Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, November 27th, 2016 - My Very First Real Game of D&D; Ever!

Dear old Chirine, as a 1st Level D&D PC

I'd been invited to come and play in a D&D campaign at the FLGS, and I had my first session yesterday. Several players were astonished to hear that this was my very first real game of D&D, and I had to point out that the previous GMs I'd had (Dave, Phil, and Gary) were not much into rules mechanics but rather into setting and story; as a result, I'd never really played the game 'by the book'.

The GM came up with a very good replication of Chirine as he was in early 1976; the character sheet is above. We were in Blackmoor castle's dungeon, starting on level two and moving up to level one. This was the modern d20 version of Blackmoor, not the FFG early version. The players were the usual diverse bunch, with a very useful variety of classes and skills, and they worked well together; very solid playing, very solid approach, and while I did offer some tactical advice from time to time, they really did a great job and provided this newbie with a wonderful time.

I did find a couple of things disconcerting, though. This was D&D 5.0, and I was amazed at all the numbers and number-crunching that had to be done in order to do the simplest actions. I was also amazed, after reading the rules books, at just how much 'gaming lore' had to be spelled out for people - but then, if you're selling a game to people with no knowledge of what the game is and how it works, then you have to have this kind of thing.

I also read through the two d20 Blackmoor books, and I have to say that while they are great books and a good grounding in Blackmoor, I had problems with them. I played with Dave when Blackmoor was in an earlier incarnation, and the d20 version is later and - frankly - doesn't seem to have much Dave Arneson in it. Lots of things, like Gertie the Great Golden Dragon on her island in the bay, are gone; Blackmoor is now a Very Serious Place, where Serious Gamers play Serious Games. The whimsy that marked Dave's games isn't there, and I felt very out of place and out of time.

What made this game, however, were the players and the GM. Great fun, lots of laughs, and I had a great time. (Which, I think, is what the game is all about.) My heartfelt thanks to all of them for a wonderful time!

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Sakbe Road at Anch'ke - It Seemed Like A Good Idea, At The Time (2)

Looking down the length of the set...

The Battle of Anch'ke was originally fought in Phil's campaign, as part of his 'Hekellu - Sirsum' micro-campaign. We, the Tsolyani, were trying to being the benefits of Imperial civilization to the tribal clans east of Hekellu; they, on the other hand, felt that they didn't particularly need the benefits of Imperial Civilization, thank you very much. Our little army consisted of Chris (Bear) Huddle's Legion of the Translucent Emerald (32nd Imperial Mediums) and my tiny Legion of the All-Consuming Flame (which may be descended from Searing Flame, 10th Heavies) as well as some Vridd clan troops. 6,000 - 800 - 600, respectively. Not a very big force, but a good one.

A day's march out of Hekellu on the dilapidated and not very big Sakbe road to Sirsum, we realized that the Young Master (the local version of the Mahdi) had the tribes out in force, and we were in deep trouble. Phil obviously knew his history of warfare on India's Northwest Frontier, and had us right where the Afghans had had the British on several occasions. In short, we were in deep trouble and likely to get wiped out.

What Phil didn't know - mostly because he didn't allow gunpowder weapons on his game table, I suspect - was that I really liked 'colonial warfare', and had read up on the history of the fabled Frontier in preparation for this micro-campaign. Phil sprang his ambush just that little bit too soon, and I attacked into him with my cohorts. It was the only time in over a decade of gaming with him that I caught him flat-footed; I won the fight, and kept us all alive to fight another day.

A number of years ago, as part of my series of Tekumel-based games at the FLGS, I built the battlefield from the map that Phil had drawn for us, scaled to fit the 140" table they had. Anch'ke requires a set of specific terrain, as it plays a major role in the fight; there's two ranges of low hills to hid the ambushing tribesmen, and the dilapidated Sakbe road that we fought around.

I varied from my usual practice of using extruded styrene foam, and used expanded foam instead; the latter has a 'pebbled' texture, which I thought would look good on the model. (This was my first project that I did with Third Daughter and Second Son-in-law, by the way, so I have kind of a special place in my hart for this model.) We went and re-fought the battle at the FLGS, with very bad result for the Tsolyani.

So, my question for all of you: I am standardizing my table sizes, and the largest table I use these days is 60" x 120". The big table at the FLGS is 140" long; I really don't do games there, at this point. Should I cut down the roadway (by lopping 10" off each end, most likely) or leave it as it and live with the extra length hanging off the 120" table?

The Sakbe Road at Anch'ke - It Seemed Like A Good Idea, At The Time (1)

This is going to be picture heavy, if that's all right...

Center module, with the tower complex at Anch'ke

All 140+ inches of the thing, on a 120" table...

Doors open - magnetic mounting, here...

Doors closed; same mounting in inner face

Chirine and his guards, to give a sense of scale


Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, November 19th, 2016 - Short Takes

The trireme shows her colors

Torchbearers, with removable torches

No long post today, and comments replied to later; the cold I've been nursing for the past two weeks has come back with a vengance, and I've had to cancel all my appointments for the weekend and stay home in bed with fever and chills. More, when I feel better, and in the meantime a couple of photos of things that did get done...

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, November 13th, 2016 - Whither The Workbench?

Why, look! Plot devices, forsooth!

Here we are, at Post #401 - the beginning of a new era, I think. I thought that I should pause for a moment, an try to give an idea of where this blog might be going in the future. I'll try not to be boring; what's prompted this bit of introspection is a note from a reader about the thread I'm in on the last Internet RPG forum that I'm active on:


Much to my surprise, this thread has had 486 pages, 4,856 posts, and 90,750 views since it got started last June. I had, as part of my general disengagement from the Internet gaming scene, wanted to close out as many of the various accounts that I had started some years ago; however, one of the regulars on that particular forum started the thread as a way for people to learn about Phil's Tekumel and the time we had with him. It's spread a little farther afield then that, as people have asked me about the early days of gaming here in the Twin Cities and the beginnings of the hobby and the industry. I answer all of the questions as best as I can, and honestly. I have not enjoyed some of the questions, as they do pout salt into old wounds, but I forge ahead anyway.

I do a lot better in a question-and-answer format, and this can probably be seen in this blog; I do enjoy your questions, and I will keep trying to keep track of them and get them answered. The thread seems to be the place for short questions and answers, and this blog for the longer and more in-depth stuff - as well as the projects that I'm working on, of course. It's also a place to provide a portal to my other sites on the Web, like the You Tube channel and the Photobucket page. (Links in the column to the left, as usual.)

One question that I did get from readers was why I stopped being a presence on RPG fora; the answer is a little complex. Most of the discussions that happen on these sites is way over my head, about rules and settings that I have no familiarity with. RPG players, especially some of the self-described 'OSR' people, also have reacted pretty badly when I talk about the kind of gaming we used to do 'back in the day'; there seem to be a lot of preconceptions and misapprehensions about what Dave and Gary and Phil used to do back in the day. My observations on the three of them don't seem to fit in with the prevailing mythologies, and I got tired of having to say the same things over and over again. I thought that I was wasting energy and time that I could be using more usefully elsewhere, so I drew down the number of places that I visit and participate on-line.

I think the trigger incident was a conversation I had a while back with somebody I knew, who floated their idea that Dave and Gary had "stolen the idea for RPGs from Phil"; after I picked my jaw u off the floor - this is somebody who does know better, after all! - I pointed out that all of the historical evidence points to the opposite, and I pointed out "Playing At The World" for a great exposition of the facts. The person responded by telling me that "If you were loyal to me and Tekumel, you'd find the information to back me up!"

No, I don't think so; there is no such evidence, and I'm not the kind of person to lie for somebody to bolster their stance or position in gaming.

It was after that conversation, and other incidents on-line and in real life, that I started to close out things that I felt were not central to what I believe in and enjoy doing. This blog is an example of what I like and enjoy, and the RPGsite thread is another. You'll see both continue; there will be more photos, and the Missus wants to get out her little Bloggie and shoot some more videos in the newly refurbished and reorganized game room - since we'll have a better Intenet connection in a few months, this has become a practical proposition again.

Which reminds me - I need to get all of you some new photos of the game room! I've been busy for the past few weekends building new shelves and getting stuff moved, as I need to get the 'spare room' cleared for the arrival of Youngest Daughter in January. (As previously mentioned, the living room has also been redone to allow for viewing of the television, and the possible housing of Fourth Daughter and her First Son-In-Law should they visit us.) All of my gaming library and archives have been moved to the new shelves, my vast collection of historical books moved onto the vacated ones, and the miniatures collection reorganized to absorb the 60 Nubian archers, 30 Egyptian slingers, 30 Philistines, 30 Sea People, and six chariots I have been working on after the big sale at the FLGS. (There's also five new Silver Suits for the Space Marine platoon, but they were easy to absorb.)

There have been casualties; I got rid of the old resin buildings that I'd gotten in 2002 for a convention game, and which had been damaged beyond reasonable repair when a box collapsed. Likewise, some historical books I never had looked at went to the local historical gamers, and I expect I'll keep clearing out stuff that I haven't used in a decade. I'm refining my focus: Tekumel, Barsoom, Ancient Egypt. (Well, all right, ships and pirates on occasion as well.) If people want to adventure in those worlds, then they are welcome to organize up a party and go adventuring. I'm open Friday evenings, Saturdays, and Sunday afternoons. Call ahead, and I'll set something up.

So, you'll see a lot more of what I'm doing, and what I'm writing. Work proceeds apace, and I am very happy with what's happening. If you want to come along for the ride, welcome!!!






Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, November 6th, 2016 - Post #400, Would You Believe It?

Sample of a page design

Well, well, well, here we are at post #400. As I have mentioned, this is the second edition of this little effort; the old Workbench blog was taken down during the legal troubles we had with some 'friends' some years back, and this has been the revived version that we put back up some months later.

A lot of things have changed, over those 400 posts; The game group that I started for some friends back in 2002 died in 2015 due to some pretty nasty politics, and some very insensitive and inappropriate actions on the part of several people. As an old friend has been heard to remark, "No gaming is better then bad gaming!" So, we've had no gaming here at the Workbench since December of last year; there may be some coming up, but nothing like on the scale or intensity that we used to have. I am letting the gamers organize up what they want, and just being available on Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sunday afternoons for people. You want to game you organize it.

All of my archives are in digital format, so I'll be culling the paper archives and disposing of the surplus copies; no sense filling the shelves with paper that I rarely look at, I think. I'll keep one pristine copy of everything fort the future, of course.

My painting is picking back up, after a long 'dry spell'. Lots of great figures out there, and I paint what I like for the games that I want to run. Photos and posts as I get things done.

The game room and lounge have been substantially rebuilt. Now that the living room is once again able to be used for guests, we're moving the 'movie nights' upstairs and keeping the big 40" screen in the basement for gaming use - with a selection of my favorite flicks, just because.

Guests are still welcome, but we will admit that we've become very careful about who we let in the house. We've had some really bad experiences over the past few years, so we're being a lot more restrictive. It does cut down on losses, breakage, and legal bills, so from our standpoint it's been a great success.

My book continues to chug along; I hope to have it done by this coming spring. We'll see.

This blog continues, as a way to let everyone know what we're doing; it's your blog as much as it is mine, so please feel free to let me know what you'd like to see - and we'll be on for another 400 posts!

- Chirine