds you', but my concerns were - as has been the case so many times over the decades - ignored. I took my money elsewhere. Another of the authors was the one who recently stated that , and I quote, "Only a bisexual person of color can properly interpret Tekumel." I do have to wonder what Phil would have thought of that statement.

(2) And while I think of it, I have some news for folks: There Are No White People On Tekumel. (Humans, anyway.) And if you want to be fussy, there are two Persons of Color at that table; one of them is one of my daughters.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Second Saturday Game - Ill Met By Moonlight!

What I saw.
What the player-characters saw.

Well, that was a fun way to spend an afternoon! The four parties of player-characters and their mercenaries entered from the various sides of the board, and had just gotten down to some serious action when the power went off here at the little house. I was pretty dismayed; I had been looking forward to this game for quite a while, and here we couldn't see a thing.

The players, on the other hand, kept right on going, and broke out their lanterns - all those little IKEA dome lights came out again, and game play went right on without skipping a beat. I had to shoot pictures by flash, of course, but the game was played entirely by moon- and lantern-light.

After several turns of archery - one player had a bow, and was determined to use it - and a lot of melee, everybody got to thinking that a tactical stalemate was not going to get anyone anythere. One player had managed to get the door to the pyramid open - after shooting another player to prevent them from doing so - and was holed up in the doorway with the other three players laying siege to them. After much very spirited negotiation, and substantial amounts of money changing hands, all parties came to an agreement whereby they would band together and explore the innards of the pyramid as a group.

We'll see how long that lasts.

Anyway, the game will move into the pyramid, in the nest game session, and I'll put the vertical extender up so we can play in all three dimensions - I'll model underworld, as well as the upper levels, and we'll see what happens. The players are already worried about what Howard Fielding of The Tekumel Project will feel about all this; Howard - that sweet, kind, caring, and very thoughtful man - had been kind enough to send me a huge batch of Hlutrgu for the "Saving Serqu's Sisters" game...

A very good time was had by all, and a very good example of my little 'micro-Braunsteins'! There are more photos up on my Photobucket page, too...

Second Saturday Game: The Pyramid of Death!

The Table Of Death, with The Scenery of Death.

We're finally getting back to our schedule of games on the Second and Fourth Saturdays in the calendar month, after much too long a hiatus occasioned by entirely too many distractions out in the real world.


Anyway, the Pyramid of Death (I still don't know who made this wonderful thing!) is located on the edges of the Forest of Death, amidst the Ruins of Death and the Temple of Death. (There's a theme, here.) Several intrepid bands of explorers and adventurers have arrived to investigate Rumors of Strange Doings, and with the goal of keeping it all for themselves.

If there's one thing you can say about Tekumel, it's just chock full of places like this. Just ask the locals, and they'll be happy to give you directions.

This will be one of the players' very first ever miniatures game, so I'm keeping everything as simple as possible. Open terrain, small bands of heroes, simplified movement, etc. I'll let you know how it all turns out...

(By the by, the poster of the Campbell's Soup Can is an homage to the games we ran at the old Little Tin Soldier Shoppe in South Minneapolis from the late 1970s to the late 1980s; the groups there awarded a trophy, The Holy Soup Can, to the most inept gamer they knew each year. The trophy was a soup can on a base, inscribed with a suitable motto. The trophy was retired in the middling 1980s, as there was one player who managed to 'win' the award three years running - he was truly incredible in his ineptitude.)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

My Dad And The Banzai Charge, Fuelled By Aussie Lager - Veterans' Day, 2015

New Guinea, 1944. Not Ikea.

If I can say one thing about life here in our little house where The Workbench is located, nearly forty years in the gaming hobby does mean that one does have a lot of very odd objects, relics, items, and just plain stuff sitting around. A case in point are these two lamps, which my dad picked up in 1944 from some nice Japanese soldiers who'd left them lying around. He kept them for years, in their raw state, and finally added the lampshades and electrical hardware when he had the time.

My dad didn't talk much about his time in the Fifth Air Force; to here him tell his young sons about the Second World War, it was all island paradises, buxom nurses, and unlimited quantities of Aussie lager, flown in from The Land Down Under by helpful supply officers. I once asked him how he, as an aircraft mechanic, had gotten both a Purple Heart and aircrew / flight wings. He said, in the tone of voice used by doting parents to beloved but not-very-bright offspring, "I got it after I cut myself shaving." (Ah, right, Dad.)

I found out, after he passed away, what he'd really been up to - the snapshot of him standing next to a Soviet BT-7 tank was my first clue that something was not being mentioned in passing - and nearly fainted. He was doing stuff in C-46 and C-47 transport airplanes that I wouldn't have even considered doing in a tank. My word!

So anyway, he's in New Guinea in 1944, minding his own business and waiting for chow call. He and his colleagues are indeed having some good cold Aussie lager, when the local Japanese garrison - who are still in business, over on the other side of the airfield where my dad was fixing up broken airplanes - start dropping 81mm mortar rounds all over the place. Normally, this was not a matter for much concern, he told me, because "those other folks" never seemed to be able to figure out what all the little knobs on the mortar did and never really managed to hit anything important.

What annoyed my dad and his buddies was that they did this every evening, right at chow call, and it really made for an unsettled digestion. After all, one of these days, one of these kids from Yokohama or Osaka might get lucky and drop a round into the corned beef brisket. After what my dad described as a considerable amount of lager, they thought that Something Must Be Done about this annoying mortar crew, and so they collected all of their vast armory of weapons - one .45 pistol, one .30 carbine, and a lot of wrenches, hammers, pry bars, and other tools capable of inflicting blunt force trauma. (The firearms, by the way, were for the snakes, with which New Guinea is plentifully supplied.)

My dad and his buddies surged down the runway, brandishing their arsenal of improvised weapons, much to the bemusement and alarm of the regular infantry and Marines who normally dealt with hostile people; Dad thought that they may have been screaming "BANZAI!", just to be rude, but his recollections of the actual moments of their headlong charge are, in his words, "a little hazy". The Imperial Japanese Army never knew what hit it; after a confused melee, the mortar crews left the Americans in possession of the field, and my dad in possession of several rifles, a sword, a flag, and two perfectly good - and live - 81mm mortal rounds.

He got the fuses pulled, making the rounds more or less safe, and removed the high explosive innards with a hammer and chisel while sitting on his bunk in his tent. He was cordially invited to do that elsewhere by his sergeant, after that worthy had been revived; he'd walked in to see my dad happily chipping away, and promptly fainted. (Can you blame him?) The net result, you can see above; two lamps that sit on the chest of drawers in the game lounge.

Thinking of you and your buddies today, Dad...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Not Dead Yet, and Hitting A Milestone

Yep; 16 square feet of shrubbery, and the campaign map.

I am, as they say, not quite dead yet. I am in the middle of football season, and so I have very little free time and lots of overtime. The money is nice, but I get tired pretty easily and so wind up having to lie down a lot. At least I'll get all caught up with Howard Fielding and his Tekumel Project!

However, there has been some progress on several fronts. I will answer all your comments, too.

I have finally - at last! - finished doing all the different scenery types that I had originally planned back about a decade ago. Back in Ye Olden Dayes, we thought that being able to buy a box of four 'Life-Like' model railroad trees was A Big Investment; now, I am older and smarter. (I think.) Back about 2005, I bought a whole pile of cheap floral stuff from a crafts store; the plastic foliage comes on long stems for use as garlands and such, and being thrifty I got a bunch of different styles when they went on sale. The plastic is soft and bendy, which means that when a gamer falls onto or leans on the foliage, it bend and does not break. It's almost impossible to damage the stuff. I cut out irregular shapes of thin MDF, painted them with a suitable ground color, and then hot-melt-glued the foliage onto the shapes at more-or-less random; last step is to splash cheap wood glue onto the shapes, and add sawdust or other ground cover to add some 'natural' texture to the bases.

You can see more of the results of all this on the Photobucket page - there are a lot of pictures of my game tables in the various albums. You can also get this kind of foliage at pet stores, too; The Missus got me a huge pile of nice palm trees (for those desert oasis games) from a cake-decorating place...

My goal, back then, was to give my gamers what we'd never had out at Phil's: the ability to represent any of the terrain types that Phil described for Tekumel. We made do with the green carpet on his game table, and The One Hill and The One Tree. It was what we had, but it lacked a certain spectacle worthy of Phil's astonishing creation.

I didn't have to work this past weekend, so I got out the last boxes of shrubbery and all of the pre-cut shapes I'd had around for literally years, and the photo shows you the result. I am very, very pleased; it's been a long time coming, but we're finally done!

And I got another 3,500 words done for "To Serve The Petal Throne", too! :)