Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, November 30, 2014 - The Holiday, Gary Con, And "To Serve The Petal Throne"

The Union viewpoint on my little brigade,
across Dave Wesley's game table.


First off. let me apologize for being behind on my e-mails and responses to your comments on this blog. The holiday weekend turned out to be a very busy one, with visits to and from my extended family occupying most of the time. Not that I minded, you have to understand; due to my work schedule, I get to see them so few times in a year that I have to make the most of what time I do have to see them.

I am now back to my regular schedule, so I should be all caught up by the middle of this week; thank you, all of you, for your patience! The next day off I will have is the Thursday / Friday night of December 12th, to get ready for The Missus' next round of surgery. After that, I will have an eleven-day vacation coming up, over the Christmas and New Year's holidays; I have two four-day weekends over each holiday, and I put in for three day's vacation leave for the time between them. I can use the time off, as it's been a little exhausting around here of late, and I'm looking forward to being able to simply sit and write and paint miniatures.

I am expecting to get a lot done on my book, "To Serve The Petal Throne", and I think I may very well have the vast bulk of the thing done by the turn of the year. I'm finding that when I get a clear run at the keyboard, without any distractions or emergencies, I get a lot done in one sitting - I am usually able to crank out quite a bit of text, as I have all of the 'scenes' floating around in my noggin all ready to be typed out.

So, we'll see; I'll keep all of you posted, of course!

In other news, I have purchased a membership / registration for this year's Gary Con; after a exchange of e-mails with Mr. Luke Gygax of the convention's management team, I have bought a 'Silver' membership; this will allow for the chance to play in some games, if I'm able to do so, and I'm hoping to be able to get into the "Chainmail" game that I understand Paul Stromberg will be doing again this year. Mike Mornard had some very good things to say about this game last year, and that sold me on the thing.

I am working with the convention to set up a seminar / lecture / question-and-answer session, which will be part of the convention programming. Due to the kindness of a friends and fellow Tekumel fan, I now have a drive to hand that I can load all of my digital archives onto, and I will be bringing one of our fleet of laptop computers and out pair of tiny LCD projectors. For those of you who are going to be at the convention, I will be there for you; I will be able to answer your questions about Phil and his world, and show you Phil's own viewpoint on his creation through his own artwork and texts.

I also hope to have a manuscript copy of "To Serve The Petal Throne" with me for you to ponder, or to use as a doorstop.

I am, I have to say, looking forward to the opportunity to do what I love to do best - talk about Phil ad Tekumel!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 - Fun With Dave, And Dave, And Dave

Major D. Wesely, U.S. Army (retired). holding forth over his game table

It has been a hugely fun week for me; many, many things happening, and I'm only now getting back to my usual schedule. Let me try to summarize the fun, if I may...

***

I was invited out to Dave Wesely's house, this past week, to push some lead around his game table - well, it was his Airfix plastics from way back when, but you get the idea. Bill Hoyt and Duane Jenkins, some of the original Blackmoor crowd, as well as some of Dave's regulars showed up. Very tough scenario, but a lot of fun and lots more great conversations about games, game design, and gaming.

(For more about Dave, have a look at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Wesely)

Dave is an old friend, and it was great to be able to game with him again. We talked about my running a Braunstein for him, and we'll see what we can do - watch this space!

***

I had Dave Megarry in, the other day, and it was great to see him as well; we are both Adventure Games alumni, and we shared a lot of stories about Ye Olden Dayes. I got the first-hand account of the Ancients game where GM Dave Arneson slipped Druid Megarry a phaser, to deal with Pete Gaylord's Roman war elephant. Pete was not amused when the elephant got fried, as he'd just gotten it and had spent the previous week painting it up just for the game. To reprise an old gamer's lament:

"I just got them all painted up, and they're all dead!"


It never ceases to amaze me that so many of the creative types that were the founders of our shared hobby are from the Twin Cities - and that so many of them are friends of mine. It's humbling, really.

***

I have been invited to go to Gary Con, this coming spring, and give a talk on Tekumel, Prof. Barker, and "Empire of the Petal Throne". From what I gather, a number of Tekumel fans would like to have me show up and answer their questions about Phil and his creation, as part of the convention programming; we'll see, as the health needs of The Missus take priority over everything.

***

Speaking of The Missus, she is doing well; it's now been a week after her month of hard radiation, and while she's kind of uncomfortable with sundry aches and pains, she and her doctors are very happy with her condition. So far, so good...

***

I will be catching up with all your commens and e-mails over the next couple of days, just in time for the holiday...

Thanks again!





Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, November 16th, 2014 - Lead. Lasers, and Laughter

I am looking forward to the holidays, so I can sit down.

It's been very, very busy hereabouts, and I hope you'll forgive me if I can only give a brief update today...

***

First off, The Missus has completed her course of radiation therapy. She's doing well; tired and sunburned, but well. And she's like to thank everyone for their very kind words!!!

***

Please have a look at the current Dark Fable miniatures Indiegogo campaign; the new sets of figures are wonderful, and I really am looking forward to getting these!!! Link off to the left, and please scroll down...

***

Please also have a look at Howard Fielding's The Tekumel Project - Howard has a number of new ideas that I think you'll find very interesting! Link in the same column for you, too.

***

I have a long vacation coming up at the end of December, and I will have eleven days free for my writing. I am hoping to get my book about gaming with Prof. Barker, "To Serve The Petal Throne", largely completed during the holiday and up on line for you to read. More on this as it happens, of course!

***

That's going to have to be it for now; much more later!!!



Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Weekly Update for Sunday, November 9th, 2014; Hard Radiation, Chlen-carts, and Palanquin Chases!

Bullock cart from Tamil Nadu, Phil's old stomping grounds
Recreation of a Roman traveling wagon
Palanquin from the Temple of Ksarul, with Qol;
Every thing's better with Qol, you know.

Some quick updates, and then I have a little essay for you to hopefully be amused by...

***

The Missus is embarking on the fourth and final week of her hard radiation treatments, and asked me to thank everyone who's written in and commented about her. She's really touched by all of you taking the time to do so, and wants to thank everyone for their kind words. She's doing pretty well, she says, and is just tired out and a little sunburned; the doctors are very happy with her progress, and so am I!

***

Well, color me chagrined! I finally quit dithering about The Weighty Dilemma, and will be painting up the Mu'uglavyani crossbowmen as per Phil's specifications. (The Red-Hats can use the help, frankly.) While getting the raw figures out for conversion, basing, and priming, I discovered that I had some drawers full of the Bob Charrette / Ral Partha 'Chaos' figures. Full, like in really, really full. Eight archers, eight crossbowmen, thirteen heavy axemen, and (!) eighty-two pikemen. That's a full legion's worth of troops, and I'd feel like an utter fool if I didn't paint them up as my Legion of the All-Consuming Flame. I had clean forgotten that The Missus had had a run of luck on Ebay several years ago, and gotten several bulk lots of these pikemen for me; I think I really need to do a full inventory...

***

I had a 'Phil moment', the other day; one of our Regular Readers made a comment that I think should get a longer answer:


From Virche hiDune, November 7, 2014 at 3:35 PM
Looking at the wagon picture makes me wonder. Because I didn't imagine any 4 wheeled carts for Tekumel.


And, in general, you'd be quite right to do so; almost all chlen-carts are of the two-wheeled variety, and Phil does say this in the Sourcebook in the section on land transport. However, he never drew one! he did draw a chlen, in the War of Wizards board game, but never the cart. I think that this is because we were all expected to know what a cart looked like - we all had an idea what an ox- or bullock-cart looked like, and Phil had seen quite a few of both in his time in South Asia.

Well, you can guess what happened; when it came time to do the illustrations for  my miniatures rules, "Qadardalikoi", gifted artist Ken Fletcher asked the Professor what a typical cart looked like do he could draw it for me. Phil looked blank for a moment, and then said he didn't really have a good idea - the things were so common and ordinary that he'd never stopped to consider them and document them. He pointed out the South Asian examples, and Ken asked, "Well, how may wheels to they have?" Phil offered the opinion that, just like the carts he'd seen in real life, they almost always had two wheels - but that in rare circumstances, you would see the very occasional four-wheeled cart. Ken got out pad and pen, and went to work; you can see the drawings in the rules to this day.

While Ken was sketching away, the rest of us at the game table had a very fun and lively discussion of how goods are moved on Tekumel. Phil offered that people and cargo went by boat or ship, if possible, but otherwise one hired porters and carts; the normal movement process would see a merchant contracting a carter/porter clan to move his shipment from the starting town to about halfway to the final destination; at the mid-point, the merchant would off-load his goods into a new set of carts and porters who would have been hired in the destination town to come out and meet the shipment - a runner would have been sent ahead to make the reservations, and the clan at the destination would normally announce that they were taking on loads to go to the first town. The original set of carts and porters would take on the new loads that were going to their home town, and so avoid 'running empty' on the homeward leg. This series of 'stages' repeats across the entire trip.

The exception to this is somebody like me, who is traveling with my personal goods and family; normally, a ranking person like my humble self would hire porters and carts for a short trip, but buy slave bearers for longer ones and then sell them at the destination. I didn't do that; I would hire porters on long-term contracts, and bought a cart and draft animals to carry our luggage. The carter clans were always bemused by this approach, until they remembered that I am a military man and so used to having my own 'baggage train'. They were also a little astonished  that I supplied my bearers with their own tents, sleeping mats, and cooking equipment - again, they realized that I treated travel like a little military campaign, and were happy to help outfit my little column. The clan in Meku sold me a nice four-wheeled cart, and I hired a nice young man and his fiancee to drive it; they also sold me a pair of chlen, which have multiplied over the years and have provided me with my own herd of the beasts.

(The cart itself was drawn by Ken, and much to my amazement showed up on my doorstep many years later as one of the wonderful '3-D printing' models done by David Allen - complete with the little family of chlen and their herders! (Thank you, once again, sir!!!) Gerald Dagel, one of my long-time gamers and an old friend, also pointed out that we didn't have any chlen in our miniatures collection - so he did one, cast them up in resin, and we made some carts to go with them. And, of course, I had to make a Sakbe road to cary them all...)

So, some years later, I was in the way of becoming what they call a 'family man' and we were about to go off on campaign and thrash the Young Master and his lot out east of Hekellu. Si N'te, my lovely and very determined mother-to-be, insisted on coming along; I panicked at the thought of moving a very pregnant lady across all that terrain, and did what I always did in such moments of Dire Crisis - handed the problem off to the Tinaliya we had in the group. That worthy, in conjunction with his crew of slightly demented engineers, built a special custom cart that had a full suspension for the cabin. At the time we came up with this, I had had no idea that the Romans had such a thing - and you know, I think Phil (despite his loathing of the Romans - he took the downfall of the Ptolomies at their hands very personally) did - the reconstruction of the wagon in the museum - in Trier, I think - is the very likeness of the wagon Si N'te travelled in with our little army. I'll have to get this built - I've got the wheels, so I really have no excuse!

Traveling with Phil on Tekumel was always fun; you never knew what would happen next, as Phil drew on all of his travels in South Asia to regale us with innkeepers, merchants, servants, police, and everyone else you'd meet along the way. I still get a lot of fun out of it, both in gaming and modeling - one of the best game sessions I've had was The Great Palanquin Chase...

Our Vriddi lord was investigating the murder of his clan-uncle, who had been blown up by an exploding packet of letters; it was all very mysterious, and the Vriddi had a personal reason to investigate - the letters had come from him. People were all very impressed, and were going around saying that he'd blown up his uncle in a struggle for control of the clan - "You know, most people use poison or daggers for this kind of thing, but that young man has style! Exploding letters! Wow!" Yes, the Vriddi are that kind of clan...

So our young lord is in hot pursuit of a suspect, when the suspect runs out of the clan house and gets into their palanquin and leaves the area. Our young lord calls to his own palanquin-bearers to "Follow that palanquin!" Being faithful retainers of the family, they do and set off in pursuit - carrying the lord's palanquin, of course, because that's what they do. Unfortunately, I as GM then asked the young lord if he'd gotten into the palanquin before it took off in Hot Pursuit.

"Ooops."

Nothing daunted, our young lord took off after his palanquin, and in a move worthy of Tom Mix, Roy Rogers, Zorro, Robin Hood, and an entire generation of heroes came alongside his running palanquin and vaulted into it to continue the pursuit.

It was wonderful; the chase went through most of Butrus, and attracted a lot of attention - there was quite the chase scene until the suspect escaped by diving through the gates of the Mu'uglavyani Legation...



Thursday, November 6, 2014

On Behalf Of The Congress And People Of The United States...

1841 to 1863; he was 22.


I have the happy duty of reporting that 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing will be awarded the Medal of Honor today by the President of the United States. Lt. Cushing's award will be for bravery, courage, and leadership above and beyond the call of duty on July 3rd, 1863 while commanding his battery - Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery - during the third day of the battle of Gettysburg.

There are days when the fate of nations hangs on the actions of unknown junior officers. That terrible day in July was one of them, and he was one of those junior officers.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Weekly Update for Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 - Some Very Major Milestones

Have the Tinaliya been by here, lately?
I'll try to be brief; lots to note today, and I'm pretty happy with all the progress.

***

First off, The Missus is halfway through her series of doses of hard radiation, and while she's pretty tired out she's doing just fine. The doctors are very happy with her progress, and so am I.

***

I am very happy to announce that I have now been through the first directory / volume of Phil's computer files; I have look at and sorted out some 12,500 individual files. It's been a real slog, as Phil was not a tidy housekeeper with his files, but it's moving along. I still have three more such directories / volumes to go through, burt I'm doing what I always wanted to do - be Phil's archivist.

I will be merging my own archives with his, over the next month; I have a lot of his materials that he didn't have copies of, and I think I'll wind up with the most complete Tekumel archive around.

***

Mike Burns' Dark Fable Miniatures will be starting the next 'Ancient Egyptian' Indiegogo today, and I am really looking forward to it. Lots of very cool figures on offer, and very useful for Tekumel! There's a link in the left-hand column for you, too.

EDIT: Here's the direct link; look at all the goodies on offer!!!


***

I am very happy to be able to announce that the game room and game lounge are now set and ready for action on a permanent basis. I no longer have to 'set' or 'reset' the rooms for game sessions, which will be a huge time- and energy-saver for me. The next milepost, down in the basement, is to get the Skype and Google+ connections working in there, so I can offer on-line gaming from 'the studio' for you.

***

If I may ask, what would all of you like to see me talk about, here on the blog? This is just as much your blog as it is mine, so let me know what you'd like to hear about. Thanks!!!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

About Phil's Play Style, and all that lead (!)

The Yan Koryani, having snuck up to within bowshot of Castle Tilketl,
try to figure out how to get back out of bowshot...

Before I get into an account of how Phil worked up the little micro-campaign for Fortress Chalukolumel, would anyone mind if I talked about how we used to play out at Phil's? I'll be brief, and try not to be too boring...

Back in the day, we didn't have much of a sharp dividing line between what seems to be considered 'role-playing' these days and what I think is meant by 'wargames'; we floated back and forth between modes of play, with our player-characters usually having to take the lead and tell the NPC's what we'd like to get done - our characters were not only 'adventurers', but 'officers' and 'commanders' as the situation required. We were all supposed to be adaptable, and we tried very hard to cope with what Phil threw at us.

The fight at Castle Tilketl was a very good example of this; we played ourselves, and led several cohorts of infantry in the defense. It was a lot of fun to play out on the table, and Phil used a sort of 'mash-up' of his own EPT rules and my "Qadardalikoi" to run the thing; it was very fast-paced, and very nerve-wracking; Phil was very, very good on the table. We used my figures, as Phil was always very worried about the fragility of his own miniatures; his was the 'reference collection', and mine was the 'working collection'. He would get some of his figures out on special occasions, and it was always a very big deal when he did; I had to perform The Ritual Of The Keys, as Phil used some massive railroad padlocks on his cabinets. I counted them in and counted them out, and fixed anything that got broken during the game.

We were not 'rules heavy'; quite the opposite, in fact. We just moved the troops as needed, and didn't worry too much about 'accuracy' and 'realism'; if it looked good, and was fun, we did it - there was lots of swashbuckling and derring-do in our miniatures games.

And there were lots of figures, too. Both Phil and I loved to make and paint figures; he had very bad arthritis, and had trouble holding a brush as time went on. His eyesight was also very bad; Phil was legally blind, and unable to drive a car for just about most of his life. Me, I'm supposedly fast and good at this painting lark, so Phil would buy figures, I'd paint them, and he'd select which ones he wanted to keep for himself; I'd get the remainder as my 'fee', which is how my collection of Tekumel miniatures got started.

The 'custom of the house', out at Phil's, was that every new player would have a 'personality figure' to represent them on the table when we did our tactical displays. I'd get told to get cracking; Phil wanted the new figure by the next game session, which gave me a whole week to find a suitable figure, modify i if needed, and get it painted. Occasionally, Phil would be merciful and draw a quick little sketch of the person to be modeled, but most of the time I'd be told to do the research and get on with it. This is how I got to be so 'good at Tekumel', as Phil described it; it was sink or swim, down there in the deep end of the pool with the sharks as Phil was pretty picky about what landed on his table

So, we'd go off on an adventure, and we'd start getting miniatures together for what might befall us. I started building up the military units of the Five Empires, as well as the ever-useful things like city milita, temple guards, and all of the various priests and priestesses we'd meet and have to interact with. I freely admit that this meant - and still means! - that there's a lot of lead in the game room; the idea was that we would have enough miniatures to run any scenario with 'internal assets'; we'd all been stood up enough times in games here in the Twin Cites to know better then to rely on somebody bringing The Other Guys for a game.

Which means that I have armies (as we used to call them for our campaigns) for everybody:

The Tsolyani:
The heart of this army has always been Serqu, Sword of the Empire, backed up by the Legion of Red Devastation. Over the years, I built up each unit as it became available in miniature, with the goal of having twenty of each unit as the minimum; the idea here is that this is large enough for a miniatures game, but still small enough to have the figures for a role-playing game; in the wargame, each figure represents 100 soldiers, and in the RPG they are each one trooper. I did a lot of conversions, as I had to second-guess Phil quite a lot based on what we were doing in our adventures. A lot of RAFM, Grenadier, Ral Partha, Garrison, and Minifigs got used for both troops and adventurers. It's the largest of my armies, with the most numbers of figures and different units.

The Yan Koryani:
Slightly smaller in size then the Tsolyani, but very nicely filled out by Howard Fielding and The Tekumel Project. The core unit here has always been Valiant of Ke'er, and they are now ably supported by Tleku Miriya I and II, with my stalwart Ral Partha "Sea Elves with Pikes" still backing everyone up as the Gurek of Ngaku. Lots and lot of light infantry to cause trouble; I draft in the Nlyss for this as needed.

The Mu'ugalavyani:
Smaller yet, but really choice; fewer units were sculpted over the years, so the units here are larger but less diverse. This may be my favorite army - Victorious in Vimhula, the First Legion of the First Palace, has never, ever failed me on the battlefield. Once they are committed, the fight is pretty much over for the other side. This army is a little weak in missile troops, hence the previously reported dilemma.

The Salarvyani:
Quite the horde, with the Nchesh of the Mace of Steel forming the very solid core and surrounded by hordes of light infanty. A decent army, assuming they don't get any ideas and keep charging.

The Livyani:
The smallest of the Five Empires armies in the collection, this used to be just one unit - the Ral partha 'Deep Elves with Halberd" of the Llyneb of the Black Veil. This army has seen a lot of additions in the past five years, as Neal Cauley has managed to put me onto the track of the plastic elves from A Certain Company - the design style is very good for Livyanu, and the figures are cheap when bought used.

The Small States:
Something for everyone, from everywhere. I can put out about ten figures from all over, depending on where your tubeway car winds up.

The Non-humans:
Well, of course! What would Tekumel be without it's non-humans! I have about thirty to fifty of all the more military races, and usually a dozen each of the rest. I now have Hokun and Nyagga, and I'm writing new rules so we can have cavalry and underwater battles... :)

Everyone Else:
Dear old Captain Harchar's crew of "honest seafaring merchants", the city guard, the bearers, the Undead, priests, priestesses, Qol, lords, ladies, servants, and all the rest of the 'cast of thousands' that an epic setting like Tekumel really deserves. These are the 'extras' in our little productions, and add life and color to the scenes.

All of these miniatures are really 'game aids' - they help me tell my stories of life on Tekumel, and of our adventures with Phil. My players enjoy meeting these people in their own adventures; some of them are hated foes, and some trusted allies. It's all about the game; and while I freely admit to tending to do things in Cinema-Scope wide-screen spectaculars (eat your heart out, Mr. Jackson and Mr. De Mille!) it's still about what you do and how you play...