Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, August 17th, 2014 - An Update On The Missus, and The Manifesto Of Divine Deliverance

Just another day at Anch'ke...

Well, we survived this past week. The Missus' surgery appointments took all day, due to delays at the hospital, and we were out there for a good ten hours. She came through just fine, I am happy to report - sore and bruised, but doing quite well. The doctors kept her oxygen saturations well up, and she was pretty lucid after the surgery appointments.

The surgeon felt pretty confident that he got the bad tissues out, and we'll know more when the pathology reports come back later this week. She's off to radiation in the coming weeks, but we still don't know if she's going to need chemotherapy. We're keeping our fingers crossed, and hoping for the best!

And thank you all, from the both of us, for all your comments, e-mails, and messages!!! They are really appreciated!!!


I am way behind on e-mails, due to having to be in multiple places at once all week long - I had to get Middle Daughter out to the airport the same day as The Missus' surgery, for example - but I will try to get caught up with everyone in the next few days. Thanks for your patience!!! (It has been a very long week...)


One of the things sitting in a hospital waiting room provides is a lot of time to think. Yes, I brought a book, but at my usual 2,000 words-per-minute reading speed they just don't last very long. (Add in the worry factor, and it gets to be a very long day.) If you don't mind, Gentle Readers, I'd like to share some of my thoughts with all of you, for your considerations and comments...

It's been about a dozen years since I started the current incarnation of my gaming group, and I have been giving a lot of thought as to where we've been, what we've done, and where we might be going. The idea, back when, was to try and recreate what we had for some dozen-plus years out at Phil's where we explored his world and had a lot of fun. I don't know if we succeeded; you'll have to look at the photos and videos I've posted, and judge for yourself.

About five years go, I start to post on various gaming groups on the Internet, in an effort to do 'outreach' to people, and also to start this little blog to do the same. I also extended invitations to the local gamers, especially the local 'indie' authors, to join us and have some fun in Phil's world-setting. On balance, some five years on, I think the effort has largely been an utter failure. The style of gaming that I do, the same thing we did for years at Conflict Simulation Association meetings and at Phil's, is - from what I gather - not the right way to game. I have been described as one of those "filthy story-gamers", people who have ruined the RPG hobby for everyone else. I'm also not 'old-school' enough, as I don't play any of the modern games that are being promoted as being the best possible play experience as they properly simulate the game-play and play styles of The Great Gods of our hobby; my personal favorite Internet exchange on this was when Mike Mornard, one of Gary's original players, was criticised for not playing game 'X', as it was the best possible simulation of OD&D. The Glorious General pointed out that as he played OD&D in his group, why did he need to play one of the new 'retro-clones', and was chastised for not being 'old-school' enough by all of the 'old-school' people on the forum.

Ah, right. I play 'Tekumel', the way Phil did it, and I make no apologies about that. I still enjoy it, and I am continually startled by the people who told me over the years that I am DOING IT RONG!. Well, O.K., but I'm still going to play the games I want to play; I'll certainly be happy to look at new games, and I'm especially delighted to see how some very good people have adapted their favorite rules sets to work in Phil's world - keep them coming, folks, I really enjoy looking at your work!!! - and how they enjoy playing in his creation.

What I have not appreciated getting are e-mails like this one:

"You and your gaming group are a detriment to our business interests"


"You are unfit to represent our Tekumel"


"Why do you insist on using miniatures? Gary Gygax said that we don't use miniatures in RPGs!" (1)


"Why do you still use all those old rules? Why don't you use something new?"


"Tekumel is stupid! I don't want to play anything where I have to learn anything so complicated!"

"Don't talk to 'X'; they are politically incorrect, and if you do I'll boycott your games and bad-mouth you all over the place!"

I've got heaps more stuff like this in my files - I do keep everything in my archives, for later... - and every now and then I go back and read through the files to remind me why I don't do some things that I used to. Between The Missus' health issues, my own health issues after the brain bleed, and my inability to suffer fools gladly (as Mike Mornard said when somebody asked him why I am "so difficult to work with"), I don't have time for this kind of nonsense. I can either write and paint, or feed the swollen egos of some very self-important people.

You get one guess as to which one I'm picking, people.

I will be continuing to game, to write about Phil's world and the adventures we had therein, and paint up my little actors in my miniature stage productions. I will continue to keep you all informed as to what sort of hijinks I get up to in the game room, and you are welcome to come along for the ride if you like - you are not being compelled to do things The Right Way; you are being invited to have a look at what I do, and if you want to take something away for your own games, please do feel free! For me, that's what it's all about, and what I've been doing for all these years.

Have fun, and play some games, eh?

Footnote (1): What Gary said, at least to me, was "Keep your hands off my Elastolins - they break easy, and they're hard to replace!"

Monday, August 11, 2014

And Now, A Word From The Missus

Over on her Facebook page, The Missus has updated her status:

 "Those who know me know that I am not comfortable in the spotlight.  I much prefer staying in the background and helping put on the show, not star in it.  Now I feel I must step up on a soapbox and tell all of my female friends to make sure they get their annual mammogram.  I almost didn't get one this year, and that might have been a fatal mistake.  Yep, after my mammogram this year, I was told they'd discovered calcium deposits in my left breast and I needed a follow-up mammogram and ultrasound.  After determining that the calcium was considered "microcalcifications" I had to get a biopsy.  The finding was "ductal carcinoma in situ" or DCIS.  The surgeon considers this a "pre cancerous" condition.  This is good because it is localized and probably has not spread.  Had I waited a year, the outcome would not be as good.  The treatment is surgery to remove the affected tissue (a lumpectomy), then radiation therapy.  I have the surgery this week, then have to heal before starting radiation.  Needless to say, I won't be skipping any mammograms in the future!  Finally, on a different note, RIP Robin Williams.  I know all too well how crippling depression can be, and can only hope that the publicity surrounding Robin's death will make others get help before they contemplate suicide."

Thank you, my sweet.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, August 10th - Bad News From The Source Comics and Games

From the archives - The Source, D&D Day some years back...
I'm very sorry to have to report that one of the co-owners of The Source Comics and Games passed away on Friday. It was quite unexpected, and I can only refer you to the announcement on the store's website:

Our thoughts here at The Workbench go out to his family and all our friends at The Source...



In other news, The Missus goes in for her surgery the middle of this week; it's the same day Middle Daughter goes back to her home in Zurich, so I will be in multiple places at once. So it goes; we gotta do what we gotta do...


In an attempt to have some cheery news today, I am happy to report that the little LED-lit domes that I used in the night game we did a while back (see also the Photobucket page for the "Then Darkeness Fell" game photos - link to the left, at the bottom of the column) are now on sale at IKEA as part of their end-of-summer clearance of the 'seasonal' items. These are the SOLVINDEN LED lights, and we were able to snaffle quite a few packs of the lights at three of $1.99 - something like more then half off. Our local IKEA had yellow and white domes left from the sale, which is perfect for our games as these work very well for simulating lanterns and 'Create Light' spells for our little lead people.

As part of the same sale, we also got some packs of the conical LED lights from the same series. These have either red or blue bases, and white conical tops that are lit from within by the battery-powered LEDs. They come three to a pack, use the same batteries as the domes, and we think that they will make great markers for spells or fires in night games - they look very different then the little domes, and really stand out in the dark when lit.

I'll post photos, when I can get some free time; this is going to be a very busy week...

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Braunstein Interlude - Maps And Campaigns

An old photo, from the archives...

If people wouldn't mind, might I talk for a little bit about maps and campaigns?

This short interlude has been prompted by the comments by several of you on the recent post about campaign games. As I mentioned then, the usual thing for games here in the Twin Cities back in the 1970s and early 1980s was for somebody to announce that they were going to run a campaign based in some period, and people could sign up. This applied to both miniatures and to board games, and later on to role-playing games.

Players would sign up to be anything from small unit / faction / warband leaders to kings and princes controlling small(ish) states. This principle was later (again, I'm speaking from my perch in time, back in the 1970s) enshrined in the idea of the 'domain game' in D & D, where the party / player-character would aspire to run their own fief.

These campaign games - so-called because of the 'campaign season' in our world settings, usually the spring and summer months in our worlds - were springboards to adventures of all kinds. We used them to run games both big and small; we were only limited by the resources that we could bring to bear. Now, I like doing miniatures and models, so I quite often would set up campaigns where I would provide all of the 'means', and the players would provide the 'manpower'. Players would hand me their written orders, usually once a week, and I would use these to set up the next week's game at the Little Tin Soldier Shoppe or at CSA meetings.

For example, I ran a space campaign set in the universe of the book "Handbook For Space Pioneers" (which is still available from Amazon, by the way) and using the "Starguard" figures in my collection for the ground battles; battles were fought out with Mike Mornard's "Planetfall" rules. This was a multi-player game, with something like a dozen players running different factions, and their plots, plans, and general skullduggery are what drove the games we played.

Prof. Barker's Tekumel campaign was played out on both a larger and a smaller scale. We fought map-based campaigns, such as the Northwest and Northeast Frontier campaigns, and then played out our personal adventures in those military campaigns. I spent a lot of time, for example, fighting what you could call 'skirmish' actions with our party of player-characters out in front of the main army doing scouting and mapping work, and having to fight off both our foes, the locals, and the wildlife. (Book Two of "To Serve The Petal Throne" covers this period in my career in some detail.) Similarly, when we played the Hekellu 'mini-campaign', we played the middle-level managers of the province and the attached frontier protectorate; for us, this was the exact equivalent of the D & D 'domain' game.

We collected maps from a great many sources, and use them in our games as we needed them We played one NATO-Warsaw Pact game, for example, using detailed survey maps of Southern Minnesota - my goal, as the commander of the Soviet forces, was to get my motor-rifle division from Red Wing to Rochester. The defenders were on the Minnesota side of the river, and were supposed to try and stop us. we had a lot of fun, poring over the maps, and it was a very fun campaign; all of our movements were plotted on the maps by the referee / GM, and our encounters (sound familiar?) would lead to all sorts of small actions. The terrain we were in determined the scenery on the tabletop, and it was a considerable point of pride to be able to translate what was on the map into stuff on the table.

The model rail supplies of the local hobby shops took a fearful beating, in our battles; I shudder to think just how many of the 'Life-Like' brand of trees and shrubs went to wrack and ruin in our games.

A lot of our RPG games also used 'real-world' maps - Mike Mornard ran a medieval game set in England during the Wars of the Roses, and we fought for control over the villages and manors of High, Middle, and Low And Behold. The Slaughters also saw a lot of, well, slaughter. (Dorset and Wiltshire, if you must know. See also The Ampneys, in the Cotswolds.) Small scale maps were also used - we collected a lot of town and village maps, and more then one part of player-characters fought it out with the orcs in some otherwise peaceful village in rural England or Wales.

Our Tekumel adventures, of course, took place in Phil's creation, and he simply loved to draw maps. We had everything from the epic large-scale maps of the Five Empires down to the plans and maps of local buildings; the 'Fortress Chalukolumel mini-campaign' was based first on the Northwest Frontier maps, and then on the plans of the fortress itself drawn by Ken Fletcher from Phil's notes and rough sketch. The battles for Castle Tilketl, up to the northeast of Khirgar, were done the same way - and I eventually built the castle in miniature for our 28mm figures to fight over.

I think what I am trying to says, with all of this, is that maps and campaign settings can do a lot for your games and campaigns. Use them as a sort of game aid to turn your imagination loose, and I think you'll have a lot of fun - I know we did!

Thoughts? Comments?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Braunstein - A Question From Ed

Vrisa and Chirine discover why Harchar's 'package cruises' are so cheap...

Here's another question from you, Gentle Readers; Ed writes:

edowarsblogAugust 4, 2014 at 1:40 PM

Chirine, thank you for the series of posts on Braunstein style games. I've only recently heard about this style of game and I find it quite fascinating. I'd very much like to run such a game sometime, whenever I can find enough space to set one up.

It sounds like most Braunsteins are scenario driven events, but have you any experience running an ongoing campaign-style game? Perhaps something where players represent entire kingdoms instead of small groups? I'm just curious whether a Braunstein format would be suitable for such a game. Thank you.

You're welcome! We do a lot of specific scenarios for Braunsteins, mostly because it is simply easier to do the larger 'public' events that way.

Yes, I do have a lot of experience with running these as part of a larger campaign; it's the way we used to do campaigns here in the Twin Cities in the 1970s and 1980s, usually at either The Little Tin Soldier Shoppe or at Conflict Simulation Association meetings at Coffman Union. There would be an over-all referee / GM - called a 'controller', in Tony Bath's book on how to run these campaigns - and players would pick a country to play. After that, it was up to them to run their little nations, to raise their armies, and get into trouble.

There was a very popular game out at that time called "Diplomacy", and this - with "Kingmaker" - was the basis of many fun campaigns. The players would send each other notes, and get together in the back corners during games to negotiate and plot with each other. Quite a few deals were made in Coffman's stairwells, for example.

The over-all Braunstein approach to the campaign would generate some wonderful miniatures games, and these in turn would be Braunsteins of their own. The national commanders of the various armies involved would have to recruit the other players to be their subordinate commanders on the table, and this process was fraught with peril - could you trust the guy not to do something that would mess you over, but benefit his country?

It was delightful, really. Think the battle of Bosworth Field, where Richard the Third found out just how far he could trust the Stanleys - NOT! - and many other real-world battles. Working from this, Phil did his own campaign setting, "Megarra", and this had all of the same elements of the classic Braunstein that the table-top battle version had.

Campaign games are fun, and I think you'd really enjoy this!!!