Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, October 19th, 2014 - Hard Radiation, Hello Kitty, and Halloween Shopping

Do a Google search. You'll laugh your head off.

You get them at the 'after-halloween' sales.
I'm both cheap and lazy.

The Missus has had her first two doses of hard radiation, and has 19 sessions with the radiation therapy people left. No ill effects noted, for which I am grateful. We will beat this thing.


'Hello Kitty' turns forty, this week. I find this hugely amusing!


One of my 'big projects' that I am finally getting back to, after much too long, is my large set of Sakbe road sections. I actually have two Sakbe roads (which may say something about me right there!), and this is the fourteen-foot-long version; the smaller, which you can see in the photos of the Battle of Anch'ke on my Photobucket page, is only about ten feel long and is far less grand. I built it specifically for the game scenario, and it's in storage for now.

The 'long' set is made up of six 'road' sections, with a large tower section; there are ramps to get on and off the thing, as well as two of the smaller 'interval' towers. The biggest part of this project is the cutting of the merlons and embrasures on the walls - there are a lot of them! Since I normally work in extruded polystyrene foam for things like this - the usually-encountred white expanded poly styrene 'beadboard' is just not structurally sound for things this big - it cuts very easily. I am lazy, though, so instead of marking out all those little battlements I simply cut a wooden template to the size and shape I wanted the foam to wind up as, and then went out with The Missus to do a little shopping.

The net result is found in the 'seasonal' sections of crafts stores and other places that have 'Halloween merchandise sections'; a very handy battery-powered reciprocating saw that cuts through the foam like it was soft butter. So, all I have to do is slide the template up to the foam wall, switch on the little saw, and the thing does all the work. And makes nice clean cuts, too!

Now, I should mention that timing is very important, here. Shopping for seasonal merchandise before the holiday will get you what you want, but cost more; after the holiday, you have to move fast to take advantage of the sale prices, but you have to move before the store pulls the unsold inventory off the shelves.


Along the same lines, I have been able over the past five years to build up quite a nice forest of really good-looking trees by haunting the 'after holiday sales' at the turn of the year. There are several lines of 'Christmas village' buildings and accessories, and you can get some of the most amazing stuff after the holidays are over. I've gotten trees, rivers, stone wall sets, ponds, and entire hills from these lines, and all at very good prices; one just has to look, and know what one wants for one's games. Admittedly, you do get some 'snow' on the items; but, this can either be rinsed off - in the case of 'hard' objects - or concealed with a spritz of tempera paint from a spray bottle in the case of trees and the like.

It's all about your imagination, and thinking 'outside the box'... :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Twenty-Five Month Update - Two Years And A Month After 'The Incident'

It still itches, especially when it's cold outside...

The Missus is off to get her first run at her radiation therapy today; she has her new aiming point tattoos, and is getting ready for the 'sunburn' she's expected to get. In the meantime, she pointed out that I missed the two-year 'anniversary' of The Incident -

- and all I could say was that we've been a trifle busy hereabouts. "Get thee to the keyboard," she replied sternly...

So, here we are; twenty-five months later, and I have been in the 'human normal' range for about a year now. I am moving a little more slowly, and I have a lot less energy and stamina, but I am still here; we are not complaining, you understand!

And where are we? Well, let's have a little look behind the scenes, shall we?

I am steaming away on my book about our adventures with Phil on all those Thursday Nights; we are looking at six volumes, at this point, each with what's looking to be about 50,000 words per volume. Some have complained about the size and length of the thing - all I can say is that we played every Thursday night out at Phil's for four to six hours for over a dozen years. That's fifty-two weeks a year, times four hours a night, times fourteen years. I took notes or made recording of the game sessions, and I have - at a minimum! - 2,912 hours of 'face time' with Phil in his world. There is a lot of ground - and ocean! - to cover, so the word count is going to be kinda long.

Mind you, I will be providing a very detailed index, as well as a section numbering system to make it easy for Tekumel fans to look things up. I will not be doing footnotes, because they'll interfere with the flow and pacing of the stories of our adventures, but you will get notes at the end of the volumes keyed to the adventures so you can use them for your games. What you will be getting is a sort of 'time machine' that I hope will take you back in time to when we first explored the world of the Petal Throne, and we hope you'll enjoy the ride.

And no, there will be no 'rules' or 'stats' in the book, either. I assume, Gentle Readers, that you are both smart enough and skilled enough to do this kind of thing for yourselves and for your favorite set of rules. I am simply telling you what happened to us in Phil's world, and how he viewed his creation.

We're still working out how we'll get all this to you; more about this when I know more, myself!

The size and shape of this project are having an effect - a good one, I hope! - on my other activities. I am painting like a madman, when I have the time, and having a lot of fun doing pretty much the same thing as when I was painting for Phil. I am having a lot of fun painting up the people you'll meet in the book, as I now have the figures for them. I am also looking at building a lot of the 'sets' from our adventures - many of the places and things we saw are very good for models, because that's the way Phil saw things - and sharing those with you as I get them built. I enjoy taking photos of our adventures, and I hope you'll enjoy them as much as I do.

Games sessions, here at The Workbench,  will feature our adventures as scenarios, and I am hoping that people will enjoy our adventures - the "Storming Hekellu" game went over a treat, for example. I don't think I will be doing many big games in 'public venue', anymore; I simply get too tired out moving everything to the site and setting it up to be able to run the game, and unless I can get help with the logistics I am not going to be able to handle the stress and strain of doing things like I used to - I simply have to be realistic, these days!

As part of telling you our stories, we're getting the Skype / Google+ hardware working in the game room, as The Missus's health allows. I'll keep you posted on that, as well, and we're hoping to get back in the swing of doing You Tube shows for you. So, lots and lots happening - watch this space! :)

Thanks again for visiting us!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, October 12th, 2014 - Post #250: The Lost Library Of Firu ba Yeker

Great fun - heroes, heroines, comic sidekicks, and really evil villians;
what's not to like?

If you ever needed to know what your player-character is carrying and what it looks like,
it's in this catalog. Someplace.

Not much to report, this week; painting continues, but the big news is that The Missus starts her radiation treatments on Wednesday. That's what I'm focusing on, right now...


It's hard to imagine, but back in the early days of the RPG hobby the Internet hadn't been invented; neither, for that matter, had the personal computer. One didn't click on Google and Wiki for information; one had to look around, and use other forms of information media to get information and ideas for games. It was all quite primitive, really, but we did the best we could with what we had.

Motion pictures, which we had to see in theaters or on the three (!) commercial television networks, were a really fun and useful way to collect information. One of our favorites, back in the day, was the Soviet propaganda film "Alexander Nevski"; it's based on the historical Prince of Russia, who spent a lot of his time clobbering people who invaded the place.

The movie sent us into shivers of excitement, back in the day; yes, it's very heavy-handed propaganda, but all of the armor worn by the heroic Russians is the real thing - this film was made with the full backing of Stalin, and the historical collections of the Kremlin Armoury were ransacked to supply armour and weapons for the film. So, one gets to see an entire amy of guys - and girls, who wield a mean sword! - in mail going at it.

Great fun, and well worth a look!

Our other source of information was the library - a place full of fascinating books, full of equally fascinating information. One of the oddest, and most fascinating, was the "Bannerman Catalog of Military Goods" - the mail order catalog of one of the first 'army-navy surplus' stores in the United States, and quite possibly one of the oddest. Francis Bannerman VI bought and sold literally everything you could imagine, and was quite capable of arming a small country - just send him a telegram, and he'd get you everything you needed withing a week of your check clearing the bank.

And we're not just talking weapons, either; yes, Bannerman's could sell you everything from modern pistols to medieval bombards (no warranty, sorry; everything sold 'as is'), but could also outfit you with uniforms, tents, cooking gear, field desks, medical supplies, wagons, and even a ship or two. We used to sit around at Phil's and loom through this catalog before our adventures, and we'd specify what we'd take along as we marched off to Sunraya or some equally miserable place; we'd be careful to fully equip ourselves, otherwise we'd be out of luck - and food! - someplace in the Desert of Sighs or the Dry Bay Of S'sum.

A check os the Internet this morning reveals that the catalog is still in print, along with both earlier and later editions. I'd suggest having a look - you might get some ideas from your 'window shopping'!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Weekly Update For October 5th, 2014; Bookshelf Memories

One of the forgotten books of the early days of RPGs

It's been a very busy week, here at The Workbench; the warm weather has finally left us, and the cold winds of fall and winter have arrived. I've pulled the long-suffering window air conditioning units out of their summer homes, and done the annual work to get the furnace up and running - filters and what have you. The nice warm electric radiator is in place in my painting area, and I'm spraying primer on figures whenever the outside temperature allows. In short, it's 'painting season', the time when I get the most done.


We're a month out from the next campaign by Dr. Burns of Dark Fable Miniatures (link to the left), and I'm getting my Litko order for bases in now - I use their pre-cut 'slotta' bases for Mike's figures, as they save me a lot of time and match all of the other figures in the game room. I'll have more on this, as it develops, and some photos as well as we move along in the process.


I've been spending a lot of time in the basement of late, restocking the shelves and getting things set up for the winter campaign season. I had a very nice moment, thinking of Phil, when I reshelved my copy of "The Crossbow", by Sir Ralph Payne-Gallway; this used to be one of the 'standard works' that we all read, back in the day as new RPG gamers. Phil introduced us to this particular book; he used it as his standard reference for missile weapons in his Tekumel. The Tekumel 'long bow', for example, is actually the Turkish composite version of the long bow, and not the classic Welsh single-stave long bow so familiar to gamers. Sir Ralph gives the details of this fearsome weapon, from first-hand experiments at the Topkapi Palace, and you can get some really useful information from the rest of the book as well. What Payne-Gallway doesn't cover, you don't need to worry about.

I have a suspicion that this book has been largely forgotten, over the years. A miniatures gamer took me to task - quite severely, I might add - for screwing up in my miniatures rules on the range, rate-of-fire, and effect of the Tekumelyani longbow. He assumed, like many gamers, that I had been using the Welsh version, and I'd gotten it all wrong. I demurred, and pointed out that the Tekumelyani weapon is a composite one, and based on the Turkish examples; he told me that I was full of crap, and that there was no such thing. I cited Sir Ralph's book, and he stopped talking to me.

Shrug. So it goes. I do suggest looking at a copy; the book is still in print, and very, very useful!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - That Was The Week That Was...

Chirine's astrolabe, which was a gift from my kids...

I am back, after a very long and very busy week. It didn't help that I caught a chill last Saturday, while out in the storm, and was under the weather Sunday through Tuesday. Let me backtrack a bit, if I may, and fill in the gaps...

First off, I'd like to thank everyone who commented and e-mailed about how they do and don't use miniatures in their games. What struck me about your responses, as well as that of the OSR bloggers, is that you all noted that it's all about your individual play styles - and not that of what somebody is supposed to have decreed in the pages of "The Dragon", years ago.

Well, yes! This is, to me anyway, what it's all about. Your play style is what should be driving how you play; what you enjoy is what you game, is my theory. As one commenter put it, 'the OSR' is made up of many camps, and I think he's right; gaming should be, in my mind, a big enough tent to allow for a lot of things. In my own experience:

Dave really liked to use miniatures, and did so whenever he could;
Phil liked to make miniatures, and used them as appropriate to the game situation;
Gary didn't like to use miniatures, and didn't.

I think that covers the entire spectrum, really.

So. last Saturday, I worked the football game here in the Twin Cities - it's overtime, and it pays for the medical bills. We had a pretty severe storm come through during the game, which gets the adrenaline going when you have 42,000 people in an open-air roofless stadium with fifty to seventy mile-per-hour winds, damaging hail, and heavy rain predicted - and predicted to hit in about forty minutes, at that.

Here in the Twin Cities, we have a tradition of what's called 'tailgating', where people party in the parking lots outside the stadium before and after the game; people grill and have fun, and they bring these nice 'lawn tents' which are expandable frames with fabric tops on them. (Which we could have used on the Northwest and Northeast Frontier campaigns with Phil, but I don't think they'd been invented yet.) I will leave it to your imaginations what happens to these tents / awnings / gazebos when winds like we got during the storm hit them; in order to minimize the damage, I was sent around in my little electric cart - I do 'Motorist Assistance' calls, which means I do jump-starts, perform miracles in lock-outs, and fix flat tires; a disabled vehicle plays havoc with traffic flows, so we try to clear them as fast as we can - to warn folks to take precautions. It seems to have worked; we had something like fifty tents up and going in the flat lots around the stadium, and only three were lost due to the high winds. The Stadium Operations crew did evacuate the stadium; but, this being Minnesota where we are made of sterner stuff due to our Scandinavian roots, the game resumed after a 45-minute 'rain delay'.

The downside was that the rain was coming in horizontally, and in sheets; I wound up taking cover under a building portico, as my cart was on the verge of being blown over by the wind. The temperatures dropped like the proverbial rock, as the storm front came through; we went from nearly +80F down to a chilly +60F in less then fifteen minutes, and being soaking wet I got very cold.

As a result, I felt very poorly on Sunday; I did get through my overnight shift, but came home very sick. I spent the next thirty hours flat on my back, with The Missus enforcing a period of bed rest with hefty doses of fluids. I took some sick leave on Monday night, but managed to stagger through Tuesday and Wednesday nights with the aid of powerful potions administered by The Missus.

Thursday was The Missus' turn; she got her stitches from the previous surgery out, and everything looks pretty good. She's still sore, but she's feeling pretty good. I stayed home that night, as we had another appointment on Friday...

... Which was a round of exploratory surgery to try and locate what seems to be a "fibroid tumor" in The Missus' abdominal region. It showed up on an ultra-sound exam, and the doctors went in to have a look around; it's believed to be non-malignant, so there was no rush, but everyone just wanted to make sure. All of us came to the party, but the tumor was a no-show; it wasn't visible. So, The Missus will have a go with the ground-penetrating radar - er, an exam with the MRI machine - to scope out where this thing might be lurking.

Yesterday, I took the day off, and I am feeling better. I'm still working on getting back up to speed, and I'll be getting back to all of you as fast as I can.


In other news. the big D&D lawsuit trial is over, for now:


I have been getting some figures painted, as a way to keep my blood pressure down during these troubled times; pictures when I get the chance...


Player-characters note! Here's an excellent series by a British newspaper on what we usually call 'encumbrance' in our games:

Back when I went through my 'basic training', I carried literally more then my own body weight in equipment, weapons, ammunition, and supplies; as a result, I got stuck down in the bottom of a ravine and had to be hauled out by the rest of my squad. I was told - in no uncertain terms! - not to do that again, thank you.


And , to end on a humorous note, here's a news story I think you'll be amused by:

Honestly, Gentle Readers, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried...