Wednesday, September 18, 2019

"Plastics. The future is in plastics."

First bought for Sixth Daughter for her new campaign.

Harchar's rascals. Period.

Something for me, too...

So, if you don't mind, let's lighten the mood here at The Workbench.

Multi-part plastic figures get some distain from some of the Serious Wargamers I know, but then they don't game on a budget like I do. In these boxes, you get a lot of miniatures for your money, and for a model-builder like me, they are great kits. So...

'Frostgrave' "Soldiers II" - 20 figures to the box

No, I don't play the game. I first got this box for my Sixth Daughter for her world-setting in her new campaign. She squealed with delight, as they fit her world perfectly; the figures are so good I got a box for myself for my Dark Ages campaign. These are nice and crisp castings, and look really good.

You get a variety of basic torsos, and a huge selection of arms and heads. I think, based on the sprues, you'd need to built something like 100 of these boxes before you repeated a combination. What made me happy was the assortment of adventurer's accessories like bundles of rope, lanterns, torches, belt pouches, and packpacks. The set makes up all the adventurers one could want, especially if your players venture into cold weather. We could have used these when we were on "The Affair of the Malchairan Emerald", in Phil's campaign, when we visited the Temple of Ice in Ghaton. It was dang cold, I tell you.

'Ghost Archipelago' "Crewmen" - 20 figures to the box

No, I don't play this game either. I buy forgures to suit the world setting I support, and these figures are perfect for making models of dear old Captain Harchar's merry band of cutthroat rascals - sorry, I meant "honest sea-faring merchants", as Dave described them. He also described them as being of the 'Sinbad the Sailor' genre, with that Hollywood Technicolor look to them that has a sort of vague Middle-Eastern feel; the options in this pack give you that look, as do all of the torsos, and they'll work and look a lot better as Harchar's crew then the Foundry Macedonian 'Phalangite Personalities' that I've been using for years.

Lots of character, lots of options, and a lot of fun. Also as nicely done as the 'Soldiers II' castings.

'Gripping Beast' "Roman Starter Warband" - 25 figures to the box

I'll bet that you know what I'm going to say next. No, I don't play this game either. "Chainmail", by Perrin and Gygax, still works just fine for me, and I still build my forces by getting the best figures I can for a particular period. These are for my Dark Ages campaign, as along with my old Ral Partha / RAFM 'Royal Armies of the Hyborian Age' figures they'll be the locals trying to deal with the arrival of the Shieldmaidens' 'Sheildmaidens'.

I'm normally not a big fan of the late Imperial Roman period, but these figures are really nice. All the details are crisp and clean, and you get enough variety to get a good-looking unit - and a balanced one - out of the box. You also get six cavalry, which is a nice bonus, as well as the more period-correct standards. These are the same sprues as their larger boxes from the period - think of this as a 'sampler' box - and I may ask The Missus for some more of these in next year's budget.

So, there we are. Mayhem will ensue, I think... :)

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

An Open Letter To Cecilia D'Anastasio

I'm the old guy on the right; the other two you might know.
A gift from Gary; his kids were kind enough to sign it.

Dear Ms. D'Anastasio,

I suspect you have no idea who I am, or what I do; for that matter, I strongly doubt that you know what I've been doing for the past forty years. You might want to ask your interviewee, Mr. Morgan, and maybe you'll understand why your recent articles about Gary Gygax and his family have cause more then a little consternation here at The House of Wonders.

I understand that you are not a big fan of Gary, and what his legacy might or might not be. I'm also aware that Gary was an entirely human being with faults and issues, just like some other people I used to hang out with - Dave Arneson and Prof. M. A. R. Barker, to name two - who also had their own issues and faults. I am very aware of them, having worked with and for these people, and yet I can still after all this time respect them and honor their memories whilst remembering the great times I had with all of them.

If I may express a personal opinion, your article about Gail was just sad to read. Your more recent article, ostensibly about the release of "Secrets of Blackmoor", rubbed a lot of salt in some very old wounds; I had a front-row seat for all the legal conflicts between Dave and TSR, and your article seemed to delight in tearing open the scar tissue that some of us had had to grow back in those days.

Yes, I know you don't like Gary, and he certainly had his faults. However, he was always unfailingly polite and kind to me personally, even though he knew full well I worked for Prof. Barker and Dave Arneson at Adventure Games. That old plastic miniatures carrying-case was something he gave to me at my first Gen Con - the first one at U of WI / Parkside - and it hauled our player-character figures out to Phil's for the next decade. It's still sitting downstairs, in my little museum of gaming, and I still use it.

I think that it's more then a little sad that your most recent article, and the controversy that it has engendered, have come to overshadow Mr. Morgan's film. I think that it, and the people who in it, have gotten lost in all of the screaming and shouting on the Internet in the past weeks. Which, I think, is really too bad, not because I happen to be in the movie or because I helped with the historical research for it, but because a lot of people who I think should be heard from back in that day are in it.

And, If I may be frank, you have not done yourself or other reporters much good. You could have written a really good article about the film and the early days of gaming; now, I'll be thinking twice about giving interviews or allowing people to visit my archives.

yours, jeff berry / Chirine ba Kal

It's been a while... Good News, Bad News

Now with less and greyer hair...

Yes, it's been a while since I last posted. There's bee a lot happening in my family and gaming life, some of it very good, and some of it very bad. I'll try not to bore everyone with all the details, and stick with a summary and get back to regular posting.


Our Third Daughter miscarried our grandchild, who did not survive. She's doing as well as can be expected, and recovering.

We have a new roof on the house, which we hope will stop the various issues with water seepage that w've been dealing with for a long time.

I am on vacation at the moment, with a week left for time off. Things are getting done.

An old friend, Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo, has passed away after a long illness. We had some great times with him, and he still influences my gaming to this day. I'mm miss him.

I had a great trip to see friends in Alabama; I took Sixth Daughter with, so she could meet some publishers and show off her writing and artwork. It was very successful, I am proud to be able to say.

The Missus passed has cancer screening for another year, after a bit of a scare. She's clear, but we'll keep being cautious.


The documentary film about Dave Arneson and the early days of gaming here in the Twin Cities, is now up and available for downloads. Here's a link to their website:

(In the interests of full disclosure: I am listed as one of the historical research people, my collections and archives were used in the production of the film, and I appear briefly in it.)

The film covers the early days of gaming up here in the North Woods, up to the publication of the original boxed set of D&D. I'm told that there is a second film in production, covering the period after that date and up to the closure of Adventure Games, and I'm also told that I will have more 'air time' in this film as this the period when I was most closely connected with Dave.

Why you should watch this film: Because, purely and simply, you get to hear the people who played with Dave in the original games in their own voices. In some cases, you get to hear them for the last time; watching this film back in May at the premiere was pretty heart-wrenching for me personally, as some of these people have now passed away. This film may be your last chance to hear from some of my friends, and I suggest you take the opportunity to watch it and se what I found when I came to the Twin Cities back in 1975.

You will meet some pretty amazing people, and hear some pretty funny stories. I think you'll be amused.


As I mentioned, some things have gone very well, and I'll start posting on them shortly. Thanks for your patience!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

If I May Be Permitted A Personal Note...

Herself, in 1987 is our 29th wedding anniversary. We are still here, in our same little house that we were married in the back yard of, and we suspect shall be here for a while longer.

Tekumel has had no greater supporter or worker; she's been there behind the scenes since 1987, making the magic happen.

Thank you, my love...

Saturday, July 13, 2019

'System Mastery' vs. 'World Settings'

The scene of the action(s)

Early last year, an experienced D&D 5e gamer told me I should get out of the campaign that I'd been playing for a while, as I was "holding the party back because I didn't have system mastery on the 5e rules". So, since I agreed with him, I handed my player-character sheets back to the very patient GM, and left the campaign. (And the table, and the game store, but that's a different story.)

It got me thinking. No, I don't 'know the rules'. I'd thought I'd known the world, as we were playing in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor. What I had failed to comprehend was that we were not playing in Dave's Blackmoor, but in the Zeigeist Games version - which is substantially different, with most of what made Dave's Blackmoor so unique and fun simply not being present. (Like Gertie, The Mother of All Dragons, for example.)

Back in the day, we didn't play rules sets; we played worlds, and game scenarios set in those worlds. We did this both for what has become the 'RPG genre' and the 'wargaming genre', as all of us being so young and inexperienced (I have also been called 'unsophisticated', about this now vital and very important difference in genres) we simply did know any better some forty years ago.

I get asked what I play, so here it is:

Tekumel - by M. A. R. Barker

I have always loved Phil's creation, and I enjoy campaigning in it. So, I do, and I use whatever rules set happens to fit that particular game session.

Barsoom - by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Phil introduced me to Barsoom, and I've never looked back. Sword And Planet Romance, in all it's glory. Those Therns continue to be a pain...

Ancient Egypt - by Hollywood and the Pulps

Historical gaming has always been something I've enjoyed, to the despair of Serious Historical Gamers. Real history is full of really wonderfully goofy stuff, like The Tangier Garrison of Charles II, and you can't make it up nearly as well. So, 'classic' Aegyptus as in the time of Lord Meren, and 'Hollywood' Aegyptus as in the time of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

The Dark Ages - by The Missus, Herself

More historical campaigning, but with lefse and open-faced sandwiches on the sideboard. Herself is Scandinavian, so she wanted to salvage the fifty Shieldmaiden figures I'd bought for an abortive campaign by adventuring in the Viking Age. I happen to have a bunch of old Ral Partha / RAFM 'Royal Armies of the Hyborian Age' figures as well, so we can have some raids to sack and pillage those Northern European buildings I have. And we can visit Novgorod and Constantinople, too, such is the depth of my scenery boxes

The Pyrates - by George Macdonald Frasier.

If you haven't read this book and wanted to break out the ships, dice, eyepatches, pieces-of-eight, and percentile dice, then nothing I can do will help you. Avast, me hearties!!!

Lots of maps are going up on the walls; I have heaps, and we'll be awash in adventure...