Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, February 7th, 2016: Of Bases And "Advance Standards!"

The miniatures shelves, newly reorganized

First off, this Sunday, several of the bloggers that I follow - links to the left, thank you! - have posted some pretty interesting stuff - have a look, if you please!


I was asked, last week, what I'm doing with all my new-found free time and the answer is "getting back to what's important to me." My writing, specifically, and revisiting a project that has largely gotten lost in the rush of other people's issues: "Qadardalikoi: Advance Standards!"

This is, purely and simply, my set of miniatures rules for Tekumel updated and upgraded. It's been a long time since 1982, and while the thing is still as playable as it used to be, it is older then my daughters are and could use a little work. There's a few changes that I'll be making - nothing very big! - but which are based in incidents in our gaming in Tekumel in Phil's campaign that we hadn't run into when we did the rules.

Back in the day, most of our fights were within the Five Empires, between various 'regular' forces; it wasn't until later on in the 1980s that we started doing fights with large numbers of 'irregular' forces, like the tribal hordes of the Young Master outside Hekellu. Lots and lots of tribal warriors, who are long on courage and short on armor. So, I'm doing a bit of tweaking to account for this.

This has also led into a revisiting of that arcane and obscure subject, the basing of miniature figures. Back in the day, when the rules were originally written, this was a very hot topic indeed, with lots of learned discussions over 'true scale' and 'ground scale'; I went, as was noted at the time, with a ground scale that would allow for the size and stances of the figures we had available to us back then. I'm looking back at those base sizes, and today's figures, and working out what I should do about both.

One issue that's come up is 'square / rectangular' and 'round' base shapes; back in the day, as you might guess, about all we had was hand-cut card or wood, and round bases were a fearsome and dire peril to contemplate. These days, of course, you get them at the FLGS in laser-cut plywood, and rounds are easy as all get-out. Which has led to...

My miniatures collection has, over the decades, morphed and changed with time. Originally, the idea was to have a set of miniatures with which we could fight any battle we wanted to; units were the order of the day, and my original plan had been to build up all of the various units in the old "Armies" lists at their 2,354 AS strength, just like any self-respecting historical gamer would do with his hoplites or chariots. However, this thing called a 'role-playing game' came along, and pretty soon I found that I was doing a lot more miniatures for our EPT campaign on Thursday nights then I was doing for Saturday battles.

For decades, everybody got squares or rectangles, and we used all of the figures for all of the games. Then, I started getting rounds, and the 'house rule' that evolved over the last fifteen years was that units were all on the old bases, and individual player-characters and other "RPG figures" were on the rounds. Well, okay, that seemed to work, and then we started using our PCs as commanders in battles. People tended to get a little confused at times, but we managed to work around it.

As the collection has changed content and focus, I've failed to really think about this and adapt to the changing times. I took this past weekend to go through the entire collection, updating the inventory lists along the way, and getting the entire collection reorganized and re-based as needed to make things more accessible and more playable. The shelves are no longer a random-access affair, but everything is grouped by function and then by type.

We can still fight any battle we want to, but we can now fight any RPG fight we need to. I'm pleased, if I do say so myself...

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, January 31st, 2016 - Music Hall / Variety Meets Tekumel On The Game Table

The 'vertical extender'; I like running three-dimesional games.
(I was shooting some photos for the book...)

IKEA 'Ledberg' cabinet lights, in place and on.
But why the colors? Read on, and find out.

The Underworld tiles in place; no 'set dressing' yet.
I have a huge collection of stuff for this... :)

The tiles are 1/4" MDF, painted;
I am debating inking a stonework pattern onto them.

It's been a nice quiet week, here at The Workbench, and things are moving along nicely. I happened to have the vertical extender up on the game table - it made shooting some photos a lot easier - and it came to me that I should mention the LED lighting that's been installed...

Originally, the solid deck on the extender - there's also a transparent Plexiglass one for doing underwater games - was equipped with IKEA halogen under-shelf / cabinet lighting. I really like the lights, but they run pretty hot and I occasionally got little burns from brushing up against them while running games. I have several of the IKEA 'DIODER' light sets, which we used to great effect at Phil's memorial as the glowing backdrop to his Temple of Vimuhla model, and while they are very nice sets - they change colors, both manually and automatically, and look pretty darn cool - there are a lot of wires to have to deal with. I wanted something simple that worked reliably, and the IKEA 'LEDBERG' sets were just the thing. They come in red, blue, and white, which was just what I was looking for.

Huh? All three colors?

Why, yes, actually. I've done a lot of lighting work for both theater and video production, so I keep an eye out for new equipment and techniques. Which leads me to Jon Pertwee...

(Yes; that Jon Pertwee.)

The Missus, you see, is a Doctor Who fan from way back; she was a good friend of Anthony Ainley, and knew quite a few of the cast and crew from various conventions where she'd shoot rolls of film and give the photos to them for their use. She got me into doing some of these shows, and I was finishing the lighting set-up for one of them when I got a poke in the ribs: "You're a video guy, aren't you?" It was Jon Pertwee, and he was hugely amused at my lighting choices. We had a lovely time, talking about theater and cabaret work - most of which was right over the heads of the fans listening in - and about lighting.

In American lighting practice, especially in video work, the usual 'fall back' / 'default' is to use a color called 'bastard amber' in the lights to bring out the tones and highlights in people's faces; really intense colors are used for specific lighting needs and cues. It's really popular for video work, as it's usually a pretty safe way to light the set and the talent for the cameras. Jon told me about British practice in cabaret and theaters that host various acts in the course of a night; as there's no time to change the lighting rig between acts, one 'stock set' has to serve for all of them. Normally, this is done with fixtures that have several lamps - for redundancy's sake - and several fixtures all in line; each fixture gets one of: reds, blues, or clear for white filters. The performer gets 'lights up, lights down', and a nice wash that looks good on stage. Highlights and cues are normally done with follow spots, as these are manned lights and very flexible.

So, when I went to design the lighting for the table, I went with Jon's advice and lit the playing area with the British method. I think it looks really quite good - I like the lighting level, in terms of brightness, and the visually reddish-blue 'twilight effect' that this lighting gives. Certainly much nicer then the halogens, which I thought were a little too harsh in their effect - not all 'underworld'-like!

What do you think?

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Weekly Update - Monday, January 25, 2016 - My Secret Plans For World Domination

We got some snappy dressers, 'round here.

The past week has been filled with domestic matters, with family and The Missus' health, as well as her dad's knee replacements, dominating affairs here at the little house. Everyone is doing well, I am happy to be able to report, but it did take a lot of time to deal with it all. I also worked a shift this past weekend - the overtime pays for my quarterly medication resupply - and I'll have some more over time this week. Nothing too hot or heavy, though.

It was also a very busy week for me personally, as I gear up for what will become a second job, i. e., my writing. I'm finding that I am rolling more and more quickly on "To Serve The Petal Throne", and I have been reorganizing and remodeling to make this all a lot more efficient. My 'home office' has been the primary focus of this process, with it now being my primary working area. The Workbench itself is still there, of course, and I'm resorting to it regularly for both building and painting - it's a hobby, not a job.

With the removal of the 'mission objective' to support displays and programming at conventions like Gary Con and Con of the North, there's also a lot more room / space available for us to use as we need here; we've been living in what amounts to a warehouse of other people's dreams, and that's now ending. It's meant hauling a lot of now-redundant stuff out to the trash and recycle bins, but then (on the other hand) a lot of this stuff has been sitting waiting for people to make up their minds; in some cases, for over a decade. I've made a lot of calls and sent quite a few e-mails, and no response is no response;  I'm salvaging what I can, to use in my projects, but a lot of this stuff is redundant.

This also applies to my time, as well. I can now take a lot more time and energy and out them o what I think is good use, getting things done here and not having to worry about other people's issues. Over the decades, there have been some people who have made a career out of projecting their own fears, insecurities, hopes, dreams, and wishful thinking onto me. It's always struck me as kind of odd that when I say - as I have for decades - that all I ever wanted to do with Tekumel was be Phil's archivist and make cool little models that I have gotten the reaction "No! No! Tell me what you are really up to!!! What's your Secret Plan for world domination???"

Nope, sorry; haven't got one. I meant what I said, over all these years, and that's what I'm finally able to to; if you need to dream that I am out to get you, and you need to pump my friends when you see them for information, you might want to think about what one of them said a while back: "You could just read his blog; he's been pretty up-front about it."

Now, if you have questions about how we gamed back in the day, or something about model building, then please feel free to ask; I'm always willing to help. I can manage this, and still keep my blood pressure down and have fun. I'm not much interested in anything a lot more taxing then this, due to my health, though.

So, I'm here. And the book is rapidly getting written, too!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Weekly Update - 1/20/16 - My, We've Been Busy!

Someody's country house?

Well, here it is the middle of the week, already, and I'm late with the news. So, without further ado...

First off, I am pleased to report that I am a grandfather again; Eldest Daughter has been delivered of little Naomi, my first granddaughter. Both are doing just fine, and I will have photos when they become available.

Secondly, I have just had my annual physical and exam, and my doctor is please to announce that my health is actually very good; my blood pressure, that all-important critical factor, is down to - wait for it!

108 over 65

This is, for readers of this blog, pretty big news; I used to be normally at 150 over 90, in 'cruise mode', and being down this low indicates that I am likely to be around for a while longer. The medical authorities believe that my largely disengaging from the gaming world and the absurd levels of stress therein are what's behind this, as well as the pile of pills that I take every twelve hours.

I have to admit, I like the quiet of the 'new regime'. I have a lot more time to write - the book is up to over 122,000 words across the six volumes, and I'm currently in Book Four working on the 'Affair of the Malchairan Emerald' in which Phil threw a pretty wild adventure and (as usual) nearly got us all killed.

I'm also getting back to some nice modeling projects that have taken a very back seat to the usual 'OMIGODWETMYPANTSEMERGENCY!!!" sort of thing that I've been having to deal with for people for years - the big Sakbe road set will get done this spring, for example - and I'm finally having the time for old friends and new ones.

It's quiet. I like quiet.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

1/10/16 - Not A Weekly Update

All, right, then; bring on the Milumanayani...

There is no post for today, as I am working the football game - Vikings vs. Seahawks, I'm told, in what's supposed to be the last NFL game I have to work. It's a whole -4F outside, and I am taking precautions...

More later!