Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, June 29th, 2014 - Health News, And The Latest From The Workbench

I still love this get-well card from Howard Fielding!

First off. let me thank all of you who wrote, e-mailed, and commented here about The Missus' biopsy. It's very kind of all of you, and she really appreciated both your kind words and your concern. (So did I, for that matter!)

The procedure went well; because of all her other health issues, any kind of invasive surgical procedure is fraught with potential hazards, many of them life-threatening. The doctors know this, and so were very careful. The prognosis is very good, I am happy to be able to report, and things are looking up. The ultrasound exam on Friday also went well, and some more positive news there as well. She's tired out, as I am, but we're still here.

In my case, the crushed fingers are doing nicely; only the ring finger on the right hand is still swollen up, but I can now feel things with it. I just have to be careful not to bang into it with anything, because then it really smarts!!!

As a result of all this good news - and I suspect, staying away from a number of Internet sites that drive me batty - my blood pressure is down nicely from the highs that it was hitting a number of weeks ago. Progress, progress!

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I had my first day of 'retail open hours' yesterday for the scheduled game session, and I thought that it worked very well. I had everything ready in plenty of time, and with very little effort and spike in blood pressure. I'll be doing this every second and fourth Saturday in a calendar month, and I think both this and the idea of the 'micro-campaign' - where there is always a game set on the table, whether RPG or miniatures - is the way I'll be going into the foreseeable future.

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I am also getting a lot of the surplus miniature collection out and boxed up; there are  a lot of figures that I've been hoarding, 'just in case', and the time has come to cull the herd. I've been at this for something like forty years, so there are a lot of loose figures to be sorted - it seems like every box I open in the basement has more miniatures in it!

What was I thinking?

Well, I know what I was thinking, back in the day. One never knows what one might need, and I tended to pick stuff up when I saw it, usually at a huge discount; many of those figures never even got a coat of primer, so they are going off to new homes. The rest, I'll be making sure that I have a positive use for in my games, and get them all painted up for your amusement.

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I have been asked to elaborate on my 'micro-campaign' concept, and I'll take a run at this for you. The idea is to provide fun games for my players, and for me, and at the same time make sure that I can deal with the busy schedules - both mine and theirs!. So, I have a 'meta-game' going, just like the Professor did in his groups, and players can drop in and out as they can and always find something to play. This isn't a new concept, by the way, nor is it anything I thought up - see that wonderful book, "Setting Up A Wargames Campaign" by Tony Bath, and which is available on Amazon:



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Thank you all, once again! More to come!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An Update On That KFC Story From Earlier This Week...




This update story came across the news wires tonight:


Well.

One has to admire KFC for sticking to their promise, and I am pleased with that. I am really hoping that this is a case of somebody screws up, and the whole sad mess gets fixed.

I'll continue to follow up on this...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, June 22nd, 2014 - This And That, And I Can Feel My Fingers!

Yet another photo from The Night We Burned Hekellu Down
(Isn't there a song like that?)

The really good news, this Sunday, is that all of my splints on my poor fingers have been off for most of the week, and I can feel them once again. The fingertip of the 'ring finger' of my right hand is still numb, due to the swelling, but at least I can do such exciting things as open cans of Dinty Moore beef stew (Professor M. A. R. Barker's Official Meal Of Choice, when his wife was away visiting her family - at least until he got bored with heating up the cans on the stove and then he'd call us to come drive him to a local eatery.) and corned beef hash. My diet has improved tremendously with the addition of solid food, and I am a much happier camper. I still have to keep some bandages on the healing abrasions, and I will have some new scars to add to my collection of same, but it could have been much worse.

The really bad news is that The Missus is going in for a biopsy Thursday, and I'm scared witless.

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I gather that my posting the videos of the game session from last Saturday's little excursion into the Underworld has sparked some interest - thank you all for your posts on your blogs, your very kind comments, and your interest in what we do here! We try to amuse and entertain, and have as much fun as we can in the process.

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I have done some updates to the "People Worth Listening To" section over in the left-hand column of this page. I have added several blogs that I find very interesting - I see them come up in the 'Traffic Sources' section of the 'Stats', and I mosey over and take a look at them when I can get the chance. I'm fascinated, really; there's a lot of really good writing on these blogs, and I am learning a lot about our shared hobby! I have found these blogs to be very helpful and informative, and a lot more so then a lot of the sites and fora that I used to visit - there, my questions tended to get lost in the flow of the message traffic.

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Lost in the message traffic was the news about yesterday's 'Free RPG Day' events; I missed this. It sounded like fun - I get out so little these days, it would have been a nice excursion. So it goes; there will be other days!

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One of the downsides of being a homeowner is dealing with things like the four inches of rain we got on Thursday morning. It started while I was at work, and continued for the rest of the morning. We did get some water in, as it was a record rainfall both in terms of volume and intensity, but we have taken precautions; we manned the wet vac, fired up the oscillating fans, turned up the dehumidifier, and the basement is nice and dry. No harm done; I keep everything up on caster-mounted platforms to make it all easier to move anyway, so we'd have to be on the verge of real danger before we had anything happen to the game room and lounge. The linoleum is now very clean, however...

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The 'micro-campaign' idea seems to be working out nicely. The next round will come when the players work out with their clans and temples how to drum up some reinforcements to come back and see what else they can find out about the Underworld they just got through looking into, and we'll play that out when next we meet.

Again, I am now keeping what amounts to 'open hours'; there will always be a game of some sort on the table here. It might be a board game like "War of Wizards", it might be a role-playing game, or it might be a miniatures skirmish; the idea is to have game sessions that don't impinge on people's very busy and very scheduled lives, and simply have some fun and laughter with friends.

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As part of the therapy for my poor hand, I have been getting some painting done; I modified one of those thick pencil holders for people suffering from arthritis to hold my brushes, and so I've actually managed to be productive during the week just past. Howard Fielding, that crafty man who runs The Tekumel Project, sent me some figures recently which not only inspired me to get some painting done but also write another 2,000 words in "To Serve The Petal Throne"; Howard's figures reminded me of when Chirine and Si N'te were travelling from Meku to Fasiltum, to join up with Lord Takodai (this is just after the end of The Affair of The Malchairan Emerald, and just before the beginning of the Hekellu story arc of Phil's.) Photos, when I have them ready!

I've also been sorting out the piles of spare miniatures, getting most of them ready to be sent to their new homes. I am concentrating on the figures that really work for Tekumel, and closing out the figures that I bought 'on spec', to see if they worked in the Tekumel setting. Quite a few years ago, I bought a box of Games Workshop plastic Haradrim - edit: these are 'Easterlings', not 'Haradrim', I've discovered; sorry about that! - from their first wave of "Lord of the Rings" range. I've been vaguely dissatisfied with them since I bought them, and they've been sitting in a drawer of the spares rack for years. This is the old box - eight archers, eight swordsmen, and four spearmen - and I had never really gotten a good feel for what I could use them for.

Inspiration hit, the other night, as I realized that they do look very Salarvyani with their flat-topped helmets and closed visors. (Think the Nchesh of the Mace of Steel -  I think that's the ones that I thought of, and I'll check.) After all the excitement the night we had the Salarvyani assassins and mercenaries in a unwelcome guests, we executed the ones who really needed to be executed - there were some very nasty folks, in amongst the honest mercenaries - and hired the good ones. A number of them volunteered (really, they did! I was flabberghasted!) to be Lady Djullanar's guardsmen, under the command of her personal bodyguard Lady Serin; not a cushy posting, by any means, but an honorable one.

The plastic Easterlings just jumped out at me as being perfect miniatures for these troopers, so we now have the guard on The Workbench being painted. They look resplendent in their black leather and bronze scale armor - I departed from my usual practice of using flat white enamel spray paint for my primer color / coat, and did these figures in satin black for that 'hard leather' look. I am very pleased with them, and I am looking forward to seeing their adventures unfold!

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Thanks again, and have fun gaming!




Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Saturday Matinee: An Attempt At Explaining How I Run My Games

If you find the use of miniatures in Role-Playing Games offensive,
look away now; you are about to be appalled and mortified.

What we're going on with today is trying to explain (somehow!) how I run my little offerings on the game table. This is in response to two very intelligent comments made by two of our Regular Readers:

From JB:
If you don't mind revealing, is there a particular edition/system of Tekumel you're using for your micro-campaign? I don't recognize it (though I'm not especially familiar with Tekumel as a system). It's reminiscent of an older war-game style (like OD&D's "Chainmail" version) save that it uses percentile dice.

From Dwight Grosso:
Your rule system seems pretty easy to play with from what I can tell. It sounds like the method you've described from the old days. Thank you so much for sharing your efforts with the rest of us!

First off, thank you both for your very kind comments! I'll try and answer you both - bear with me...

I think I need to explain at the start of this essay that I don't think of Tekumel as an 'edition/system' object; I think of it as a 'world setting'. I think this comes out of my time as a F/SF fan, talking to authors like Gordy Dickson, Larry Niven, and Cliff Simak about what old F/ SF fans refer to as 'world-building' in writing. I first got interested in Tekumel as a world, and not really as a game - that came later, some time after I started going out to Phil's. I was brought on board to paint figures for him, and the rest - as they say - is history.

To answer JB, though, I'd have to say that I am grounded in what I started playing out at Phil's all those years ago: "Empire of the Petal Throne", the RPG from TSR. Over the years since then, I have added in the elements of the later RPGs that were published for Tekumel, such as "Swords and Glory" and "Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne". In my 'straight RPG' games, I use all of them at once; I have players that have been rolled up in all the various systems, and I do the number-crunching for them in my head as we game.

"Empire of the Petal Throne" (EPT), as it is, actually makes a pretty good 'miniatures game' set of rules as written; back in the day, we fought out our Underworld encounters on the table, and the rules took this into account; if you have up to a dozen figures on a side, it works nicely as a game.

For my usual kind of larger 'skirmish games', though, I much prefer to use rules that are as simple and as fast-playing as possible. Back in those ancient days, we all played the original "Chainmail", and it became what amounted to 'The Standard Game' for the ancient to medieval periods in our games. It got to the point where we could run the game without looking at the rules, and resolve combats simply by dice rolling because we all knew how the combat tables worked. This really sped play up - as you can see in the videos I have up on You Tube, we move along at a pretty fast pace.

Now, these days I use percentile dice in combat resolution - the increased range of numbers allows for what I think of as a 'finer grain' to the results; I have my players roll, and then I do the numbers to go from the old rules to modern dice in my head. I announce the results, and we move right along. I use several assumptions, based on EPT and OD&D, which are pretty simple: longer weapons hit first, all combat happens at the same time, and the number of attacks you get it equal to the number of hands / manipulative appendages you have. Spells may add or subtract from that, too.

Speed of play! Keep it simple! Over the years, especially out at the Professors, we all pretty much knew what was going to happen when we hit somebody with a mace or cast a spell; we rolled percentile dice to give Phil an idea just how we were doing at any particular moment in the proceedings, and Phil would use those die rolls to add color and form to the mayhem. Roll spectacularly, good or bad, and Phil would make up something  - on the spot! - to liven things up:

Chirine: "I roll - I got a 79! Read it and weep, Barker!!!"

Phil (grumbles): "The Sarku priest gets a dying chop, though. (rolls) HAH!!! Double ought!! You get a dagger in the guts!!! Somebody's going to have stitch you back up, after this is over! (laughs happily at my discomfort.)

And so on.

Because I've been 'doing Tekumel' for so long, I can pretty much run the rules in my head, simply take in the numbers as the players generate them, and come up with the kind of "Action! Adventure! Romance!" style of gaming that my players seem to enjoy. The game is the thing - use any set of rules that you like, your players like, and that you are comfortable using!!! You can use Tekumel, the world-setting, with just about any set of rules; I've seen it used with everything from the original D & D to modern games like FATE, and it does work. You could use any set of miniatures rules as well - Neal Cauley, the owner of Phoenix Games here in the Twin Cities and a very long-time Tekumel player, uses "Warhammer" to great effect and fun, and other games such as "Song of Blades and Heroes" would work just as well.

My style is to keep the number-crunching down to a bare minimum for the players, ad to keep the pace fast and furious. The world is the thing - Adventure! Excitement! Thrills! Chills! Spills!

Know your world-setting; know your rules! Be prepared, and keep it loose and stay alert - your players will throw the most off-the-wall stuff at you, and you need to roll with what they come up with. Be ready and willing to 'fake it' as needed, if that's what will keep the action going - if your set of rules has a roll for grappling hooks, use it, but be prepared for things like the players trying to catch somebody with a grappling hook and pull them off  a ship. (like in "The Sea Hawks"; see the clip)

So, yes, what I do is easy and fun for the players; it's a bit of work for me, but that's what I'm here for.

Does any of this help answer your questions? Thoughts? Comments?

And now, here's the matinee movie for you... :)



"The Sea Hawk", directed my Michael Curtiz, starring Errol Flynn, and one of Dave Arneson's favorite movies...


Monday, June 16, 2014

Better Late Then Never - Some Personal Outrage For Father's Day (Not game related, just me letting you know how I feel about something horrible.)



As regular readers of this blog are no doubt aware, I try very hard to keep the tone of this little effort light-hearted, entertaining, and fun.

However, every now and then something comes across the news wires that sends me into a cold rage, like the edge on a shard of the finest obsidian.

This is one of them; I didn't see this until this morning, and I suspect - as the father of five young ladies who chose to be my brood of daughters - that if I'd seen this yesterday my head would have exploded right up off my shoulders:



And a link to the family's Facebook page:


I do not have a link for KFC, but from what I gather, they are just as outraged as I am; To their credit, they have also blown a gasket over this.

Thank you for your time; we now return you to our regularly scheduled silliness.

yours, chirine

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Weekly Update for Sunday, June 15th, 2014 - High Blood Pressure, An Injured Hand, and Father's Day

A view from yesterday's game - see the previous post, please.
I have had three weeks of high-pressure excursions, and I'm tired.
My dad, doing what he loved.

This is going to be a very short post. I injured the two outer fingers of my right hand yesterday, early in the morning, while getting ready for yesterday's game. Nothing broken, just some nasty abrasions and the ring finger crushed between two moving parts in a household accident; I violated my own safety rules, and was doing something complex while not having had enough sleep. I now have two fingers wrapped up in bandaged and splinted, which is a major pain in the tush - I keep banging the splints on things, and it hurts.

I've also had three weeks of weekends with high-pressure excursions to my blood pressure, and I am exhausted. As you may have noticed, I am way behind on e-mails, and this is why. The crushed fingers don't help, either. I will do my best to get caught up, but it may take a while.

It's Father's Day, and my greetings and felicitations to all of you dads out there. I got very lucky with my set; may you be as lucky, too!

Despite it all, yesterday's game went well. The videos are up on my You Tube channel, and you can have a look when you get the chance. The big-screen repeater worked well, and I was very happy with everything. Except for not being able to pick stuff up and knocking stuff over with the finger splints, ti was a great time!


Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Game For A Stormy Saturday - And Videos, Too!

The Underworld, just chock full of Dire Perils...

The next installment of our 'micro-campaign' happened today, with three players taking parties of warriors and magic-users down those inviting shafts that led downward from the tops of the various Temples. I assumed that this time, everyone would bring ropes, and they did. After much rappelling downward, in best commando style - Bruce Willis would be proud, I tell you! - Our Heroes descended into the stygian depths and lit a few torches.

Things got tense very quickly, as the Temple of Ksarul's guards ambushed the parties at the bottoms of the shafts; the players responded by charging the ambushers, and then set to work looting the place as soon as their opponents had been seen off. They don't raise them (or grow them in the vats) in the Temple of Ksarul to be stupid, however, so the defenders sent their own party of intrepid heroes up the one shaft they controlled and set up an ambush party on the top of one of the temple pyramids to - hopefully! - pick off anybody that they could see. They also brought out the 'heavy artillery' to begin a counter-attack, with the notion that the hidden Hra could be used to ambush the human interlopers once they started to attack the Headless Ones. The Qol set up a very nice layered multi-phase ambush in the side rooms and corridors, if I do say so myself; I played the Qol, and it was a very nice change of pace to be able to actually play in a game for once!

"Those pesky player-characters!" as Phil used to say, didn't rise to the bait; instead, after some skirmishing, they bagged up all the loot they could and headed back up to the surface. Some sniping later, they made off with their loot - vowing to be back, and to bring their friends...

We recorded this game on video, as best we could; the little Sony "Bloggie" camera records in half-hour segments, and we had to remember to check the camera every now and then to make sure we were still 'on'. The video segments are now up on my You Tube channel:


This link should take you right there, and you can always use the link over in the left-hand column of this page; scroll down to the bottom, please.

As mentioned previously here in these pages, the Panasonic camera  provided a view of the Underworld for the players; the intention was to provide anyone not pushing lead around the table with a view of what was happening. It all worked, I am delighted to report; the 'modesty curtains' on the sides of the upper level did a good job of hiding the lower board during the initial moves on the surface, and the bits of cloth I placed over the individual rooms and chambers kept the contents of those hidden from the players until they kicked the doors open.

It was, everyone agreed, quite the jolly romp and a great way to spend a stormy afternoon. Everyone had fun, and vowed to be back with more help for the next session of this little 'micro-campaign'. I'll look forward to it, myself...


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An Essay on Imagination And Inspiration (2) - Are My Podcasts A "Blue Peter" For Tekumel?


Yes, I know it's the old logo; I like it better then the new one.

I am getting ready to restart my series of podcasts about Tekumel, and I found myself saying "Here's one I made earlier..." as I considered the 'props' I'm going to be using to talk about what inspires me and my wayward imagination. For those of us who live outside the transmission range of Auntie Beeb - poor souls, us! - "Blue Peter" is a very long-running 'children's programme', where the presenters often show viewers how to make things out of ordinary household materials. Usually, they show a finished example with the catch-phrase "Now, here's one I made earlier", since the time on-air is normally so limited.

The idea of using my podcasts to show people how I do things on the game table came to me while pondering the answers I could give regular reader Tim Knight about how I make stuff. It came to be in a flash of inspiration - I may have actually hit my head on a low-hanging beam - that a visual subject really needed a visual medium. So, I'll be getting some half-hour 'episodes' up on the You Tube channel for both him and all of you to be amused at - or at least bemused!

(I'm just sorry that I can't get Konnie Huq as the presenter; she's an inspiration for Tekumel herself, as she looks like so many of the people that we met while gaming out at Phil's.)

In the meantime, I am able to do a bit of writing about my sources of inspiration for you. First and foremost, of course, are the writings of Phil himself; he was, if nothing else, prolific. For me, his Tekumel is set like a jewel in the settings of his time in science fiction fandom - the 1950s, where so many great authors were getting published and so many older ones were being rediscovered. I'm working on a reading list for people, after a question from a reader in the Antipodes, and I hope to have that posed as a page here on the blog for you.

(I had taken a stab at an 'Appendix N' sort of thing, but I didn't like how it look and read; it just wasn't good enough.)

I will try to tell you how Phil's writing influenced me; he'd write something, and I'd try to make it in miniature for our games. I still do that; I'm still finding hidden gems in his books and articles, and they still inspire me. And, I hope I'll be able to explain how out games, both with Phil and my gamers, also inspire me to do things.

I'll keep you posted. Until next time...

- chirine


Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, June 8th, 2014 - The Curtains Of Doom!

The new table, with the upper deck in place and the new side curtains.

The new game table is, I am delighted to be able to report, fulfilling all of my expectations for it. Both as a piece of furniture - the gamers report that it is more comfortable to sit around and easier to work with in games - and as a 'display system' for my miniatures. The game table for the forthcoming adventure in the Lost Temple Complex is all set and ready to go; I now have the option of setting the games at my own pace, and in my own time.

It's wonderful.

The top deck of the thing is a sheet of MDF hardboard, usually referred to by the trade name "Masonite" here in these former ornaments of the Crown, and can be swopped out for a transparent Plexiglass sheet of the same size for underwater games. The folks over at The Lead Adventure Forum have put me onto a source of printed photo mats of ocean bottoms, and I'll have to look into these. The upper deck is fitted out with some IKEA showcase lights - the 120 volt kind, not the 12 - 24 volt low voltage ones - and these in turn are on a dimmer so I can fade the Underworld in and out as needed.

I also took some spare black felt from stock - yes, we do have stocks of just about everything here; we used to do stage and show production, and we have lots and lots of very useful stuff in the inventory - and cut it into long curtains. These are based on the Japanese 'noren' doorway curtains; a wide strip of fabric at the top with narrower individual strips hanging down. The idea is that these curtains act as what we used to call in theater 'modesty panels', which keep things out of view of the casual observer. In this case and application, they screen the Underworld from the prying eyes of those pesky player-characters, and provide for both a degree of hidden movement and easy access to the lower regions of the game.

I am, I have to say, very pleased with the whole system; between the table itself and the plastic storage bins of scenery and terrain, running games has never been easier!!!

Hurrah!!!

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I am adding a new website to the "Where I Get Things" list over in the left-hand column. Mike Burns, who has been running a series of Indiegogo campaigns to fund his line of Ancient Egyptian palace miniatures, now has his own website and attached webstore:


This is a super little site; he has photos of all his figures painted up, and they look really good. I have been delighted with these miniatures, and I am having a lot of fun getting them all painted.

Have a look, if you please; I think you'll be delighted!


Saturday, June 7, 2014

An Essay On Imagination and Inspiration On A Wet Saturday Morning (1)

"Quick, Henry! The Flit!"
(You can do a Google search to get the joke - such are the Wonders Of The Internet!)
It's raining, today, and so I am restricted to indoor activities for the nonce. The game table for next Saturday's game session is now done, and I am very pleased with both it and the fact that I no longer have to get up at absurdly early times in the mornings to get ready for games. The new table is working perfectly, and it's a real treat to build the games with it.

I will not be posting any photos of the completed Underworld until after the next game session; my players are all very clever and very inventive, and I would expect that they will print out any such photos to use as plans for their explorations. As I'm planning on using hidden movement, I'll keep things a secret until next Saturday afternoon.

I finally settled on just making a set of standard-sized wooden block to make the walls of the Underworld; I ripped these out of scrap with the table saw, and they worked just fine. (I should note that I approach my handy little Ryobi 10" table saw with great respect and caution, not to say stark terror, which is why I still have all my fingers - one should take NO chances with power tools; no short-cuts, no leaving the blade guards off, no nothing.) Pictures will be forthcoming, of course.

Several regular readers have asked me to talk about how I do things; some of the detailed thoughts on actual build tricks and tips will be the subject of my next podcast, as the video medium simply works better for such things, but I thought I'd take a moment to talk about what inspires me and my imagination.

I should admit, here at the start, that I don't consider myself to be a 'real gamer'; I think of myself as a model-builder who happens to run games with his models, and this has been the case for some fifty years - I first started 'gaming' battles with Lines Brothers toy soldiers that my dad got me when I was an impressionable seven years old, and which were supposed to be 'accessories' for my model railroad layout. Things evolved in a different direction, and while I still love my model railway - I model the Great Western Railway, the 'GWR', in 'OO'; you can smell the testosterone a mile away - I build mostly models for my games these days.

I come out of a very old tradition of 'play value' in 'game play'. It's very hard to define what makes this so, but there's a website that I can offer that shows this tradition in a particularly splendid form:


This kind of semi-miniatures, semi-roleplaying is what I grew up with, and it is still what I do today. There's elements of history, whimsy, charm. and expert model building all rolled into the mayhem on the game table. This is the same approach that led Dave Wesley to run the very first 'Braunstein':


One of the reasons why The Missus likes to take me shopping, when she can, is that she loves to watch my brain work; we'll be in IKEA or our favorite surplus place - Ax-man Surplus, several Twin Cities locations - and I'll suddenly start laughing. I'll have found something that I can use in a model or in a game, and my imagination takes over. Surplus chess pieces from an ancient Egyptian-themed chess set, cheap faux-Mayan bookends and even cheaper onyx ashtrays from the same tourist-trap gift shops on the Costa Maya, buildings and plants from the pet store's aquarium section - don't forget to look in the reptile and hermit crab sections, either! - as well as bedding for iguanas, bags of sand from the DIY big-box store; the list just goes on and on.

I was very lucky, when I was growing up; I had relatives who gave their bookworm nephew a huge box of fifties fantasy and science-fiction paperbacks, and my reading material was all of the great authors of the Golden Age of the pulps. Asimoz, Kuttner, Heinlein, Moore, Blish, and so on; these were the names to conjure with. Later, as I cast my nets wider, Kornbluth, Lovecraft, Howard, Smith, and so many, many more were all added to my bookshelf. I knew Gordy Dickson, Keith Laumer, Cliff Simak, Poul Anderson, and a great many more besides.

And then I met a professor of linguistics who wanted me to paint figures for him, because I was fast, I was good, and I was honest - he'd had issues with people 'borrowing' figures from him. I met a couple of guys who did a little game called "Don't Give Up The Ship", and who later did a little something that I think you might have heard of. They'd all bounce ideas off the game table, and I'd say, "well, ya know, we could have a model of that..." and we'd be off and running.

I don't pretend to be an 'original thinker'. I 'd get a sketch from somebody, and make it become real in a little model that we'd play with on the table; they would come up with the idea, and I'd make the magic happen for them and everyone else. That's what I enjoy doing, and what I'm still doing, after all these years.

Once upon a time, somebody passed one of my miniatures up the table to the Professor on a Thursday night; Phil looked at the little warrior with his magnifying glass, sighed happily, and said "Chirine makes the most clever little miniatures."

Thank you, Phil; I hope I still amuse you, when you drop in for a look from wherever you are, and thank you all, my patient readers, for taking time out from your lives to come along with me on this epic journey of discovery that I am embarked on. Welcome aboard; have a seat, and enjoy the ride...

Friday, June 6, 2014

Oh, Joy! Oh, Rapture!! Oh, Bliss!!! - It Really, Really Paid To Get Out Of Bed, This Morning!!!

From 1980, the 25mm version of Chirine's folding deck chair.


From 2014, the full-sized version of Chirine's folding deck chair.


So, The Missus took me out to a late lunch today at IKEA; I love fish and chips, and IKEA has them on Fridays for a whole $1.99 the plate. I stuffed my fat little face, and thought of Great Britain and the Great Western Railway (that's God's Wonderful Railway to lesser mortals.) As is our wont, we checked out the store's 'Returns and Discounts - As Is' section; I get a lot of my raw materials for my models there, like the showcase lights that are illuminating the Underworld for my next game.

I thought I was going to wet myself, I did.

For many, many years in Prof. Barker's Tekumel campaign, we sailed around the oceans of Phil's wonderful creation aboard the ships of that 'honest seafaring merchant' - read 'buccaneer', 'smuggler', 'con artist', 'Artful Dodger' - Captain Harchar of the Clan of the Blazoned Sail; this maritime menace to public order and the economy was played by none other then Dave Arneson, himself, in what was arguably his finest performance as a game player.

There was, it has to be said, very little to do aboard ships for a ranking Military Priest of Lord Vimuhla and so I spent a lot of that time sitting by the rail and watching the waves roll by. As a joke, I made a little 25mm scale deck chair, modeled after a vintage one that my beloved grandparents had lent me on trips to the beaches of Cape Cod. It went over a treat with Dave and Phil, and has become a running joke over the years. (see top photo, if you please.)

The original of my model is long gone, I am sorry to have to say, and I despaired of ever seeing one like it again. Hence the near wetting-of-the-pants moment; the beloved chair is back, reincarnated by the elves who really run IKEA in modern form. For a whole $12.95 - the floor display sample was on special - I have the red-and-white striped version as seem in the lower photo. Now, you too can own a bit of 'pre-school gaming history' if you trot out to your local IKEA, if you happen to have one...

Thursday, June 5, 2014

But, Wait! There's More!

"Speak up, Spotted Jaguar, you're mumbling again."

And we're back for another chapter in the on-going saga of Chirine And Gaming - at this rate, I could do a book or at least a seperate blog about the subject! - and this bit is about why I don't do conventions; and, I should note, why I don't do the big open / public events anymore. There's two reasons: one, the sheer amount of grunt work involved - the logistics of the thing, as it were; and two, the aforementioned 'rate of return' - the amount of joy and happiness I get out of the thing, vs. the amount of hassle and kicking around I get for doing it.

This thought process actually got started back in June of last year, when I did a Braunstein at FFG's Event Center. The game itself went very well, I thought, but the logistics were a nightmare. People had offered to help me do the whole set / show/ strike cycle, but it didn't work out in practice for a number of reasons. The icing on the cake / dagger to the heart came post-show, when one of the people who had assured me of their support - and whom I had been really counting on for their help - informed me that he expected to get a $100 a day per diem payment plus expense payments for his transportation and meals, in return for which he would be acting as my "chief of security" for any future events.

Security, I got in bucket loads. What I needed (and still need, for events like this) were stevedores, longshoremen (longshorepersons?), teamsters, and docents. And, as might be expected, there's no budget for such per diem payments.

And I'm sorry; I'm only human. I contrasted this person's attitude with that of an old friend, who drove up here from Milwaukee for the weekend and filled in admirably as a worker bee to help me load and move all weekend. And this, I will note, after surgery for cardiac problems; he filled in with no complains and with unfailing good cheer and enthusiasm. The Gold of Glory for him, as far as I'm concerned.

I look very hard at what it costs me to run events; I have to, what with The Missus being disabled and our having to live on a pretty tight fixed income. It is very cost-effective for me to refit the game room as a min-studio for Skype, Google+, and podcasts; these are effectively a no-overhead / no expense activity, while conventions are costly in terms of personal time, personal energy, fuel costs, hotel rooms, and sheer hard work. The June 2013 game is packed up as tightly as I can get it, and uses a set of cloth ground sheets for the basic scenery; even so, this one game alone takes up thirty-two cubic feet of space in the back of the GMC Astro cargo van I own. The van will take a little over sixty-four cubic feet of cargo in one lift; I can pack two large-table games and put on a really good show, but there isn't a lot of room left over.

And, I will admit, if I don't think I'm going to have a good time at the event, I have a really hard time justifying participating - let alone the possible travel time and expense to and from the event. Case in point: MAGE Con in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; I had been interested in going to the convention a number of years ago, to see the Temple of Vimuhla model that Prof. Barker built back in the 1970s. it was scheduled to make it's first public appearance in decades, and I wanted to go and have a look at the old thing. So, I went onto the convention's website, and contacted them about getting a membership. I got the following e-mail in reply:


Mr. Berry:

As it is the prerogative of Midwest Area Gaming Enthusiasts (MAGE) to
expel or exclude anyone from it’s events, I will have you know that you
are NOT welcome to attend any of the events sponsored by MAGE.  The
executive board of MAGE and the current convention manager have placed
your name on a list of gamers who have been banned from any MAGE event.
Please do not attempt to attend as doing so would be a will full act of
trespassing and we would have no choice but to have you removed by the
appropriate law enforcement agents.

On a personal note, I am still irritated that the blue prints of the
temple I allowed you to review in 1983 showed up in another publication
without my knowledge or consent.  The statute of limitations may have
run out but my personal distain for you lives on.

Stephen  Vossler
Tekumel Track Coordinator
Midwest Area Gaming Enthusiasts


I still have no idea what he was carrying on about; he submitted a set of plans for a temple of Hru'u to us at Adventure Games, back in the day, and as per procedure I submitted a copy of the plans to Prof. Barker for his review and comments. I never heard anything back from Phil on this. Supposedly, I took advantage of Mr. Vossler by sending his plan to Dave Hargreave, who used them in one of his "Ardouin Grimore" publications; I had to look Dave up on Google, as I'd not heard of either him or his RPG series. I suggested to Mr. Vossler that he look at the author of the article he was worked up about, and contact them regarding the matter; he never replied, and I am more then a little grateful for that.

Needless to say, I didn't go to the convention; I didn't miss anything, as the Temple was a no-show, and I saved myself the cost of a day-long trip to South Dakota, a weekend in a hotel, and all the meals along the way.

If you, Gentle Readers, feel that you can detect a sense of annoyance on my part, you'd be right. I've been getting kicked for almost thirty-five years by various people, starting with the players in Phil's original game group in 1976, and I have finally run out of what people hereabouts call 'Minnesota Nice'. I used to have to put up with some really stupid people "for Tekumel's sake", but I simply don't have the energy and stamina to both be productive and diplomatic.

Like it or not, diplomacy is taking the back seat in favor of productivity; the latter gets me a lot more niceness then the former ever did.

And a note to the researcher: Yes, I do save everything.

On Realigning Our Brand Identity... (Whatever that means...)

Another day, another batch of captives... Sigh.

Back in the days when I was an audio-visual / show production technician, I used to do a lot of business meeting where business presenters used to use a lot of PowerPoint slides and buzzwords. Very good-looking presentations, but there never seemed to be anything solid in the thing; this is where I first heard the phrase "So-and-so gives good meeting."

Ah, right. The moment I 'give good blog', will somebody slap me up the side of the head? Thank you.

I am, as some have noted, in the process of changing a lot of the way I do things, both here in my little corner of the Internet and downstairs in the game room. This process started last fall, as the horribly cold weather hit here in the Twin Cities, and my forced indoor existence gave me a lot of time to ponder.

My reflections led to the Big Changes in the game room, like the new table, and the emphasis on small-table actions as part of small micro-campaigns. Let's face it; everyone has busy lives, these days, and having a more or less fixed set up that can be rapidly changed around has been my goal since last summer. The new table allows for this; I no longer have to spend three hours on a Saturday morning to get the game room ready for guests; the change-over now takes only fifteen minutes, and is very easy on me. The return trip is just as fast and easy - I can now concentrate on the game itself and not on the process of managing the venue.

Time - time is what's the issue here. I have so little of it available, that it has become very precious to me. I type very slowly; I have both dyslexia and ambidexterity, and it's a nasty combination. Coupled with my work schedule, and it's a time-killer. From my perspective, the time I spent typing had better show some return on the investment - it's time I could be down on the workbench painting, to be blunt.

I happened to think of looking in on an Internet forum that I used to visit, and I was kind of horrified that my last visit was back in May of 2011. I took a look at my other forum accounts, and the same story unfolded; the ones where I had posted recently were ones where I wound up doing a lot of explaining about Ye Olden Dayes - back when I was young, gaming, had hair, and energy - and I realized that I have very little in common with the current gamer or their styles of play. I never really played what these folks think of as 'D & D', and I have been having trouble following - or in a lot of cases, understanding! - what the conversation is about. I had no idea that "Holmes" referred to an edition of D & D; I thought it was a Victorian British detective.

Over the past months, I've been coming to the conclusion that there's a huge cultural gap between the current gaming world and myself; I keep thinking in terms of things I knew and saw in the late 1970's and the 1980's, and the folks that I'm talking to have little or know idea what I'm talking about. It's not through any fault on their part - I never really played the game that they are interested in.

My problem is, to put it in 'business terms' that I am getting a very low 'rate of return' for the investment in time and effort that I put into blogs, vs. the conversations that result. I get a lot more return from the comments and conversations that get started here on the blog, quite frankly. The issue is where I spend my very limited time - here, writing on this blog and also on my book; painting and building things; Internet forum postings. Something has had to give; I've been spending more and more time on the Internet fora, and less and less time on the workbench and on my own projects.

So, I hate to have to say, I am moving away from the fora. I find my own writing and my painting / building to be much more rewarding personally, and I'm closing down a lot of my accounts; it just seems poor form to have accounts I never use.

I'm in the process of closing down or simply abandoning (depending on how the forum in question works) accounts on RPG.net, odd74, 'Knights and Knaves', Dragonsfoot, Misfits of Gaming, and a few others. I will be keeping Frothers-UK and Lead Adventure Forum, as those pander to my lead-influenced tastes. I am evaluating several others, and will make decisions based on post histories. In kind of the same stream of thought, I will be 'pruning' the list of blogs that I follow here on the 'front page' of this blog; if there has been no activity on a blog for six months, I will continue to follow the blog but remove it from this front page. If the blog starts back up again, I'll put it back, of course.

As a result of all this remodeling and renovation, you'll see a lot more on this blog in the months to come. I hope you'll like it; you are more then welcome, here!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Weekly Update for Sunday, June 1st, 2014

I love Qol. I really, really do.

It has been a very busy week, and I am happy to have finally gotten a little time to myself. I'm on the workbench, this morning, getting yet more of Howard Fielding's ( he of The Tekumel Project) Qol ready for the next game session in two weeks.

You never have enough Qol, I think; they are so satisfying to have on the table, as they are so businesslike and serious. Much better, I think then your usual hordes of undead like Mru'r or Shedra, although I do have quite a few of both handy.

This new batch will look a little different then the first two waves I have; I'm doing some 'stock' figures this time, as well as some little conversions. I have great hopes for these; I really enjoy painting them!!!

**********

I am still dithering over what to make the actual Underworld out of for the next game session. I'd prefer not to try to do the traditional 'colored masking tape on table top' kind of thing that used to be fashionable in my youth; I'm thinking about slicing up the stocks of 'cobblestone' foam that I have into walls, and then sticking these onto a batch of 'blank' terrain tiles that I had cut to make the 'wet terrain' tile set. Since I have a lot of MDF panels in stock, and it's summer, I can always cut new tiles and make the swamps out of those - this would free up the old tiles, and I could do an article for the blog about how I make things...