Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Weekly Update - Monday, March 7th, 2016 - Gamesmanship, Dave Arneson, M. A. R. Barker, & The Astrolabe Story (By Popular Demand!)

Chirine's personal astrolabe
(It was a gift from my kids, bless them!)

So, all right, we're all sitting around the ping-pong table out at Phil's, working out what our baggage is going to be for this marathon voyage to the Southern Continent with Harchar, and Arneson is sitting at Phil's right hand and describing in nauseating detail the effects of scurvy, weevils in the biscuits, seasickness and it's effects, and something called "Portable Soup". Dave was truly an expert on the Age of Sail, and knew way too much about the period. If there was a maritime adventure book out there, he'd read it, and probably owned a copy. Pirate movies; too; Dave was a real fan of those '50s and '60s 'Swashbuckler' Technicolor epics, and it showed in the way he and his crew swaggered around the deck speaking in authentic Mummerset accents, spouting all sorts of quite incomprehensible nautical jargon that had us all baffled. Dave was going full throttle, doing all of his officers as well as Harchar, and Phil let him run with it for as long as he could stand it...

Eventually, Arneson pauses for breath, and Phil leaps right in with the GM question, "Do you have the Astronomer-Navigator skill, Dave?" Arneson shows him Harchar's index card, with an innocent "Why, of course, Professor..." and Barker lunges in for the kill. He pulls his latest 'prop', a very nice Arabic astrolabe from his favorite antiques dealer in Britain, Stanley Fish; he hands it to Dave, and asks him if he can use it...

Arneson didn't even bat an eye. He delivered a very nice and concise lecture on the instrument, took it apart and put it back together again for Phil - this, despite having never seen this item before - and showed us all the various functions of the artifact. (It's really an analog computer, and can do all sorts of things besides tell you where you are.) Phil did not sit there with his mouth hanging open - he was too good a poker player for that - and simply sat there and smiled as Dave took sightings off of Origo's nose, Vrisa's left hip (it was the closest one to Dave), and the Professor's glowing cigar tip and then did some calculations on a note pad. He then indicated where we were on the map, and sat back.

Phil simply smiled and gave his cigar a thoughtful puff; he was simply too good a player and GM to do anything else, and we cast off for several months of nautical adventure. It was a lot of fun, even with Dave running our ship into the Southern Continent. (Well, there was a storm, at the time...)

And that, my gentle readers, is what the games out at Phil were like.