Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, March 30th, 2014 - Losing Another Of My Generation

Galley 'Nemesis', alongside Harchar's Tnek - DLA MMM game

The major news this past week has been that we've lost yet another of my generation, brilliant artist Dave Trampier. I won't try to say what I feel about this - I don't think I can, I'm sorry - but may I suggest you have a look at the wonderful tributes to him being posted across the blogosphere.

He was a good man, and I'll miss him; he was a casualty of the Blume brothers' business style oat TSR, like so many other good people were.

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Mike Burns' 'Ancient Egyptian' Indiegogo has ended, with some $11,600 dollars being raised on a goal of $2,000. It looke like we'll be getting more then eighty new figures, which is not at all bad!!!

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Jeff Dee's Kickstarter for his "Bethorm" Tekumel RPG continues, and is doing well; may I suggest you use the link to Uni Games in the left-hand column and have a look? Thanks!

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Today is, I think, the last day of this year's 'Gary Con' in Lake Geneva; I hope that they did well, and people had fun.

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I'm not sure when I'll schedule this years David L. Arneson Memorial Maritime Miniatures Mayhem event - suggestions, anyone?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Project Round-up - March 29th, 2014: "Just what do you really do there, Chirine?"

Proposed page template for "To Serve The Petal Throne" and for
"Advance Standards! Qadardalikoi - The Second Edition"

Publications:

"To Serve The Petal Throne" - My book about our game session with Prof. Barker, 1976 to 1989. Now at six separate volumes, and at a current word count of 101,225 across the six volumes. Looking for an artist to do the volume covers. Proposed release date: Summer, 2015

"Advance Standards! Qadardalikoi - The Second Edition" - An updated editon of my miniatures rules for Tekumel. In draft only, and in playtest. Video tutorial planned; all color photographs as illustrations. Possible release, 2016

The modular scenery tile system in the storage tubs
Gaming Equipment:

I now have two separate sets of modular table scenery tiles; one set is of 'dry' terrain, and the other 'temperate'. I will be making a 'wet' set this summer, 2014. All of the tiles are a standard 9.5" x 9.5", to work with my stock and standard 30" x 60" tables. All tiles are pre-packed in storage tubs for ready access.

I have four sets of modular vegetation tiles; 'swamp', 'temperate', 'desert', and 'conifer'. With these, I can duplicate any terrain type that Prof. Barker specified for his world.

I have two modular urban terrain sets; one for a town scene, and a second for a City of the Dead necropolis. I will be adding a number of temple buildings in order to have enough scenery to make a small to medium town, and a second medium to large city. I will be building a set of Underworld tiles to make an Underworld table.

I have one rural Sakbe road set completed; this is used on the Anch'ke game table. I have a second, 'large / urban' Sakbe road set in the works.

I am refining and reorganizing the entire miniatures collection to accurately reflect our game play and style.

Pre-set Game Tables:

I have enough terrain and scenery to run up to four large game table at once. These include:

"Saving Serqu's Sisters" - 120" x 60", fully built
"Storming Hekellu" - 60" x 60" to 60" x 120", will be using new city towers
"Attack on Castle Tilketl" - 60" x 120", fully built

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Frequently Asked Questions - Suggestions from Peter Robbins

Stuff, in the basement.


One of the really wonderful thing about the Internet is that I get to talk to some really smart and clever people. One of them, Peter Robbins, asked me some questions recently on Google+ and had some suggestions; I thought that they deserved a longer answer, and I thought that they were also worth sharing with people:

One suggestion would be to possibly put out the 2nd/Revised Edition miniatures rules as a Kickstarter before the 1st Volume of your Recollections (my name not yours I gather) project ; ONLY in that it would be a smaller project (layout wise most likely) than a full large volume book. I think you'd be able to finalize it much quicker than sifting, editing, and re-writing what you've already done on your volume work. This is entirely conjecture and strange commentary based on guessing that your rules may be in a more final form (and shorter form) than your recollections project. - Peter Robbins


Let me address your comments, if I may...

The miniatures rules will need to have something like two to three years of play-testing, both with me and in blind testing, before they are ready for publication in any form. While I am not really changing much of the game engine from the original, the past thirty years of game play have mandated some additions that should be extensively tested 'on the table'.

As for the format, I had planning on it being much the same as the original edition, but with color photographs of the actual miniatures in actual play - one of the major complaints that I have received over the years was that gamers didn't like the  line drawings. Kathy Marshall, Craig Smith, Ken Fletcher, M. A. R. Barker, and Dave Sutherland were (I have been told repeatedly) "not professional enough" for "proper Tekumel publications". Doing photos would also be, quite frankly, much cheaper then hiring professional artists as I can do those myself with the in-house equipment I own.

Likewise, I am planning on having a video 'tutorial' to accompany the game showing how the game is played; since I normally can't be there in your game room to run a game for you, I thought that a video presentation would be the next best thing. Again, this is something I can do with in-house equipment; I still own a professional three-camera shoot set-up with all the trimmings, left over from my career in technical production for stage shows and broadcast television.

In any case, the miniatures rules are a good two to three years away from seeing the light of day.

I might also point out that in the past thirty years that the original edition of the game has been in print, it has sold a whopping 300 to 400 copies, all told. I am basing my plans on this being the likely 'market' for the new edition.

"To Serve The Petal Throne", on the other hand, is not one large volume; it is divided into six separate 'volumes' or 'books', as Chirine's career in Phil's game sessions falls into six distinct phases. Each book will run, I suspect, something like 50,000 words; the total work, as of today, is up to some 101,225 words across the set. ( I have specific page counts for each volume on my blog.)

What is driving the word count are the log books and audio tapes I made of our game sessions with Phil; his stories about his world, as I participated in them, are what's driving the plot(s) and the word count.

It has been my plan all along, as I have mentioned on both the Tekumel Yahoo group and here on my own blog, to 'publish' both the book of our adventures and my miniatures rules as e-books; I do not think that there is enough of a market for the miniatures rules to justify a hard-copy version, and I have gotten such a very poor response from 'mainstream' Tekumel fandom over the book that I have doubts that a hard copy version of it would sell; the Tekumel fans seem to think that the book(s) are too long - one comment was that "I don't have time to read that!" and that I should do something for them along the lines of a 250 to 500 word forum post instead. Another objection is that the book is too 'non game'; I am told that I need to include spell lists, encounter tables, character statistics, and other such things in the book in order for it to have any appeal to Tekumel gamers.

I should at once note that the response to the book outside of Tekumel fandom has been very, very positive; I have had non-gamers and gamers look over the text over the past several years, and they have all been very excited by it. The book(s) is(are), I will admit, very 'Sword and Planet Romance", but people seem to like that.

In any case, "To Serve The Petal Throne" is expected to be done early next year; my devoted team of a half-dozen editors feels that this is possible, and I'd like to have it out on the anniversary of Phil's passing as a tribute to somebody I enjoyed hearing stories for many, many years... - chirine

Sounds like a good plan (in both project cases). Thank you for spelling all of that out. - Peter

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Readers' Questions - The Five Greatest Games I Have *** Ever *** Run

Chirine answers the mail...
Reader and commentator Tim Knight has asked a few questions about Saturday's game, and I thought I'd better do a full post in order to give him a proper answer...


Thank you (and thank you for pointing out the Egyptian miniatures IndieGoGo, I've hopped onboard in the final hours). Not being that 'au fait' with Tekumel, can you explain a bit more about the background to the scenario and what roles the players took?

You're welcome!

The Tekumel world-setting is the creation of Prof. M. A. R. Barker, who was persuaded by Dave Arneson to publish a role-playing game set in his world waaaaay back in 1975.  The professor had been working on and writing about Tekumel since the late 1940s, and there is a wealth of information and artwork about the place - a lot of it in my basement! The Professor's RPG, "Empire of the Petal Throne", was one of the very early products of a small company called "TSR"... :)

The world-setting takes place in our far future; it's "Sword and Planet Romance", rather then 'classic fantasy' or even 'classic science-fiction'. Star-faring humans and their non-human allies have been trapped on a distant world for a very long time, and civilization has taken a bit of a slide. Humans are not at the top of the food chain on Tekumel.

I started playing in the Professor's game sessions back in 1976, and I've been at it ever since. Chirine ba Kal is my player-character and 'alter-ego'; that's him (as a 25mm miniature, done in 1976) in the photo, along with his deck chair.

Chirine and his extended family 'retired' to the distant Nymesel Islands to sit out the recent civil war in their home country, and had been having a very nice - and quiet! - vacation when several boatloads of mercenaries showed up escorting some diplomats who wanted to see what Chirine and the family thought about their civil war, and where he stood in relation to the various factions that they represented. It turned out that there was a traitor in their midst, who hatched a plot to wreck the family's vacation. The game was the start of the plot, and the local reaction to it.

Like all my 'Braunstien'- style games, there were multiple 'sides', each with differing goals and objectives. There was Chirine's little navy (of one ship and crew), the local inhabitants of the town, and three factions of mercenaries. I handed out written sheets with all this at the start of the game - none of the players knew in advance of the game what they would be playing.

On the practical side, how did you handle the 'movement in the dark'?

I announced that all movement for everyone - since they were all humans and pretty much the same - would be up to six inches per turn, and then handed all the players six-inch rulers. I have the players roll for their turn to move, and each player moves in turn; all movement is considered to happen at the same time, and the dice rolls manage to simulate this pretty well.

I dimmed the lights during movement, so all the players could really see where the lights in the windows of the buildings and what their 'torches' and 'lanterns' illuminated. None of the players knew who was playing whom; all they knew was that 'their people' all had one particular color of lantern.

The chaos was a joy to behold.

Besides the brilliant use of the IKEA lights and the tea-lights (on my shopping list for our next visit to IKEA!), what made this the best game you've run in 40 years? I would imagine, from what I've read on your site, that the bar was quite high already ;-)

(Quick Note: The 'SOLVINDEN' light domes are a seasonal item at IKEA, and probably won't be around until later this year. Buy 'em as soon as you see 'em; each store gets relatively few of them, and they go really fast. The tea lights seem to be widely available; I have them from a variety of places that sell party supplies and crafts stuff.)

Yes, I'd say that the bar was set very high. Very, very high, actually:

The Five Greatest Games I Have Ever Run:

5. "Rescuing Kaitara" - 2005

The game group meets on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, so I usually have a two-week cycle time to build things for the games. In this case, one of the players had been abducted, and the rest of them gave chase to rescue her; when their boat caught up with the one the bad guys were on, I stopped the game session and said we'd play out the rescue during the next game session in two weeks. The group was not very pleased.

Until the next game session, that is. I had built the two ships and done everything in miniature, and it came as a total surprise for the players when they walked into the game room. They were simply gob-smacked, and then took off on a romp of a game where there was derring-do and swashbuckling all over the decks. It was awesome.

4. "Captain Harchar vs. The Hlyss Nest-ship" - 2010

We had originally played this out during our time with Prof. Barker, along about 1979. It was pretty scarey - humans are not at the top of the food chain, remember. The insectoid Hlyss use humans as living incubators for their larvae, which is Not A Good Thing. We did this game again in miniature in 2010 as a memorial for Dave Arneson, who had played the rascally Captain Harchar in the professor's game for years to such memorable effect.

Dave's beloved daughter Malia brought her entire family to watch the mayhem, and I would up telling her son - Dave's grandson - all about the adventures of Captain Harchar. After I finally ran down, the young man turned to his mom, and asked "When I grow up, can I be a swashbuckling buccaneer like Grandpa?"

I melted.

3. "Night Battle Off Savo Island - 1979

"Clear for Action" was our preferred set of rules for WWII naval games, and this one was set in the South Pacific in the early days of the Guadalcanal campaign. The rules have provisions for searchlights and starshells, and I used penlights and turned off the lights. Hilarity ensued, as the IJNS "Sushikaze" steamed into her own minefield at 23 knots, the Imperial Army's shore battery opened up on her (thinking she was an American cruiser), and the American PT boats ran aground on the reefs; they had to be pulled off by the British minesweepers. And, no matter how many torpedoes they fired, the American PTs just could not sink Savo Island; those islands are tough, and took multiple torpedo hits without sinking!

We laughed until we cried.

2. "The Great Mos Eisley Spaceport Raid" - 1978

The biggest and most infamous 'Braunstein'- style game I have ever run. The playing area was thirty feet by thirty feet, and there were over two hundred figures divided into over a dozen factions. It was "Star Wars, Episode IV" in miniature, with the exact same plot and characters. It was also a "who's who" of the early days of the Twin Cities game scene - Dave Arneson played Jabba the Hutt, Dave Wesley and Ross Maker his henchbeings Greedo and Boba Fett (I had inside information from some  guy named George Lucas), Fred Funk as the Imperial ("Darth vader is my hero!") Stormtroopers, Mike Mornard as Han Solo, and so on. (There was no typecasting. No, really. I would never, ever do anything like that. Honestly.)

Six hours of utter pandemonium and mayhem erupted as everyone bribed, cajoled, shot at, robbed, stole, and cheated each other. A normal day in Mos Eisley, really...

1. "Then Darkness Fell" - 2014

None of the players had any idea what I had come up with for a game, and I didn't tell them. I had them pick their sheets for their factions, and told them not to open them yet; then, I gave my 'backstory' about the scenario, while switching on all the little tea lights in the buildings - these are dim, and didn't show up under the bright track lights in the game room. At the end of my introduction, I told the players to look at their sheets while I dimmed the room lights - the gasps of sheer awe at the magical scene made my day, and then the players had to get right into character as they had to read their sheets by 'lantern' light...

The looks on their faces made it all worthwhile. The game itself was equally wonderful, as people stumbled over each other and their own people in the dark. (The little buffet I'd set out was nice, too!)

 We laughed all day. It was, simply, grand.


Monday, March 24, 2014

More Photos Now Up!

"Right! Who threw that torch?!?"

I have now uploaded more photos from the game on Saturday to my Photobucket page. Please use the link at the bottom of the left-hand column, or try this:


There are over thirty photos on two pages, for your amusement. Quite a few of the players took photos, and I will include as many of them as possible for you to goggle at.

It was a very good game...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

And Darkeness Fell : The New Year's Game For 2,393 A. S. - The Weekly Update for Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

The players' eye-view of yesterday's game.

The game-master's eye-view of yesterday's game
There are days when it pays to get up out of bed in the morning. Yesterday was one of them; I think I have run what I think has been the very best game I have ever run in my time in gaming.

Yes, that's right; I think that this is the best game I have ever run in some forty years of fooling around on the game table. Ever. And I include the infamous "Great Mos Eisley Spaceport Raid" game of some thirty years ago.

I had wanted to do something really special for yesterday, as it's the occasion of the annual Tsolyani New Year's Party; I had my first international visitor, and my wonderful brother and nephew came up from their home in southern Minnesota for the day.

I used one of our adventures that I am writing about in my book, "To Serve The Petal Throne", as the basic scenario; Salarvyani mercenaries cause trouble in town, which is nice but not spectacular as a game. Yes, it has five 'sides', in your classic Braunstein tradition, with lots of double-dealing, bribery, action, and nice scenery; again, nice, but not spectacular.

And then I got to thinking.

"You know, Chirine," I said to myself, "this looks all very well and good. Nice scenery, decent figures, and a fun scenario. It just doesn't 'send' me, though. What can I do to make this a truly memorable game for everyone?"

And I thought for a few more moments, and began to laugh.

And then I reached for the master dimmer for the track lights that illuminate the game table in the game room, and I slid the dimmer down to twenty percent - just enough to have a glow on the table, but not enough to see much of anything. You couldn't really see the buildings, the ships, the figures, and all the detail and time that I lavish on my miniatures.

Laughing like Ming the Merciless over the captive Earthlings, I then reached into one of the bins of game accessories that line the walls of the game room. "Nothing can save you now!" I chortled.

My demented thought was that since this scenario takes place at night, why not? Why not have a real night game? Now, I did assume  that - in the best adventuring tradition - everyone would bring torches, lanterns, oil lamps, and the occasional "Light" spell; it was my job to simulate that on the game table. But just how to do that?

IKEA. IKEA, for all your obscure gaming needs. A few years ago, I had bought some of the 'SOLVINDEN' battery-powered LED lights for possible use as spell markers in games. These are little domed lights, and very nice; we lat used them as table decorations at Prof. Barker's memorial event, two years ago, and it seemed a very fitting way to remember him as well as simulate the lights that the little people on the game table would be carrying.

Thinking further, I also got out the little LED 'tea-lights' we have; these are also battery-powered, and are small enough to fit inside the buildings on the game table. They also have a flicker circuit in them, and the effect of lamps inside the buildings was magical. The moon, seen over the harbor, is a electro-luminescent item from a range of Halloween items; I have several, and they look pretty good.

The reaction from the gamers was everything that I had hoped for. The game went well; we had the lights off during movement, and on during the resolution phases. There was a lot of collisions in the dark, which made for a lot of laughter, and a lot of just plain fun all the way around. Three bottles of bubbly, a light buffet, and friends having fun; what more could one ask for, eh?

It was a very good way to start the New Year...

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Please scroll down to the previous post, and have a look at the various links; the Kickstarters i've been interested in have been very successful so far, and are well worth your having a look. Mike Burns' Ancient Egyptians are ending on a high note, and Jeff Dee's is just beginning.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

So much for my Qik site, I guess...

No comment.

This came in the e-mail box, this morning:


Dear Qik Customer,

We're constantly looking for ways to deliver the best possible 
experience for our customers. Sometimes this means we need to retire 
products in favour of building even better ones.

So, on 30 April 2014 we'll be retiring Qik.com and all associated
Qik smartphone and desktop apps across Android, iOS, Mac, Symbian
and Windows.

The Qik video messaging technology has now been incorporated into 
Skype. Customers can now enjoy a great experience on Skype with 
features such as video messaging, instant messaging as well as 
real-time audio and video calling.

For more information about the retirement of Qik, and what this 
means to you, please visit the Frequently Asked Questions page at:
http://emails.skype.com/r/c/r?2.1.3OM.2w%2a.7Q6pV4.GIaoB%5f..T.EGNq.4b6.bW89MQ%5f%5fCOfUFMA0

Thank you for all the experiences we captured together
on Qik – we look forward to seeing you on Skype.

You can learn more about Skype and download the mobile and tablet 
apps from the Microsoft, Google and Apple app stores.  

Desktop apps are available from:
http://emails.skype.com/r/c/r?2.1.3OM.2w%2a.7Q6pV4.GIaoB%5f..T.EGNs.4b6.bW89MSZyc29tbmk9RU1BRF8yMjIxXzE5MDMxNEVOX1JPRU1lbg%5f%5fWaeIfR00

Skype Team

The Qik and Skype names, their associated trade marks and logos and
the "S" logo are trade marks of Skype, Microsoft or related 
entities.

Skype Communications S.A.R.L. 23-29 Rives de Clausen,
L-2165 Luxembourg.

More information when I have it.

-chirine



Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, March 16th, 2014 - Interlude

I've got fan-bearers; now I need fans...

I have a whole bunch of stuff to report on, for your amusement...

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Howard Fielding, he of The Tekumel Project, has posted a very interesting thread on the Lead Adventure Forum (which I think is a very good forum!) on a possible use of the wonderful Ancient Egyptian Palace figures being done by Mike Burns:


I am planning on doing a similar game, but one taken from an adventure that Yours Truly is writing up in Book Six of "To Serve The Petal Throne"; some Salarvyani assassins attack the palace (For reasons too complex to go into here; it's got to do with the Salarvyani civil war.) and discover that Si N'te's hiring polices for the domestic staff have some - shall we say? - unusual provisions to them...

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Jeff Dee, artist and author, has announced that his latest Kickstarter for the production of his "Bethorm" rules for Tekumel will be starting this week. May I suggest using the link in the left-hand column to access his Unigames website, and have a look? I think you might be pleased!


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Well-known blogger Dariel Qulogue has done a pair of posts on his blog, Hari Ragat, about Tekumel and how it relates to his own work:



I was first introduced to Dariel's work through Mr. J. Till, he of The Everwayan blog, and I really quite like it. He brings a non-Western viewpoint to RPGs, and his material is excellent!

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Also from the blog-o-sphere, long-time Tekumel enthusiast (I don't use the word fan, here, as I think there's a difference in approach; for example, I consider myself to be an enthusiast, not a fan.) Principe dell'Estria has been plugging away on his wonderful blog:


He does some wonderful work; his monograph on Tekumel naval matters is now my standard reference on the subject, and he's done a superb map of the First Imperium which is both scholarly and beautiful. I have provided a link in the left-hand column, and updates appear there as well.

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That, I think is everything - oops, wait...

The Ancient Egyptian Indiegogo run by Mike Burns in Leeds just keeps going from strength to strength:


I am really looking forward to these figures - and the game we can do with them!



Saturday, March 15, 2014

Endings, Beginnings - Continued (Part the Second)

Chirine's astrolabe.
(Kindly ignore the Post-it notes, please.)

As I mentioned in the last installment of this essay, I get a little reflective and philosophical about this time of the year. This past year, I've been ruminating about what amounts to a form of 'culture shock' - both for me and for what seems to be quite a few people I talk to.

I'm not a 'gamer'. None of the old original Thursday Night Group were 'gamers'. We were F/SF fans, artists, writers, and a model-builder. We split off from the original group of gamers that Phil had specifically because we were not 'gamers'; we wanted to explore Phil's creation, and so we went off on adventures and quests so Phil could tell the stories that he wanted to tell. He "made stuff up, and we had fun."

Certainly, we did some dice-rolling along the way, and we did some stuff with sets of rules. They provided the framework for our adventures, just like how the electronics in your monitor make my words appear on a glowing screen. We didn't worry about how the monitor worked; it was 'new technology' for us, and we simply went along with it. We didn't do a lot of 'critical peer review' of how Phil saw his Tekumel working; we accepted it as a given, I suspect because we were more concerned with staying alive then anything else.

Along the way, we'd ask questions to clarify what we were doing - not so much from the standpoint of 'wanting to get it right', but much more from the standpoint of 'oh, isn't this interesting!' Phil used to delight in showing off artifacts from his collection as a way of showing us what he thought his Tekumel looked like; swords, shields, maces, helmets, armor, clay jugs, flutes, reed pens, and all the other bric-a-brac of daily life in his world made their debut on the game table over the years and we 'ooohed' and 'aahhed!' more then a little bit. I still continue that tradition of 'play style'; very early on in my time with Phil, I started to pick up stuff that I thought that Chirine would be carrying around on his travels. I had a lot of fun lugging all of this out to show Phil, and he got a lot of amusement out of Chirine's assortment of baggage. (It was one of the things behind that amazing magical artifact, "The Inexorable Cart Of Chirine ba Kal".) Over the years, I managed to find just everything needed for gracious living 'on the road' in Tekumel, and it's all packed away in Chirine's travelling chests.

Over the years, quite a few of the 'real gamers' that I have talked to have had trouble understanding why we thought that this kind of thing was fun; our costumes, for example, have been cited (on the RPG.site forum of 'RPG pundit', for example) of 'What's Wrong With Tekumel' and an example of why we're considered a "freak show" for what we've been doing for the past thirty-some years. We've been called quite a few uncomplimentary names over the years - those folks like Kathy Marshall, Jim Danielson, Rick Bjugen, and my humble self who did their best to explore Phil's world and try to share it with you.

Well, you know, everyone is entitled to their own opinion - something I firmly believe in. But it's also why I don't spend a lot of time on the Internet forums; I can either spend my very limited free time there, listening to some very rude people, or working on the various projects that I have in hand. I choose the latter; this leaves me, of course, stuck in the same little cul-de-sac that I have been in since 1976. I have to admit that I do like it here; it's quiet. I do have some company; but they are polite people who don't worry about the Dire Menace of 'Fake Nerd Girls!' and the Destruction Of The Hobby. We just do out thing, and have fun.

If you want to come along for the ride, you are welcome to; just don't expect a lot of tables, algorithms, and dice rolls...



Friday, March 14, 2014

Endings, Beginnings - On Heading Into 2,393 A. S.

Not Chirine's, sorry to say; I'll get a photo of it, if you like.

Well, here we are at the beginning of the intercalenary days, between 2,392 A. S. and 2,393 A. S., and as usual I get a little reflective this time of the year. I should also note that the year-date is from the Long Count of Years, started in 1975 by Prof. Barker, and used in our notes and article on Tsolyani / Tekumelyani astrology; it is the astronomical year, and not the game year in Prof. Barker's campaign; I measure that from his novels and events that he wrote about. Currently, the game year is roughly 2,385 A. S., with the fourteen chapters of "Beside The Dark Pool Of Memory", Phil's last and unfinished Tekumel novel, starting to extend that.

I traditionally throw a party on the vernal equinox, the beginning of the Tsolyani year, slightly adapted to meet the schedule of game days here at the house. This year's little clambake will be on March 22nd; there will be a bottle of bubbly to consume.

The beginning of the new year is always tinged with a little melancholy, as well; we lost Phil  this time several years ago, and I do miss him. However, Tekumel goes on, and I think he'd be pleased.

With that, I thought I'd review a few things, and see where we've been and where we're going...

"To Serve The Petal Throne" - The book just keeps on going; I added another 1,000 words to Book Six the other night, and I'm still steaming away on the thing. I think - and this is tentative! - that the six books will average about 50,000 words each, for a rough total of some 300,000 words.

"Advance Standards!" - The revised and updated second edition of my old set of miniatures rules is getting going again, inspired by a slug of lead from Howard Fielding; bless the man!

Quite a few of my construction projects have been finished, I am happy to say, and the net results are now all in tubs in the storage shed. I have abandoned the set of city walls and towers that I had started to make some years ago; I got some very negative feedback from the staff of The Source about having hand-made scenery items in my games, - they preferred that I use 'professional' products - so I replaced the set with a double helping of the GW plastic fortress walls that I got through the kindness of Neal Cauley of Phoenix Games. These work just fine, and have the 'professionally finished' look that the guys at The Source apparently want to see. Sadly, with the issues vis-a-vis booking games at The Source, I no longer game there; the new wall, gate, and tower sets do look really nice, though.

The Big Sakbe Road Set - as opposed to the Little Sakbe Road Set that is a dedicated scenery element for the Battle of Anch'ke - is the last major project that I have in the stack to be worked on; after I get that done, sometime in 2015, I'll have a lot of little projects to amuse myself with. Palanquins; one never has enough palanquins!

I do have one major construction project in the design stage - I'm planning to build a model of many of the element of the wonderful Padmanabhapuram Palace in Kerala; Phil was there, once, and it serves as  the model for many of his palace / clanhouse complexes. I had some 1,575 scale roof brackets made, some years ago - I had access to a laser cutter, at the time - and now all I have to do is finish the cutting plans for the building bases in the computer and start milling everything out. The idea is not to have One Big Model - the idea is to make many smaller sections that can be used both in the actual configuration and in modular fashion to make an entire city-scape when used with my other scale buildings.

It'll keep me busy for a while... :)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, March 9th, 2014 - Warm Weather, And *Very* Busy!

Chirine, Vrisa, and the troops in the thick of it, as usual.
This will be be very short update - this is a very busy time of year for me, as I have a number of annual events to deal with in a very short time. I'll have longer posts this week for your amusement, and I hope you'll take the time to look them over.

In the meantime, we had a very nice game session yesterday, with Mr. Leduc running his classic EPT campaign; the denizens of the swamp were particularly pleasing, if somewhat fatal

I am getting figures based up, much to my delight, and getting ready for the conclusion of the Ancient Egyptian Indigogo that I have mentioned in previous posts. It looks like we'll be seeing about fifty new figures from this campaign, and I am already at work designing a game to use them in. Nothing like a party at the palace to live up an evening in Bey Su, I always say.

Anyway, off to Zurich via Skype in a few moments; more to come!!!


Monday, March 3, 2014

The Weekly Update ( A Day Late, Sorry!) for Monday, March 3rd, 2014 - Recovering

I'm getting steam back up, and getting back on-line...


First off, thank you everyone who e-mailed, posted, or left comments for me; your best wishes were very welcome, and very appreciated! Isolated as I am by my work schedule, it's always good to hear from people - this is your blog, as much as it is mine.

I am recovering from what was a 'low-pressure excursion', which means that my blood pressure dropped below the 'human normal' range for a while. I'll spare you the clinical details, but it basically means that my brain starts to shut down and I need to get horizontal for a day or so. I got pretty dehydrated as well, due to the cold weather, and I have to be careful about this; I have to keep my fluid intake / output ratio within a pretty narrow range, in order to avoid both this low-pressure event and the infinitely more dangerous high-pressure version. The latter can lead to blowing a blood vessel, and we'd like to avoid that.

Be that as it may, I am doing better; the warming trend here in the Twin Cities is also helping, as it looks like we've finally had the extremely cold weather break.

With that weather report, here's the highlights for the past week for your amusement...

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Mike Burns' "Ancient Egyptian Indiegogo is doing wonderfully well! All of the original stretch goals have been unlocked, and some new ones have been announced. Please have a look, at:


I've been asked why I'm so keen on these figures; it's because they fill a large gap in my collection, and are very useful for games where we need a lot of 'civilian' 'personalities'. These are nice figures, they paint up well, and are a lot of fun.

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It being March, I will be doing my annual Tsolyani New Year's Party on the fourth Saturday of this month, as part of the scheduled March 22nd game session. I don't know how much of the usual decor I'll be able to put out, as the storage shed is still buried under two feet of snow; with luck, it'll melt enough to let me get in there.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

No Update Today - I am very sick, sorry!



There is no update, today; I missed my pills last night, due to being too tired to be able to remember to take them, and so am very sick this morning. I will try to have something up for all of you tonight or tomorrow morning.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Old Goals, New Games - On Refocusing My Worldview

Phil's old desk calendar, that he got in India several years before I was born.
Now, it's on my desk. There's a parable in there, somewhere.

It has been, I do not mind saying, a very hard winter. We've had the longest run of below-zero (F) days and nights in several decades, and I have been hit pretty hard; as some of you know, my job keeps me outside at night, and the extremely cold weather has really run my stamina levels way down. I've been in survival mode, more or less, since last November, and it's had an effect on things here at The Workbench.

Back about a dozen years ago, I set out to provide a game space that - as best as I could manage it - replicate the kind of 'social gaming' we did out at Phil's for so many years. Back then, games were an a opportunity to get together with some of our friends and have some fun; we did this with and without lots of 'stuff', and that's what I've been trying to maintain down in the game room over the years.

Over that time, and as I've gotten to see what the on-line game fora look like, I've developed the perception that the kind of 'play style' that we used to have isn't all that much in tune with what gamers today are looking for. I'm also basing this on my experiences at the local game shops and conventions, where things seem to be set up to maximize 'through-put'; fast, 'quick-play' games that are limited in both time and space, and which require a limited amount of participation on the part of the players. The 'collectable card games' are an example of this, I think.

A number of years ago, I was talking to the games committee of the big local F/SF convention about getting space to run some games at their event. I toured their space, and noticed that the game tables were set up for what felt like a bridge tournament - small square tables, with four to six chairs. I asked about this, and the committee members told me that that was the format that games used these days; players didn't want to spend a lot of time in the game, they mostly just wanted a couple of hours' worth of entertainment.

We talked a lot about the kind of games that I run - 'Braunsteins', and the like - and the committee finally offered the suggestion that I and my style of game play simply didn't "fit the format"; they - quite intelligently, I thought; these are smart and thoughtful people, who know their gaming - and that I hould really get one of the convention's party suites and offer games in that space for the duration of the convention. Their thought, which I agree with, is that game players want what amounts to an 'in-and-out' game session - the kind of socializing and such that I do, they suggested, was better-suited to a social environment.

Now, please keep in mind that I don't disagree or condemn this play style; if that's what people find to be fun, then they should be free to use that model. "Cool," I thought, "at least they're playing something!"

And, of course, this means that the kind of effort that I put out to run my kind of games is something that a lot of modern gamers don't have a good handle on. They simply don't have the cultural background, because they don;t know what gaming was like back in those days when we were making it up as we went along. Again, cool; I'm all right with that. Where I'm running into some issues is simply that I don't have the stamina or energy, post-brain surgery, to be able to run a lot of things unless the environment and venue will allow for my need for logistics planning and execution.

So, I've been thinking a lot as I get through my nights; I'm looking at refocusing my energy and effort on the projects I'm working on that I think will further my ancient goals of 'having fun' and 'promoting Tekumel'. I'll still be open for games here at The Workbench on the second and fourth Saturdays in the month, and I'll still run games for folks. But, there will be some changes - changes that you, Gentle Readers, will probably not notice.

I will be continuing to work on my book, "To Serve The Petal Throne"; I will be repurposing the 'trade show booth' that I had originally built to show off Prof. Barker's Temple of Vimuhla model to be the 'trade show booth' for promoting my book at events where I think people might be interested in the thing. My thought is that since I paid for all this stuff, I might as well get some use out of it.

I will be reconfiguring the miniatures collection to reflect the preference for smaller games; Howard Fielding has shown the way ahead on this, with his packaging of his admirable miniatures into smaller and handier groups. He's right; one usually doesn't need the Big Battalions on the tabletop, and it'll speed up my painting cycle time. I will also be using the miniatures to fully illustrate the new edition of my rules, "Advance Standards!", and I will generate some small-unit rules to meet a need for same - I'm not talking about the classic Qadarni fights, I'm talking about what we used to call 'skirmish games' between small units on patrols or raids.

I will keep the Big Games in stock; I've already built them, so I might as well keep them handy for the future. You'll see more of them in the future, as I get them photographed.

So, there are my thoughts on a bitterly cold Friday night. Any thoughts or comments?