Sunday, August 25, 2013

Weekly Update for Sunday, August 25th, 2013 - It's hot, but I still have a sense of humor.

The modern take on the Conan mythos :)

And the classic original take...
Mr. Frazetta would be hugely amused, I think.

It's the dog days of summer, and I'm up very early in the mornings to take advantage of the cool air just after sunrise. The rest of the time, I'm either asleep in the air conditioning or at work in the basement in the air conditioning. There's a trend, there. Lots of short news items for you to peruse, this morning, and I'll try to be brief.

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We have one more game session left before I have to take a break for the local football season; I'll be away all September and then I have isolated games in October and November. I will be doing updates, here at the blog, but you should e-mail me for specific game dates here at The Workbench.

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I have finished the work to build the new and improved storage areas, and I will be moving into them this week. I will also be finishing the new lights on the Workbench proper, and really cranking up for painting tis fall as the cooler weather hits. As a part of all this, I have been going through and sorting the contents of the dozens of boxes that we have everything packed into, and getting it all sorted. It's a lot of work, but we'll be in far better shape once it's all done.

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I am 'decommissioning' a lot of what might be called 'proxy' figures, in order to concentrate on the purely Tekumelyani figures in the collection. I have a number of figures that will be coming in from Howard Fielding and The Tekumel Project, and I need to make room for them. I am really concentrating on having figures that really look the best for our games, and 'weeding out' all of the relatively marginal ones that I've been putting up with over the past decade. The spares will go into the stripper and then into storage, until I come up with a plan for what to do with them.

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"To Serve The Petal Throne", my book about gaming with the Professor, is up to 87,769 words as of this morning, and it going strong.

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Speaking of books, Konrad Lischke is publishing his book on the origins of RPGs; he's the journalist who interviewed me in 2008 about Tekumel and Professor Barker. You can learn more from him at:

http://drachenvaeter.org/en/

And you can see his article about the Professor at:

http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/spielzeug/tekumel-schoepfer-m-a-r-barker-der-vergessene-tolkien-a-649336.html

and:

http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/games/zum-tod-von-m-a-r-barker-mayas-statt-mittelalter-a-822126.html

You can click to see photos, too!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Weekly Update for August 18th, 2013 - First the News, and then an Essay!

My Citizenship papers, for when I get stopped on the Sakbe Road.

And Now, The News:

First off, let me remind folks that Mike Burns' second Ancient Egyptian Indiegogo campaign has about a week left to run; the first three 'stretch goal' figures are now released, and I'l looking forward to seeing the collection. These are very handy figures for the Tekumel gamer, as they provide all of the 'party people' that I find just way too useful for the kind of games that I like to run. have a look at Mike's website - lots of painted versions of the figures are now posted in the Gallery:


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It has been a very busy weekend, here at The Workbench; I have been out in the storage shed building the new shelves (new construction, salvaged materials) for all of the plastic bins we've been putting all of the less-used terrain and scenery into. I now have sufficient shelves for thirty tubs, and I'll be packing up all of the items we have in stock - but don't use all that often, like the modular gladiator arena set - and get everything stowed away for when  we get rolling again after the hiatus I have to take to work the fall football games.

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New lighting has been bought and is being installed for The Workbench itself; new LED and soft white lights, all set up to give me the most possible room for painting, and with both brightness and a good color spectrum.

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The home office has now been rebuilt, and is now set up for me to get cracking on various writing projects. I have also redone the 'Projects - To Serve The Petal Throne' page, over to the left, and I'll be doing more of these pages on all of the projects I'm working on at the moment.

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Essay - Why Use Miniatures, Anyway?

Back in June, our own Mr. Till did a post on his excellent blog, "Everwayan", on the Tekumel-based Braunstein game I did back in June of this year. One portion of his post really stopped me in my tracks:

 "It was a wonderful scene he created! The experience has been making me think about the limitations of most contemporary indie rulesets, which tend to eschew miniatures and props.But these visual elements CAN be used build story and drive a narrative, especially when you use them as well as Jeff used them here."

(From here: http://everwayan.blogspot.com/2013/06/tekumel-braunstein.html)

My initial response to this comment was a startled "What the heck?" Not that I'm picking on John, or anything, but it was - as they say - a real 'show stopper' for me.

I genuinely had no idea what he was on about, and then it hit me: the style of RPG playing - not games, but actual game play - that I learned at the hands (and feet, the occasional kick being applied to my posterior at times in games) is very very different from what's being done today. In my experience, miniatures were always a 'game aid' when doing RPGs, and there wasn't such a firm line in the sand being drawn between 'miniatures games', 'skirmish games' and 'role-playing games'; we had what amounted to a spectrum of games, where one week we'd be the general commanding a battle group at some fight on the Northwest Frontier and then the next it's be hand-to-hand / cutlass-to-cutlass swashbuckling as we fought off some pirates.

Miniatures, for me along with scenery and terrain, have always been my 'props' and 'sets' for the stories that I like to tell, and which provide the vehicle for my players to become part of the story by adding their own contributions. I don't really get 'player agency' in games - for me, for all these years, it's always been about the players joining me in what amounts to cooperative storytelling. I frankly can't imagine a different way of doing things, which may very well explain the 'culture shock' I've experienced in dealing with some of the folks in modern RPG gaming - the 'OSR' folks, for example - who can't seem to understand that the game sessions that I had with Those Old Guys were all about 'play value', and a lot less about game mechanics then they would like to think.

Folks, 'The Rules' hadn't been invented yet. We were all still "making it up, and having fun." I still game that way, and that's what I'll be offering in the future to you , Gentle Readers, and I hope you enjoy it.





Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Weekly Update for August 11th, 2013 -The End Of The Campaign Season

Yet another one of Those Days in the lives of Our Heroes.

It's August, already, and we're at the end of the annual campaign season. I will be off to work the football homes games at the end of the month, and we've traditionally taken a long break during September through November to allow me to work all that overtime. We normally come back with a bang after the Thanksgiving holiday, where I have several days off to get things ready for a largish miniatures game. I'll still continue to post and update during the hiatus; there's always lots of stuff happening, as this is normally my most productive time of the year for painting and writing.

For the record, the usual campaign year starts with the Thanksgiving game, followed at the turn of the calendar year with the Annual Holiday Game; we started that tradition over a decade ago, and I still run something on New Year's Day every year. Early Spring sees the local game convention, Con of the North, and this coming year that nice Mr. Brett Slocum is masterminding a Tekumel 'track table'; please see his reports at:


Later on in the spring we have the David L. Arneson / M. A. R. Barker Memorial Games Event, which looks to expand a bit this coming year. Also in the spring, on the first game session day following the vernal equinox, we have the Tsolyani New Year's Party.

Summers are a little slow, but we do have the Minnesota Miniatures Gaming Association 'Recon" one-day game event in early August; I'm planning on running a game at that event, and I will keep people posted on it.

And, of course, we have the game group meeting here at The Workbench on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. We may have to cancel the second game session this month, due to people being out of town on the day.

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"Appendix N for Tekumel" - I'm going to be posting in response to the questions I get on what is and what is not 'my' Tekumel, and I'll also be doing a page on some of the 'source' materials that Phil enjoyed over the years. Motion pictures, books, and other media will be referenced.

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I can finally say that all of the 'heavy industry' in the game room is done. I still have to build the new shelves in the storage shed before the winter sets in and move all of the plastic tubs of scenic materials out there, but otherwise the game room and the game lounge are done. It's amazing, how much room is there; now I can run two game tables at once, and leave a game up and running on one if we need to. Photos to follow, once I paint the wall with the huge cork board on it.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Weekly Update for August 4th, 2013 - The Tekumel Foundation Needs Your Help!

What the Tekumel Foundation is looking for:
A zip drive and a 5.25" floppy drive to read Phil's old discs

The Tekumel Foundation, on their blog (see link in the left-hand column), has announced that they are looking for help from anyone who has a zip drive or a 5.25" floppy drive in order to be able to read the old discs that Phil had had in his collection. These discs have the drafts of Phil's first two novels, "Swords and Glory", and several other things like Phil's massive set of Ancients / Medievals siege rules and the setting for his "Megarra" miniatures campaign. The rest of Phil's digital files were on his hard drives in his old IMacs; there was the drafts of his later three novels, and the first fourteen chapters of his last Tekumel novel, "Beside The Dark Pool Of Memory"; the latter is the beginnings of a new story arc for Tekumel, as well as tying up some of the loose ends from the first one - the accession of Mirusya to the Petal Throne, a story arc that he started back in 1950. (The Foundation used to have this kind of equipment available through The Missus,  but lost their access to it when The Missus had her contract terminated by Mrs. Barker back in September of 2012; The Missus had been working for her to catalog Phil's book collection, and had also been working on accessing Phil's digital files and had bought the drives needed to read all of the old discs - see the picture, above - as part of my former work as Phil's Archivist for the Tekumel Foundation.)

Anyway, the Tekumel Foundation now has a new IT person, but they don't have a zip drive; if you can help the Foundation out, please contact them through their blog. Thanks!!!

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The terrain tiles, in their new homes

I promised pictures of the newly-cut terrain tiles, and here they are in their new homes - plastic tubs, all marked with unique IDs and with plastic pockets on the end for inventory / packing lists. The goal is to have these go all packed and ready to go, so that they are to hand when we need them for games. The tiles are a layer of 3/8" Masonite or MDF with a layer of 1/4" expanded styrofoam 'bead board' laminated together; they have been painted with a base coat, given a good texture with sawdust, and then painted again with a base coat and detailed with my airbrushes. We have 64 of the 9.5" x 9.5" 'temperate' tiles, and 38 of the 9.5" x 9.5" 'arid' tiles. I still have to get the 'maritime' tiles packed (these being rivers, streams, coasts, and other water features) and inventoried.

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MMGA's 'Recon' Event, August 3rd, 2013

Also in a miniatures vein, I had a very nice excursion out to the Minnesota Miniatures Gaming Association's 'Recon' event yesterday; lots of nice games, and people having fun. I may do a game here next year, depending on how my schedule looks at the time.

(I had a very odd experience at the event; I have known most of these guys for some thirty years, and they were astonished to see me; somebody from the local area has been telling folks that I am dead, I gather, and so they were all surprised to see me walking around. I assured them that I am merely following the current trend for all things zombie...)

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Today is the end of my two weeks' vacation, and I am back to my 'normal' schedule. I am happy to be able to say that all of the 'heavy lifting' is done, and all I have left to do is some tidying up of loose debris. I have to install the new lighting I got for the actual workbench, and one that's done in the next few days I'm back to painting the lead mountain and getting back to writing. Having all the big projects done is a huge relief. I also got to spend time with the family too!

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Further experiments with the Sony 'Blogger' camera have been most rewarding; with the game room and game lounge now in good shape, I can use them as a 'studio' to do little video segments which you'll be able see on my video website. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'm hoping to be able to share a lot of information about Tekumel with you through these little programs. I'll keep all of you updated, of course!