Monday, September 17, 2018

The Fiberglass People & The 'X' Card IN RPGs - the Weekly Update - Monday, September 17th, 2018

Some of what I've been moving around...

The new card rack by the game table...

The renovations in the game room and lounge continue; I have four days of vacation this week, and I'm slowly starting to get caught up on all the things I've been wanting to do in the basement and around the house. Lots of other stuff going on, and I'll have more news later on.

The furniture has all been moved, and the space created has been used to get some of the costume collection on the mannequins organized so that they take up less of a footprint in the game lounge.

(Yes, that's sort of a a joke about all the fiberglass feet I've been dealing with.)

Six of the currently displayed costumes are now along the shelves on the south wall, with The Missus' Ksarul armor holding the fort on the west wall, on the opposite end of the buffet table from dear old Chirine. Mannequins in armor are a right royal pain to move, even on the nylon furniture sliders I have on their base, because they are very top-heavy and not at all well-balanced. Four of our fiberglass people are in storage, simply for lack of display space.

And in a very unexpected development, one of the mannequins we got this past year as part of a bulk lot and which was  missing her right arm, had it found by the folks we'd bought the set from; so, we now have a new costume to build. Given the bales of sari fabric sent to us from Europe by Fourth Daughter and the new bales from The Missus, I think we can manage...

One of the new features of the game room proper is a rack by the corner of the table with sets of green, yellow, and red cards. This is a development of the 'X card' that has been talked about in various on-line gaming circles, with some pretty wildly varying opinions. Some people seem to have the opinion that these kinds of cards are an infringement on their creativity and are a form of censorship.

I disagree. I look at them as a backstop / insurance policy for my games. Tekumel has, shall we say, a bit of a 'reputation' for having 'mature themes' present in the world setting. That may be true, especially in the context of the 1975 publishing era, but these days 'lesbian' is not a foreign word for most gamers. So, I don't think that a lot of the 'edgy', 'adult content' we first saw in EPT will be all that difficult for modern gamers.

Do I think these cards will be needed?

No, I don't; back in Ye Olden Dayes, our play style was a lot different then what I see on-line and in the FLGS. I've seen games where I have seriously wondered if I'm old enough to be listening to that particular game session, or wondered why the subject matter would even come up at the table - or, for that matter, what ever happened to 'good taste'.

I didn't game that way, we didn't game that way out at Phil's, and my new group will not be gaming that way in our adventures. This is all about a bunch of friends sitting around a table having fun, and this ancient dinosaur thinks that it's only polite to have this kind of back-up at the table for my friends.

I'll let you know how it all works out, of course.


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Reconstructing The Game Room - to handle the crowds!

A little reconstruction is going on...

This may not be the longest update that I've done, but it's possibly of interest to people. We tested some of the PCs we have in the game room yesterday, as we gear up for video calls via Skype or Google hangouts. The second-hand Dell failed to power up, but the equally second-hand Hewlett-Packard did, and we were able to test the camera that we got with the Dell.  Speed was slow, due to the USB port in the HP being not the high-speed one that the camera prefers, but so it goes; we have a tech on call to look at the Dell. Either way, things are moving forward.

I've been doing a bit of thinking - you can hear the gears clashing - and we're going to have a week off a week from today to get a lot of the domestic 'to-do' list done in time for winter. We're finally getting out to the garden sheds to clean up the wreckage from several month's solid game sessions, and getting the workshop finally cleaned up after a decade of 'mend-and-make-do'; the goal is to get it cleared out enough to be able to have guests in there to work on things. This stems from a request from various members of the new game group to have a place to work, on the nights when we don't have enough people t play and nobody wants to watch a movie.

However, since I do have a spare 52" plasma screen, we'll mount that on the wall in the workshop so we can have our painting nights and our movies too. The spare 42" LCD will stay as our 'mobile reserve', as it is the lightest of all our big screens and was originally bought for use at conventions.

Speaking of which, in a surprise move The Missus is getting her own vehicle - a mid-size pick-up truck. She likes these, and her brother has a spare that she's getting. This means that the elderly Astro, with it's 339,000 (!) miles on the odometer, will revert to being my cargo vehicle and kept in reserve for possible convention trips. It will, as we've noted in these pages, not be our main transport - the Bug and the new pick-up will be - but the van is paid for and all we have to do is keep the insurance paid for the and the oil topped up. It does run reliably, these days, and we'll keep it around for as long as we can.

In other news, TRE Games has some new 28mm kits of Japanese buildings and bridges, and we are sorely tempted to add to our urban collection with these. I usually associate Tekumel with more Middle Eastern styles of architecture, but we shall see if we can't get some research done in the archives; Phil once remarked that the Salarvyani like a more ornate and complex style, so maybe there's hope yet. The kits are really nice.

That's what I have tonight; more later...

Monday, September 3, 2018

Dear Phil: You Are Not Going to Believe This! - The Weekly Update - Monday, September 3rd, 2018

Guests at my 25th Birthday party

Dear Phil,

It's been an amazing month since I got back from Alabama. I talked about you and your creation from the time I got in to the time I left, and the response from people was simply amazing. Just like what happened at the 'Free RPG Day' event, folks were utterly fascinated by your world and wanted to know as much about it as they could. Your novels are enjoying a revival, and I'm very pleased by that; so are used book dealers, who are having to ship your novels out as fast as they can find them. All to the good, I say! I'm being asked about the Subtle Hints and Easter Eggs you left, and it's been a lot of fun telling people about our adventures.

The players in the 'Free RPG Day' game asked me to run a Tekumel-based campaign for them, and we've gotten that set up. Much to my astonishment, I've gotten interest from a lot more people then the basement can hold - shades of our days around your Ping-Pong ball table! - and so I've opened up a 'second front' for the campaign on a different day. I'm back my mu old 'week on, week off' schedule of game sessions and build sessions, and I am really looking forward to this - I've always worked better and more productively on a tighter turn-around like this, and I'm already seen a massive increase in my own productivity. The Missus is also enjoying it, as she now gets to demonstrate her perfections as a hostess, and she loves that the house is once again full of life and laughter.

You'd love Waffle The Wonder Dog, Phil, as she's every bit the complete and utter ham that Anubis The Wonder Dog was during our game sessions and a worthy successor to the title.

I'll be continuing this blog, as a way of talking about the more complex and recondite subjects - I still have to get our version of Gary's 'Appendix N' up, as an example, but I think you'll be both happy and amazed that people looking in at this little confection about the games we played have tripled; I came back from Alabama to find that we'd had over 650 hits on that Sunday, and we're still over 200 a day.

The threads on the RPGsite forum, I should mention, collected over 910,000 views in the two years we were on there, and went to something like 900 pages of posts and replies.

The new Proboards.com forum, http://chirinebakal.proboards.com/ , has really taken off; in the month that it's been up,  we've been getting an average of over 500 'views' a day, and almost forty people have become members on the forum. I'm amazed by that, as it's all been by word-of-mouth, and I think it shows that your creation still has the power to amaze and fascinate people. I am, I think, pretty sure it isn't my doing, as I think that the excellence of your work speaks for itself and is what is carrying us along.

Me(as I used to say), I just paint the figures. Which have also been pretty wonderful. Howard and The Tekumel Project keeps going from strength to strength, and The Missus keeps finding figures that she is pretty sure you'd like - the new ones from Dark Fable reminded her of you, as the lovely little dancing girl who's one of the stretch goals is the twin sister of the dancer you carved something like sixty years ago.

Life is busy, Phil, but you and your creation are being appreciated a whole lot more then may have been the case in the past.

The Flame Lives, Phil, and we'll keep doing our best to keep it burning.

- chirine

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Thing Has Legs! - Friday, August 24th, 2018 - The (Delayed) Weekly Update

Art by Jaime Jasso, I think, and really good!
I am really late with this week's update, for which I hope you'll all forgive me. The new forum is really picking up steam, and so is the newly-revived RPG campaign.

First off, a couple of house-keeping announcements:

Bob Meyer (who inherited Dave Arneson's original Blackmoor campaign and runs an annual game for the original Blackmoor players) was kind enough to drop by the 'Free RPG Day' event, and offered a comment or two on the game. His comments, along with Griffith Morgan's, are on the latter's blog for his documentary about Dave, "Secrets of Blackmoor":


Gosh. Thank you, gents; we try. :)

Howard Fielding, of The Tekumel Project, reports that Dr. Mike Burns of Dark Fable Miniatures has a new Kickstarter campaign up, with some new miniatures that are very handy for us Tekumel - and Braunstein! - types:


The Missus has already made her selections, and I'll soon see some new figures on the Workbench. And, of course, please use the link in the opposite column to visit Howard's blogs and see what he's up to - you'll be amazed and amused!

The new forum, http://chirinebakal.proboards.com/ , has really taken off and really helped reduce my workload. I'm using the forum to run the day-to-day questions and answers that I get; this blog will continue, and serve as the platform for more in-depth and philosophical musings. As my work week is pretty fixed and stable, it looks like my Saturdays will normally be my 'domestic chores' day and Sundays will be my 'gaming day' - with a lot of writing thrown in. The new game group will be meeting on the Fourth Sunday of each month, in the evening, and that means I'll be back to a regular schedule of working like a fiend between game sessions on miniatures and doing a lot more writing. I used to do this with the old campaign, but on a two-week turnaround cycle, and those were some of the most productive years of my life.

The new campaign, in conjunction with the trip to Alabama, has really jump-started my gaming again. I've had a run of very good gaming of late, and I've really been enjoying getting out into the world and both running games and building games. I was very surprised to be asked to run a new campaign after the 'RPG Day' event; I've been even more surprised at the way the notion of going off and having adventures in Phil's work, in the way we did back in the day, has hit a very responsive chord with an astounding number of Twin Cities gamers. We're going to have a full house on Sunday, and I'm really pleased with that.

To add to my delight, two of my daughters and one of my sons-in-law will also be there, playing their characters from my previous Tekumel game group, so we'll have the kind of historical continuity that I am so very fond of. The campaign - given the personalities of the players! - promises to be absolutely, positively epic.

Reports to follow...

Saturday, August 11, 2018

And So It Begins - My Tekumel Campaign, Restarted - Saturday, August 11th, 2018 - The Weekly Update

Phil 'suggested' I get a copy...

The 'campaign prospectus' I've been handing out to people who played in my 'Free RPG Day' game and selected others - and posted on the 'Pages' section, for your amusement - has now attracted enough players that we're above the minimum number of people that I feel enables a good group dynamic to form. And also allows for people who can't make it to games, and for the casualties that the party is likely to suffer; it's always good to have somebody left to carry the wounded back home for the Temple of Avanthe to have a look at. (It's a regular trauma ward, there.)

I'm in the process of unpacking all of the game supplies that have been seeing action over the past couple of months, and getting the game room ready for guests. The thought amongst the players is that we'll be gaming once each month, on Sunday afternoons / evenings about five and going until nine sharp as people have to get to work and school the next day. This will allow for dinner to be served before the game starts, too, which we think is A Good Idea.

I'm also spinning up the meta-campaign, getting all of Phil's NPCs and PCs sorted using my copy of his 1,500+ index cards; it's a lot easier to be running Tony Bath's campaign rules like Phil did on the computer, where one can simply push the 'GO!' button every month and watch the mayhem occur. I got the meta-campaign back up to speed manually in June, for 'Free RPG Day', and the thing runs itself like it always did - adding Dave Arneson's merchant shipping sub-routine was a snap, and I'll look forward to seeing what adventures that generates.

To help with the communications with the players and spectators, as well as relieve some issues with server congestion, I've established a new forum:



I find that I really like the 'question and answer' format, and this blog does not seem to be a very good platform for that kind of thing. The 'Questioning Chirine ba Kal' threads seemed to be pretty popular, as these things go, but at 911 pages,  9,098 posts, and over 911,967 views the thing was actually slowing down the RPGsite server. So, if you have any questions about what I do, or what we did out at Phil's from 1976 to 1988, please feel free to drop by and join in.

This blog will be continuing; I will be continuing to use it to let people know what I'm doing and how I'm doing it, with an emphasis on longer and more useful essays and reports. And more photos as well, and we'll be adding to the YouTube channel as time permits.

So, a lot of things happening all at once, and more people discovering Phil's creation!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Something Very, Very Cool Happened Today...

I laughed until I cried...

Something really nice and very, very cool happened today. As you,- my Patient Readers - are aware, I've been booked solid for the past couple of months providing scenery, terrain, and refreshments to the amazing people who make up the Shieldmaiden Sundays game group at The Source. Yes, it's been a lot of sweat and effort, but it's all been worth it seeing the looks on their faces and their laughter when they see the game tables that I've been able to build for them to adventure in and on.

That's what gaming is all about for me, and has been for the past four decades; a bunch of friends, gathered around a table and laughing their heads off.

Like in our original Thursday Night Group out at Prof. Barker's, back in the 1980s, this group has some very gifted artists in it. Today, I got a gift from one of them, Chandra Reyer, as a 'thank-you' for helping them out with their adventures.

Visitors to the Workbench have remarked, over the years, at the profusion of pink (and other colors, eventually) plastic flamingos on the lawn, fluttering from banners, and filling the shelves in the game room's Chamber of the Laughing Waters. Yes, there are a lot of them, including the barware and buffet flatware we have in the Game Lounge.

A long time ago, Kathy Marshall did a wonderful painting of Chirine and Si N'te as Gordon R. Dickson and Poul Anderson's Hokas. It has center place on the wall of paintings in the game lounge, and will now have a companion in Chandra's wonderful painting of Chirine The Flamingo Warrior.

Over the decades, I've managed to collect a few awards and 'thank-you' notes; this one is a very special one for me, and I am both very pleased and very humbled to have earned this one.

You're very welcome, Shieldmaidens, all of you.



Of Krakens, Leviathans, And Sundry Other Monsters - The Shieldmaidens And Their Final Battle - But The Saga Continues!

Logo by Chandra Reyer
Yes, there was cake; flamingoes had been requested, sooo...

The working Maelstrom, with blue lights

The very brave Bard goes after the Kraken (!!!)

Assorted other monsters were dealt with, as well...
This game session, today, was a little bittersweet. It marks the first anniversary of the founding of the Shieldmaidens' Sunday group at The Source, and the one-year mark of this campaign. I was asked to "do something a little special, with flamingoes, please", so I did. I got to the store early, git the table all set with the help of the group, and then got the buffet table set - a cake had been baked, and I provided the usual refreshments. The Source also weighed in, with 'drinks on the house' for the Shieldmaidens all round. (Which I thought was very kind of them!)

The game session was a very hard-fought battle between the party and a whole lot of very powerful sea monsters; about half of the party got pretty badly mangled in the fight, and I thought for quite a while that it was going to be a Total Party Kill, especially when the Leviathan showed up - to great screams of terror and glee, as the GM had put quite a lot of effort into the build-up before the reveal of the actual monster.

What astonished me was that the party rebounded from their near-extermination; they fought back hard, and despite the GM rolling some of the hottest dice I'd seen in years, pulled off what I realized was a brilliant fighting withdrawal that got the party out of the water. And, nobody got left behind; all of the casualties were rescued, sometimes in the teeth of the attacking monsters (literally, in at least one case), and they all made it out. I was both amazed and astounded at how well this game was played, and how well the GM managed to keep out in front of some really good and determined players.

I mentioned that this was a little bittersweet; that's because with the party now off recuperating from this battle, this particular adventure is now done. My time as their stagehand for this adventure is over, and the theater is dark. I've gotten everything back into the basement to be sorted into the tubs, and the little lit turntable we used for the Maelstrom will be stored as well.

For the next time, when the Saga of the Shieldmaidens continues...

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

There And Back Again - More From The Hoover Public Library






There was a lot of gaming going on, from a demo game being run on the theater stage to a series of RPGs being run over in the other building.

There is now an RPG group meeting regularly at the library, linked to the library's 'popular culture' section. The library has games - of all kinds! - that can be checked out and played, either in the library's rooms or at home.

The place is, as they say, just a'jumpin.

There And Back - More From Alabama

F/SF authors on the theater stage

History of RPGs panel - I learned a lot!!!

Tables with local fan groups

Some really good cosplayers, in character

The marketplace, with authors, artists, and vendors

I don't know what they've got going on down there in Alabama, but I'm back from a truly amazing weekend at the library in Hoover, Alabama, which I think is part of the Greater Birmingham metroplex. The library has a lot going on - this kind of event is something  that they seem to do a lot, with the various events themed and aimed at the very diverse users of the library. It was all very well organized and run, complete with a shuttle bus between the two buildings being used.

I barely had time to catch my breath all weekend, let alone look at their website:


I was a small part of this; I was invited down to speak and run games by some fans of Tekumel who live down there, and we managed to make it all happen in a very quick time. I did serval talks on Phil and his creation, and ran two game sessions - one with 14 players, one with six - and everyone seemed to have a good time.

There were a number of local authors on hand, and the local fan groups all seems to have shown up. Lots of good cosplayers, including half a dozen young ladies from an anime series; one of them was doing a character who habitually had a cigarette in her mouth, and I was startled to see one dangling from her lip - being a real costumer, she'd made it all street-legal with a pack of candy cigarettes. (I didn't know you could still get those, any more!)

Everyone seemed to be having as good a time as I was, and I thought that this was one of the best events I'd ever been to in the last forty years!

More photos up next!


Monday, July 30, 2018

A Trip To The Library And Back - A Short Update - Monday, July 30, 2018

I went to the Library...
...and talked with a lot of really cool people!

First off, I'd like to welcome all of the people who are taking a look at this little effort for the first time; I'll have a lot more to say about this past weekend over the next few days, but I'm just getting back to normal after an amazing and wonderful - but exhausting! - weekend.

If I may beg the indulgence of 'the regulars' here in this quiet corner of the internet, who already know all about the kind of tomfoolery and antics we get up to here, this is where I talk about and comment on the gaming hobby and industry that I've been involved with for the past four decades. If you look on the right-hand column, you'll see links to some of the things I've done; the search labels at the top of the column will also help you find things. Worst comes to worst, drop me an e-mail; it's also at the top of the right-hand column.

As often happens, a fan of Tekumel and gaming e-mailed me; he's the owner of a game store in Alabama, and we go to talking about what we both love in our shared hobby. The upshot of that conversation was that he and some friends would like to come and visit me and my game room

(Which has been seen on the "Multiverse" blog:

And we thought that it might be fun for me to come down and visit them so that they could get a little hint of who I am and what I do - and have been doing for a while. So, this past weekend, I found myself in Alabama, talking to a whole lot of very kind and gracious people about Dave and Gary and Phil and their worlds of Blackmoor, Greyhawk, and Tekumel; I ran many hours of games, too, and had one of the very best weekends in gaming that I've had in a very long time. It was every bit as much fun as supplying game tables for the Shieldmaidens, I tell you, but with a very nice hotel room and great food attached.

I did take some pictures, and I'll have a longer report started tomorrow; I need to catch up on my sleep (and laundry) to there will be more to come. The basic thing I'd like to say is that I've been to a really fun event, run by some really skilled and capable people, and enjoyed by a lot of folks interested in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Gaming, and Books!!!

I think I've been to heaven, and it's in Hoover, Alabama... :)

[Housekeeping Note:

I found myself talking alot about the Shieldmaidens group, a 'meet-up' space that was started by The Source Comics & Games here in the Twin Cities for women who want to game and have fun. The formal title is 'Shieldmaidens Sundays', and I will try to get a link for you - I do know that they are on Facebook, so you'll probably be able to find it faster then I can. Anyway, I've added a search label to my posts about them and their continuing saga - 'Shieldmaidens' - in my capacity as their "stagehand", "enabler", and "mascot".]

[Edit: Another Housekeeping Note:

The link to my Photobucket page seems to have been broken; I think I've fixed it. The link to my YouTube channel seems to have been working all this time, and so we're good there. If you try them, and they don;t qwork, drop me a line at my email address and we'll get them fixed. Thanks!]

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Campaign Prospectus - Questions Being Discussed - 1

Let's dream, shall we?
A number of questions about the forthcoming campaign have come up in the discussions we've been having, and I thought that it might be useful to have a look at them...

When will this campaign be run? I have a pretty full schedule!

This is still under serious discussion. The current favorite is the suggestion of Sunday evenings, with the game session running from five to nine and probably once a month; this time frame would allow people to get to their usual game sessions, and allow time to get some dinner before gaming. The Missus thought that having refreshments ready, like she did for the marathon twelve-hour 5e session we had, would be a big help to people.

I don't have a car; how do I get there?

Several suggestions have been discussed; since a number of the players I've invited rely on public transportation, we thought that in the time before the game proper I can give rides to people who might need them. Likewise, rides home are possible, as I don't work until the afternoon during the week.

I can't be at every game session; is this a problem?

No. I am very specifically setting things up to allow for people to be able to drop in and out of the campaign as they need to. All I ask is that I get an e-mail telling me that you'll be out, for that session; I'll ask what you'd like your character to be doing, and that will be what the other players hear about - "So-and-so is at the academy, learning a new spell."

What rules do I need to know?

Whatever set of rules - any rules - that you are comfortable with. One player is already working on a 5e PC; it's my problem to crunch the numbers, not yours.

I've never played any wargames; will this be a problem?

No. You'll be role-playing, and any military troops will take care of themselves. You will be asked to give orders, which you'll get plenty of coaching on as we play.

You have a lot of emphasis on making me feel comfortable. Why?

Because I have forty years of horror stories about bad GMs and players. I want everybody to have a good time, not a bad one. An example of this was a player I had who was a severe arachnophobe; because of this, no giant spiders ever appeared in the games I did for her. Yes, giant spiders are a 'D&D trope', but I didn't want her discomfort to get in the way of the game. Other giant insects were fine, so I stocked up on them...

Is this a LARP? You've mentioned costumes.

No. We just liked making costumes, and so we have a number of them on display in the game room.

What happens if I'm the only one who shows up for a game session?

You get your choice; a one-on-one game session, or we fire up the 52" screen and run a movie related to the game for the evening. Refreshments provided, either way; this is all about friends having fun.

I've seen your YouTube videos; will you be recording our games?

No. As I get the game room wired for video-teleconferences, I am planning on having game sessions open to 'distant' players. Unless you want to be part of one of these, you will not be on camera or on microphone. I don't put people 'on the air' unless they agree to it in advance; it's the same reason why I don't post game photos with people's faces in them, unless they've agreed to it.

Will you be doing other games, like at conventions?

Yes, but only if the group wants to be part of anything like this. I will be doing The Annual Birthday Party game at The Source's 'Free RPG Day' for as they want me too, but any other events are going to be with the group's permission and help.

Are you going to be opening up this campaign to just anyone?

No. I am inviting people that I think might enjoy a campaign like this, and not advertising for players; this campaign is all about the fun we had at the 'Free RPG Day' session, and having people of like mind in for games and fun. As we get further into the campaign, I will be happy to talk to people about being part of the group, but the group will always have the final say on who games with them. Likewise for guests; anyone in the campaign can bring a guest, but I'd like to know about it in advance so that I can talk to them first to see what they are looking for in a game session.

Again, this is a work in progress; the 'Prospectus' page is off in the right hand-column, and please feel free to ask any questions you might have.

Another Anniversary, By The Way...

We'll be back.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Anniversaries - The Weekly Update - July 21, 2018

The White Horse; or Epona, if you will

Some benchmarks here at the Workbench, this weekend. This little confection of a blog is about a decade old; this particular edition is about half that, the first time around having fallen by the wayside due to external issues. We're still here, though, and planning on being so for a while yet if there's interest.

It's also the 28th anniversary of The Missus and I getting married; we'd been 'an item' since 1988, so it's - by our reckoning, anyway - thirty years we've been together. We've gone through a lot in that time, and literally saved each other's lives on a few occasions. We've seen lots of changes in the world go by, some of them good, some of them bad. We've managed to weather them all, despite her declining health, and we're still here in the same little house on the same quiet street that we set up our lives in all those years ago.

We've had to let go of a lot of our dreams, and adapt to the realities of what Fate has dealt us, but by and large I think we're pretty satisfied with how it all turned out. We never expected to become parents, for example, and certainly not for five pretty amazing young ladies; the hair is a little grayer, but it was - if you asked us point-blank - something worth doing.

The past five years has seen a lot of turmoil and change in our lives, but that's now smoothing out; we're withdrawing from the various Internet forums that we used to be active on, as the content-to-drama ratio has gotten pretty skewed away from the former towards the latter. The recent fracas that saw me getting chewed on by Rob Kuntz over something Gary Gygax told me back in the day was pretty much the last nail in that particular coffin. I like having less stress and more time to write, as I steam away on "To Serve The Petal Throne".

The game room is also coming back into service, with the players in my 'Free RPG Day" game asking if they could continue their adventures in Phil's creation; I've sent out a 'campaign prospectus', setting out what they can expect from me and what I'd like to be able to expect from them. That seems to have gone over very well, and I will try to keep you all posted on the adventures that happen around here.

I don't have a lot else to say, tonight. It's been a nice quiet day, with a nice day out in the offing for tomorrow, and next weekend I'm flying off to a speaking engagement and a 'personal appearance'. Mayhem will ensue, I expect... :)


Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Release The Kraken!!!" - "Oops." - The Sunken City Adventure Continues - July 15, 2018 - Two

Luckily, the FLGS had a Kraken in stock.

Unfortunately, the Kraken also brought a Maelstrom along...

... and most of the players got sucked right in...

... so, as seems to be usual, they blew it up.

The guards having become a trifle suspicious, they summoned the Kraken to help them out, and things got more then a little out of hand (tentacle?) as the Kraken had thoughtfully brought a Maelstrom along with it, occasioned by the use of a little too much sorcery near to the Mysterious Glowing Orb that the party had managed to find and 'aquire'.

Things did not go well; the GM was rolling really hot, and the party really poorly. Things turned into such a confused mess of a melee that the poker chips that indicated depth went to the players, as it was assumed that everyone in the maelstrom was swirling about; the GM then went around the table by depth / poker chip color, and things became very manageable.

Not that this helped the players; there were several rounds where people were reduced to zero or negative HP, and the party's healer had her hands full keeping everybody alive in the mess. The Kraken didn't help matters by grabbing players as they swirled by and trying to dip them in shrimp cocktail sauce;  the party's best magic-user put a damper on this by hitting the Kraken on the noggin with a fireball, which seemed to dampen  any appetite for player-character appetizers.

The party ran out of time, due to schedule issues, so this game will be back on the table in three weeks after people get back from Comic Con in San Diego and other events. Nothing like a cliff-hanger, I always say, so tune in again for the next installment of the Saga of the Shieldmaidens as the attempt to stay off the menu...

Back To The Sunken City, With The Shieldmaidens - July 15, 2018 - One

Not five minutes in, and this happens.

A passing Bronze Dragon stops by.

What was supposed to be the climactic game of this particular adventure turned into a 'mid-game' session, with the party ending this game on a pretty dire cliff-hanger.

The basic plot, as regular readers will know from previous posts, is that the party has been hired while on their vacation to find a Mysterious Glowing Orb that's supposed to be hidden in the Sunken City. The previous session to this saw them find the thing, and they managed to talk their way past the guards to grab the thing. Some unplanned sorcery ensued, as they attempted to get away with their prize. The mer-guards and their eight-armed allies got suspicious, and sounded the alarm.

However, one of the players was a little faster on the initiative then the guards were, and summoned a passing Bronze Dragon to get some sage advice and counsel. The dragon was also feeling a bit peckish, so the swarm of sharks that were after the players disappeared in a swash of drawn butter and tartar sauce.

The dragon then dispensed the Sage Counsel and Useful Advice, and vanished back up to the surface with a contented burp. However, the guards were made of stern stuff, and called reinforcements. Which resulted in our cliffhanger of a battle, and the subject of our next post.

As is my function, I set up the table and stood back to watch the mayhem. I had left the game all packed up from the last session, so it was a simple matter of loading the car and getting into the venue. I had been asked for a Bronze Dragon, so the plush 'Asian Lung' that normally graces the game lounge was pressed into service. (Went over very well, I am happy to say.)

The group has really taken off, with this party being of ten, and the other campaign that they run having six today. They did a 'demo game' and a panel last week at Convergence, the huge F/SF convention that happens here in the Twin Cities every summer, and got a lot of interest and media attention from that.

And, if I may modestly say so, the recent series of games using my scenery and terrain seems to have helped. It is showy, I will freely admit, but the attention that is gets the group is certainly worth all the loading and unloading that has to be done to make all this happen. I enjoy doing it, and they say 'Thank you, Chirine!" so I'm a very happy camper.

Right! On to the melee!!!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

An Interlude, and An Excursion - July 7th, 2018 - The Weekly Update

 A product of the Ford Motor Company that you may not have heard of

And some properly dressed passengers, as well!
The Missus and I went out on a little excursion to Holman Field in St. Paul this afternoon, and took a few photos of a visitor to the Twin Cities and her passengers. Here's a news story about her:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXNs98e2poY

We had a lot of fun, I got to talk to a lot of people, and a very nice couple who were flying as passengers - and who had dressed properly for the occasion, complete with their luggage - let us take their pictures.

As regular readers of this little confection are aware, I love older forms of technology, so today's excursion was a real treat. She'll be here in town today and tomorrow, and is well worth a visit. The food in the terminal building is very good, too! :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Blood In The Water, or, We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat...

The party came prepared and fully equipped...

... ready to face the Giant Octopus...

,,, but the GM had her own laptop ready...

... and mayhem ensued.
Yes, I know it's blurry, but that's because I was laughing so hard.

So, as related in our last installment of the Saga of the Shieldmaidens, they'd gone for a swim to find and 'collect' a Mysterious Object, which was supposedly an Orb of Great Power. Being canny players, they had their Druid shape-change into one of the local sea creatures, and inquiries were made of the denizens of the deep as to the possible whereabouts of any magical objects that might be secreted in the Sunken City.

Their first lead, from a passing Giant Gulper Eel, resulted in some sort of magical object being detected in one of the large stone heads on the north side of the temple plaza. In order to investigate this, the party's Halfling was stuffed up the stone head's nose - it was the largest opening that the Halfling would fit into - and she passed the magical orb that she'd found out to the rest of the party. However, it wasn't the orb that they were looking for, so further searches were made as the players had realized that the temple pyramids were hollow and contained all sorts of useful goodies what their GM had thoughtfully rolled up and left scattered around as diversions away from the main prize; they were, as was pointed out, 'red herrings' - from which comment you might be able to determine the tone of this game session.

After much fooling around and sundry bits of looting, the party finally Got The Hint and looked into the one and only sand-colored temple pyramid guarded by the Giant Octopus. Said guardian objected to the perusal of the temple's contents, whereupon the Rogue in the party whipped up a set of fake IDs for the party to display which claimed that the party was on Official Business and had every right to have a look around the place.

(Fake IDs, by the way, also played a major part in the previous game session when the party arrived at the Tiki Bar and went to work. The party's Rogue has, I gather, a special kit for the making of these things; in this case, one of the magic users created an air bubble to house the little printing press while the Rogue worked.)

The Giant Octopus was not particularly convinced of the veracity of the party and their credentials, and trouble loomed.

(At this point, seeing how the current flowed, I went over to the next door fast food joint and got a fish sandwich for lunch; I wanted to beat the school of sharks to the buffet that was about to open, as it were.)

As could have been predicted by just about anyone, the party was attacked by the Giant Octopus and defended themselves. The GM was particularly delighted by this turn of events, as she'd been up all night lovingly crafting said Enormous Cephalopod out of various portions of the Monster Manual. Things looked grim for the party, as they were really kinda out-classed and out-armed by the thing.

I found the melee really fascinating, from a game design standpoint, and really gross, from the cleaning-up-the-mess standpoint. The players just waded in on the creature and - this is the important part to remember - used the three-dimensional nature of their surroundings to 'stack' their attacks, both for doing lots and lots of damage and for mutual support. The Octopus was surrounded by the poker-chip depth markers, indicating that all of the party was attacking on every melee round - the defending octopod was limited to one action per round, while the party could get in six to eight actions.

The party turned into hyper-active sushi chefs, and there was a lot of stuff for the surrounding sharks to snack on by the end of round two. Since the party were all in close contact, they could support each other, and things got very messy very quickly.

(It was at this point that one of the players noticed my lunch, and pointed it out to the rest of the party. there was a chorus of "EEEEeeeeuuuwww!" and they went back to slaughtering the Octopus. I tried to get photos, but I was laughing too hard.)

Eventually, the hapless cephalopod was no more, and the party proceeded to get into the Secret Chamber in the heart of the temple to collect the Orb that they were looking for. All in all, they thought it was quite the successful operation, and I thought that it was a very good game. We're back again next week for a little clean-up and detail looting - the party wants to make sure that they've gotten everything worth getting - and then they'll be back to dry land for more adventures.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Sunken City, One Each, For The Use Of Gamers - Sunday, July 1st, 2008 - The Weekly Update

The table, looking north. GM table in the back. Time to set was forty minutes.

The table, looking southwest. The Giant Octopus stands in for the Kraken.

You never have enough sharks. Plastic sharks on GW flight stands.

The GM table, with poker chips, dice, and Giant Sea Life ready to hand..

Before I get into the game report proper, a few comments on the game itself. I got a short 'specification' for the table, which was "A sunken city; giant sea creatures would be nice." So, that's what the GM got. The wonderful Stonehouse pyramids got interior details, which the players figured out pretty quickly and took the time to explore. (And loot.) The Giant Jellyfish went over the proverbial treat, with one player opting to use one of them for her PC figure.

I took a litlte time to drill the plastic - vinyl, really - sharks for fitting with GW clear plastic flight stands, and this seemed to please everybody and be well worth the time. I thought it made for a much better-looking school of sharks, especially when the huge melee got started.

Speaking of which, I was quite fascinated by the way that the players understood the poker-chip depth system, and how they used it to great effect. They 'got' the three-dimensionality of the game instantly, and then used it to 'stack' themselves to get more attacks on their targets when they had melees. Very effective, and I started to feel a bit peckish and went to the fast-food outlet next door for a fish sandwich.

This group plays a very fast game; the pace is very, very quick, and the combat rounds incisive and tight. All of the new players - we had several - were coached and helped by the more experienced ones, and everybody had a very good time.

Next up: blood in the water - we're gonna need a bigger boat...

Saturday, June 30, 2018

"Down Below The Ocean, Down Below The Sea..." - Packed And Ready!

Bought years ago, when toy stores had toys...

Bought weeks ago, and still in stock...


We are off and in the swim again, as the Shieldmaidens visit The Sunken City Of The Mer-People. (It'll always be Atlantis to me, but what do I know?) You have to pay hefty prices in the collectables market for stuff from the movie these days, so I rummaged around in the shelves and pulled out the Giant Lobsters, Giant Octopus, Giant Squid and the Giant Jellyfish that I keep around for games like this. I have yet to find the Giant Squid, so we'll make due with the Large Squids for now. I am debating taking the Ah'ko again, to serve as the Kraken, but as this is a waterline model I think I'll stick with the Giant Octopus. (Plus, it makes noises when squeezed, always a plus in this crowd.)

The Giant Jellyfish can move around the table, but mostly with the current, so they function in the game more as traps and scenery for the players to avoid or hide behind. Bases are my usual laser-cut MDF with holed for the brass tubes that hold the creature up off the bottom. The jellyfish also got holes, as I need to be able to transport this lot to the game tomorrow.

Transport is, these days, in Der Bug, and I have gotten ten handy tubs with lids for the car. These hold four gallons' worth of stuff, and have nice flip tops for lids. Eight of these fit across the back seat, and two more in the trunk, with lots of room left over for the small baggage items. I emptied the pirate town of Tortuga back on to the game room shelves today, and then loaded the tubs back up with The Sunken City and various accessories. Once it cools off, the tubs and gear get loaded, and we're off and running again with our next installment of the Saga Of The Shieldmaidens.

One of the local bix-box stores is having a Fourth of July special on swim mask-and-snorkel sets.

Hmmm. I wonder...

More after the game! :)

Friday, June 29, 2018

"Swimsuits and Sorcery" - The Return Of The Shieldmaidens (3)

And we're off, thanks to various spells and potions...

... for a bit of a swim with the mer-people...

... in their underwater realm...

... but about those sharks...
I've been informed by Serious RPG Gamers over on another bit of the Internet that underwater adventures are not very good and kind of boring. The Shieldmaidens have a differing opinion, and simply dove right in.

I had been tipped off that an underwater adventure was in the offing; so - as the players got their sorcery, bath towels, spells, and swimsuits ready - I set up a sub-table for them to encounter the mer-Queen and get the low-down on what was amiss in the mer-realm.

The multi-colored sticks on the corners of the table are the depth gauges; I use poker chips to indicate where the miniatures are in the water column. This avoids the problems of figures on wires and bumping the table, and seems to work just fine. The top four colors indicate how much light is to be found at these depths, and the bottom two to remind the GM about the dangers of the bends. The nice cased set of chips came from the FLGS hosting us, of course.

The rest of the table is courtesy of the discount / clearance section of the local Big Box pet stores; the plants are based on small clear discs to indicate that a figure is 'concealed' by the plant when the figure is on the base disc. The sharks and other sea life are from a crafts store, which had them in tubes on sale after the holidays. OSHA-required safety divers are from Reaper, in their Chronoscope line (I think).

After much palaver with the sharks an mer-people, we are now off to The Sunken City on Sunday, so I have to go out to th games storage shed and get One Each Sunken City. This will be played by the excellent 'Aztec Temple City' from Stonehouse Miniatures:


I happen to have the largest of their sets, so I anticipate quite the table-full of adventure on Sunday...


"Burning Down The House" - The Return Of The Shieldmaidens (2)

Having 'forgotten' the crew...
... and talking their way past the guard galley...


.and leaving a little 'diversion' behind them...
... they left the ship's owners in a bit of a pickle.
It may not have been the best of all possible wharves, on this the best of all possible game tables (until I do the next one, of course) but I kind of liked it. Until the players got a hold of it, that is.

So, anyway. Having departed from the Tiki Bar with their ill-gotten gains, our intrepid adventurers headed back to the ship that they were going to embark on to get on with the deal that they'd made with the Pirate Captain who's hired them to undertake a Quest. Full of enthusiasm, they cast off the ship's lines and used various 'Mage Hand' and 'Wind' spells to pull away from the dock.  All was set for an epic voyage, with the minor detail of they'd left the ship's crew behind at the dock. Being clever players, they'd opted to set sail when the crew was getting the longboat ready and otherwise distracted. Only the Third Mate was left aboard, and she and the Pirate Captain were reduced to helpless fury as the players hailed a passing towboat and were pulled out into the channel. The rest of the crew were left on the wharf, raising the proverbial 'hue and cry' as their ship was purloined.

All of the noise attracted the attention of the guard galley, which the players diverted away from them by whooping and hollering that the municipal wharf was on fire. Which it was, the players thoughtfully having used both sorcery and fireworks (that they'd bought in the Native Village at Ye Olde Fireworks Shoppe) to set the wharf ablaze as they pulled away.

Honestly. Kids, these days. No respect for other people's property.

At some point, the ship's crew set off in pursuit in the aforementioned longboat, and the players stopped them cold when the Third Mate fell overboard / was pushed overboard / jumped overboard under Suspicious Circumstances, and the crew had to stop to pick her up. The local sea life also took a hand in the proceedings, to the amusement of all concerned.

The Pirate Captian had her cabin ransacked by the party, and they used the 'newly aquired' maps and charts to set off to the domain of the mer-people, which was the point of the Quest they'd been hired for. However, being stalwart adventurers with their own ideas about "individual wealth enhancement strategies", they took matters into their own hands...