Sunday, July 21, 2019

If I May Be Permitted A Personal Note...

Herself, in 1987 is our 29th wedding anniversary. We are still here, in our same little house that we were married in the back yard of, and we suspect shall be here for a while longer.

Tekumel has had no greater supporter or worker; she's been there behind the scenes since 1987, making the magic happen.

Thank you, my love...

Saturday, July 13, 2019

'System Mastery' vs. 'World Settings'

The scene of the action(s)

Early last year, an experienced D&D 5e gamer told me I should get out of the campaign that I'd been playing for a while, as I was "holding the party back because I didn't have system mastery on the 5e rules". So, since I agreed with him, I handed my player-character sheets back to the very patient GM, and left the campaign. (And the table, and the game store, but that's a different story.)

It got me thinking. No, I don't 'know the rules'. I'd thought I'd known the world, as we were playing in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor. What I had failed to comprehend was that we were not playing in Dave's Blackmoor, but in the Zeigeist Games version - which is substantially different, with most of what made Dave's Blackmoor so unique and fun simply not being present. (Like Gertie, The Mother of All Dragons, for example.)

Back in the day, we didn't play rules sets; we played worlds, and game scenarios set in those worlds. We did this both for what has become the 'RPG genre' and the 'wargaming genre', as all of us being so young and inexperienced (I have also been called 'unsophisticated', about this now vital and very important difference in genres) we simply did know any better some forty years ago.

I get asked what I play, so here it is:

Tekumel - by M. A. R. Barker

I have always loved Phil's creation, and I enjoy campaigning in it. So, I do, and I use whatever rules set happens to fit that particular game session.

Barsoom - by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Phil introduced me to Barsoom, and I've never looked back. Sword And Planet Romance, in all it's glory. Those Therns continue to be a pain...

Ancient Egypt - by Hollywood and the Pulps

Historical gaming has always been something I've enjoyed, to the despair of Serious Historical Gamers. Real history is full of really wonderfully goofy stuff, like The Tangier Garrison of Charles II, and you can't make it up nearly as well. So, 'classic' Aegyptus as in the time of Lord Meren, and 'Hollywood' Aegyptus as in the time of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

The Dark Ages - by The Missus, Herself

More historical campaigning, but with lefse and open-faced sandwiches on the sideboard. Herself is Scandinavian, so she wanted to salvage the fifty Shieldmaiden figures I'd bought for an abortive campaign by adventuring in the Viking Age. I happen to have a bunch of old Ral Partha / RAFM 'Royal Armies of the Hyborian Age' figures as well, so we can have some raids to sack and pillage those Northern European buildings I have. And we can visit Novgorod and Constantinople, too, such is the depth of my scenery boxes

The Pyrates - by George Macdonald Frasier.

If you haven't read this book and wanted to break out the ships, dice, eyepatches, pieces-of-eight, and percentile dice, then nothing I can do will help you. Avast, me hearties!!!

Lots of maps are going up on the walls; I have heaps, and we'll be awash in adventure...

Conventions. Gaming Styles, and Logistics

The style of games that I usually see...

... and the kind of games that I usually do.

We've just finished up with the huge local F/SF convention, Convergence, and as usual post-convention I'm being asked why I wasn't there and doing my bit for Tekumel and gaming in general by running games. This discussion normally begins at the beginning of the year before the local game convention, Con of the North, continues through Gary Con and Convergence, and usually ends with Gen Con.

The assumption that is normally being made is that my games are just like everyone else's, a battle mat with a grid, and maybe a few of the pre-painted vinyl figures. Gamers and event organizers, despite the number of photos I've sent out, are always surprised and shocked to hear that I don't game that way, and that I'm going to need a fixed base of operations for the duration of the event due to the sheer vastness of what I bring to an event.

The assumption is that I can move around the event at will, hopping from  table to table and two-hour time slot to two-hour time slot; conventions and events, these days, use the same 'through-put' business model that food courts and fast-food places use. More and shorter games mean more customers can be serviced in a shorter interval of time and space; quantity is far more important then quantity, which is most noticeable in the deafening noise levels in the gaming spaces; the event organizers can get more through-put at a lower cost by putting as many game tables in a given room space as possible. This economizes on event staff and maximizes profit for the organizers.

Well, I don't game that way, and I have been told to conform to the 'programming format' or not run games at that event. I am very happy to not run games, which also baffles event organizers - they usually view their events as having 'prestige' or 'premium' status, and I have to say that the statement by an old friend is my mantra: "No gaming is better then bad gaming."

Som it's looking like that any games I run in the future will be here in my own game room; I like to run long-term campaigns / 'open ended sandbox play' anyway, and it's just easier on me to do things the way I always have. It takes as much effort to load out, set up, tear down, and load in a one day event as it does a four day event, and I normally get no help on either end of the logistics exercise. And I have to run the games in between, as well, so it just gets to be far more trouble then the trip may be worth.

Oh, and yes, I am expected to foot all the bills for these event out of my pocket. For what I've spent this year alone on other peoples' events, I could have run a pretty decent little convention all by myself.

So, a change in direction seems to be in the wind - or maybe a return to my core values, perhaps...

Monday, July 1, 2019

Romance, In Phil's Games - Along With The Action And Adventure, Of Course...

Tim KnightJune 22, 2019 at 6:11 AM

That's so amazingly evocative and poetic. I'd be really interested to hear, one day, how you all handled the subject of romance, marriages, children in game. Was it hand-waved or was there role-play? How did Chirine fall in love with Si N’te?

The short answer is that we role-played. Romance - like the Glorious General and N'lel hi Chaishyani, or Narkhodlan and Arlua, or Vrisa and Koro Tai - happened in the course of our adventures and was often followed by marriage and children. Phil's Tekumel was - and still is, if you asked me - a living, breathing world full of people going about their lives; what I call his 'meta-game'. We lived our lives inside that game, and we interacted with it.

There wasn't a lot of 'game mechanics' involved; Phil usually just rolled for a reaction, we rolled for a reaction, and we all role-played the results. We didn't hand-wave this kind of thing; you courted, if that was the situation, or you were courted. We didn't go into role-playing where the children came from; we assumed that somewhere along the way, Phil's meta-game rolls would throw up who was having kids. I should also mention that we didn't have player- player romances in Phil's games; we played our characters, and they rarely had 'romances'. That's pretty much how we did it.

As for Her Ladyship and her husband...

4.1801 The Shores of the Goddess, And The Treasures Found There;

Winter Solstice, 2360 A. S.; Ru’su, in the Nyémesel Islands

The crowd in the central plaza was getting thicker and denser as the light began to fade; Chirine stopped where he was, and looked for a reasonably clear path across the plaza through the throngs of local people that were filling the broad space. He’d forgotten that this was the evening of the winter solstice, and despite never having been here in Ru’su before, he suspected that the theocrats who ruled these islands had some sort of ceremony in mind. Being a foreigner, and one who stood out amongst the crowds of the commoners due to his dress, he wanted to be out of sight and out of mind when the festivities got started; many of the places that he’d been in his career had interesting and unusual ideas regarding how strangers could take prominent parts in their colorful traditional ceremonies, and many of the less civilized ones usually resulted in the stranger being sacrificed to the local gods in interesting and unusual ways.

His linen kilt and gold collar of plaques, which in Tsolyánu would have been considered dreadfully informal for a high-ranking military priest-priest, looked like formal or ritual garb here among the commoners of these islands. They all wore minimal loincloths at best, even on this evening of ceremony, with the only finery on display being necklaces and hair ornaments made of the seashells that all of the islanders prized. Considering what they had to contend with to get those shells, he mused, he’d value them as well; fishing in the seas around the Nyémesel Islands was fraught with danger.

The sound of a conch-shell horn echoed over the plaza, and he felt the crowd draw back a bit; there were too many of them to be able to see anything. The horn sounded again, and a path opened in the crowd in front of him as if on command; the people on either side of the narrow corridor they’d just opened looked at him and gestured for him to pass ahead of them into the central part of the plaza. He could see the heads of several of the priests of Mrettén ahead of him, at the end of the corridor, and their bobbing sea-shell helmets gave the impression that they were looking for something. Or someone, and he had the feeling that he was what they were looking for.

The helmets were joined by a tall headdress of plumes as he moved towards them, and he wondered what that might indicate; Khéshchal plumes were an exceedingly valuable commodity here, and he’d never seen anyone wearing them in the short time they’d been docked in the harbor buying provisions. Hárchar, always eager to make a kaitar, had gone around buying up all the plumes he could from his passengers to sell to the ruling priesthood; he’d been truly annoyed by the heaps of reddish seashells he’d been offered in exchange until Chirine had reminded him that the shells were the local currency – and were quite valuable back in distant Tsolyánu, where they were used in the making of the deep purple dyes sacred to Lord Hrü'ü, and worth their weight in gold to the dyers’ clans. Hárchar was greatly relieved and reveled in his profits, much to all of their amusement.

The helmets resolved themselves into two priests, as he thought; the plumes, on the other hand, topped a masked helmet worn by a rather slender and rather muscular woman. Unlike the priests’ blanket-like wraps of dyed sea-grass, she wore a filmy garment of the finest Thésun gauze which was draped from her shoulders to her hips. Like the plumes, the silken gauze was both rare and valuable here, and he assumed that the woman was a priestess of Mrettén in some sort of ritual vestments. She saw him, as he broke through the last of the crowd, and gestured to the two priests. They turned and saw him, and both broke out into what looked like smiles of happiness or relief; Chirine had the feeling that somebody was late to the ceremony, and that he’d been tapped as the replacement. The woman turned away and walked into the plaza’s center, and the two priests fussed over him like two old women over a grandchild. They handed him a tall helmet similar to theirs, but with a masked face and various emblems worked on the surface of the shell that it had been made from. Once he had donned it, they led him through a line of yet more priests who had formed a large open circle around the middle of the plaza, and pointed to a spot in the exact center.

When Chirine had crossed the plaza earlier, he’d noticed that it was decorated by what looked like arcs of shells inset into the stone pavement; they had been in different colors, from what little he could see of them under the stalls and people’s feet, and now he could see that they formed large circles, five of them, paved with shells in different colors. The center spot that he was headed for was just large enough for one to stand in, and done in golden-colored shells that glittered in the fading light. Ahead of him, facing the setting sun, was what looked like the cleric who was going to preside over the coming ceremonies.

When Chirine stepped into the central circle, the cleric raised his arms and gestured to the ring of priests; half and half, alternately, they either blew conch-shell horns or uncovered lanterns that illuminated the plaza in a soft golden light. From behind this circle came five dancers, each in gauzy fabric costumes that had been dyed to match the color of the shells that made up the five concentric rings in the pavement. They spiraled inwards towards him until each stood on the circle that matched the color of their costume, and stood still for a moment while the presiding priest made an incantation; the conch-shells sounded once again when he was done, and the five dancers began a stately procession around their circles, dancing between formal poses as they went. Each moved at a specific pace, the outermost moving the slowest and the inner ones faster and faster, twirling in the light from the lanterns.

The dance might have looked like some ordinary folk ritual to one untutored in sorcery, but to anyone with even a smattering of temple knowledge it was more then that. To someone of his training, and his experiences, it was much more then that; he was at the center of what amounted to a human replica of an orrery. He’d seen the mechanical version from the height of the First Imperium of the Engsvanyáli that had survived in the Tsoléi Islands. There, the five planets that orbited Tuléng were represented by sorcerous globes; here, bejewelled dancers played the parts of the various worlds.

The next ranks of dancers who spiraled into the circles simply confirmed his surmise; a dancer for each of the little worldlets that orbited the primary planets in Tékumel's sky joined in the dance, again accompanied by fanfare from the shell trumpets. The middle dancer of the five was joined by two dancers, one in dusty red and one in bright green, and he started as he recognized the dancer portraying Tékumel as the woman he’d seen with the two priests. The two acolyte children, for such they were, revolved around the older woman in the same counter-rotating way that the two moons Gayél and Káshi did about Tékumel, and as they joined her the crowds beyond the ring of priests took up the chant of the high priest; drums, rattles, and other musical instruments came into play, and the air of festivity seemed general.

There also seemed to be an expectation that something else, perhaps of a more dramatic or miraculous nature, should be happening and Chirine had the feeling that the high priest who was presiding over this ceremony was giving him a certain look. Chirine had the feeling that he’d better do something interesting and appropriate, preferably of a dramatic or miraculous nature, in the very near future or it might go badly for himself and his companions.

The fading twilight gave him an idea, and when the music and chanting reached a high point Chirine raised his own arms and outlined a sigil in the air over his head. He cupped his hands together, and drew them apart; a sphere of golden light grew and shone over his head, and lit the dancers, the priests, and the near ranks of the crowd. The music and chanting stopped for a heartbeat, and the dancers all froze in their places; time itself seemed to stop, and there was a complete and utter silence in the plaza.

He spared an instant from his concentration on the spell for a glance at the high priest. That worthy had gone from astonished shock to euphoric happiness in that briefest of moments, and Chirine went back to concentrating on maintaining the sphere of energy. The high priest called out to the silent throngs, saying something that sounded very important and not a little triumphant; the crowds thundered back, and the music and the dance resumed with a new energy and a very real sense of satisfaction from everyone.

After what seemed like an eternity, the music slowed and the dancers began to spiral back out to the ring of lanterns. The acolyte children from the outer rings left first, followed by the older dancers until only the woman and her two small companions were left. She began a slow spiral inwards to Chirine, and as they came closer to him he modulated the spell so that the sphere became both smaller and dimmer. The two acolytes continued their dance for a moment more, then they too spiraled off and were lost against the surrounding circle of dark shapes. The woman danced closer to him, and he could see the fine sheen of sweat on her skin.

As she came within arm’s reach, he lowered his arms, bringing the now man-high sphere of energy down to surround himself. She finally stopped, facing him, and she extended her own arms out to match his; they were both surrounded by the golden sphere of light, alone in the center of the empty and now silent plaza. He felt a delicate touch on his fingers, and let the spell fade slowly. As he did so, the priests in the surrounding ring extinguished their lanterns, leaving only the two of them lit in the glow of the now dim sphere. The woman gracefully swung away from him, still touching one hand so that they stood side by side in the glow of energy. She led him slowly to the high priest, who waited until they stood before him; the priest gestured to Chirine, and he let the sphere die away completely until they stood in the dark.

This seemed to be the signal that the crowd had been waiting for, and what sounded like general revelry broke out. The high priest stepped forward, took both their hands in his own, and led them out of the plaza to the gate of the Temple of Mrettén. The gates opened at their approach, and they went inside to a shrine that was just inside the temple grounds. It was small, not very grand, but endowed with an aura of sanctity that one could sense from outside the gates. The shrine’s doors were opened by kneeling priests of what looked to be high rank, and then he and the woman were alone inside; the high priest had ushered them in, and then closed the doors with his own hands while bowing deeply to them.

The small room was lit by a single hanging lamp, itself lit with a single candle. The woodwork that made up the walls, floor, and roof looked and felt palpably ancient; he wondered for a moment if the whole shrine was picked up and brought here for this festival. It was small enough, he thought, and he’d seen similar things during his travels. The center of the room was taken up by a waist-high dais, covered in the sea-grass cloth that was used for most fabric items here, but sea-grass of the best quality and the finest weave. The dais was built of wood, square in shape, and it looked to be about a man-height across. All of the woodwork of the room and dais was of exquisite quality, and it seemed to glow in the candlelight.

He started to quietly apologize to her for his appearance; while he wasn’t of such a visage as to frighten children in the marketplace, his broken nose was not very attractive by Tsolyáni standards. She silenced him with two fingers touched to his lips, and whispered even more quietly in accented Tsolyáni. “Your nose is not what I saw, back there in the plaza; I saw what you have within, and that is why I made my choice this night. I am called Sí N’te, and you are the foreigner called Chirine after the great hero of ancient times.”

“You have it exactly, Noble Lady, and I hope that I caused no offense tonight in the plaza with my sorcery.”

“And you are too kind; I am but a temple dancer in the service of the Temple of Mrettén, a priestess, as you would call it, but not what you foreigners would call a ‘noble lady’. No, you caused no offence at all; the high priest who was in charge of the Circle Dance ceremony was delighted with how everything went. The priesthood will be all talking about this, and they will be most happy with you for doing things so well. I would expect,” she said with a sidelong look at him, “that you will find it much easier to trade for provisions and supplies for your ship and crew tomorrow.”

“Then you are a most practical person, as well as being an excellent dancer.”

She smiled in the dim light from the now low candle flame. “My thanks for that compliment; you are most kind to your humble servant.”

He stirred. “Servant? Is that something you wish, or something that is required of you by your priests? Will I be expected to trade for you, or will my small part in tonight’s ceremonies be deemed enough?” He frowned; this was not something he’d expected, and from what he knew of the priesthood of Mrettén, they didn’t trade any of their members to foreigners who happened to pass by and participate in their local ceremonies.

She touched his lips, and tried to smooth away the frown there. “It is indeed what I wish, otherwise I would have waited for the priest who was originally supposed to participate. I saw you, took my chance, and made my choice; it is our tradition that the priestess who plays the role I did tonight chooses her consort for the Circle Dance ceremony and the ceremony afterwards here in Mretten’s most ancient and most sacred of shrines…” She stopped for a moment, with her head tilted to one side in thought. “I misspoke; I used your word for ‘servant’, and I should have used your word for ‘consort’, instead. I am sorry; I should have really used your word for ‘wife’.”

For the first time in his eventful life, Chirine was speechless…

It is now the year 2,398 A. S., in Phil's Long Count of Years. Si N'te and Chirine have been together for some 38 years; they are still very much in love.

This was one of the very best nights of gaming we had with Phil in his Tekumel.


Saturday, June 22, 2019

"Lady, will you dance?"

It is the summer solstice.

Nearly forty years ago, Prof. M. A. R. Barker created one of his most memorable non-player characters: the Priestess of Mretten, Si N’te. She very quickly developed a personality all her own, despite her creator’s best efforts, and became a very real person to all of us who played in Phil’s Tekumel.

She’s had her share of adventures; she’s collected four wives – Kiya, Tsahul, Nyssa, and Fishface; one husband – Chirine; and a host of children along the way - two, the twins Kashi and Gayel, are her own, and the rest – Sitre, Menwe, Ten’er, Mridan, Takhmet, Takhmin, Aliya, Sirin, and Djel have all come to her on the winds of fate and been welcomed into her family.

It is the summer solstice.

The harbor and the skies over the palace have been filled with great ships arriving for this day, and bearing her guests to her home. Captain Harchar’s “Splendor of the Gods” rides at anchor, the “Prince Ahmed” out of Basra is tied up at the quay, and a great skyship flying the colors of the twin towers of Helium pivots into the wind while at hover. Gay Deceiver and her sister Dora sit on their landing pads on the Legion of the All-Consuming Flame’s parade ground, along with the flying sphere of Turshamu the Undying Wizard and the gleaming silver ovoid of an intra-system ship of the Ancients.

Her guests have names like Fafherd, Kimball Kinnison, Lapis Lazuli, John Carter, Hisvet, Ozma, Lorelei Lee,  Dejah Thoris, and the Grey Mouser. For this day, the barriers that separate the 772 worlds of the Multiverse have been sundered, and the old palace is filled with the life and laughter of them all.

It is the summer solstice.

The great plaza that lies in front of the old Engsvanyali palace that now serves her and her family has been cleared. Five mosaic rings, in different colors, had been set into the pavement in ancient times, with a solid round spot – done in bright gold – in the exact center. The plaza was ringed by an expectant crowd, all of whom fell silent when the drummers in their crimson tunics embroidered with a great leaping golden dragon began to sound a marching beat.

Two companies of elite solders, the Black Guard – composed entirely of male beings – and the White Guard – composed entirely of female beings – march out of the old palace’s gates, down the steps to the plaza, and form up in ranks across the front of the palace. They re followed by Lord Chirine’s bodyguard; six troopers of the Legion of the All-Consuming Flame; they are not the very best soldiers of the Legion, as one might expect – they are, instead, the despair of their officers. But, they are the very best warriors that the Legion has in the ranks.
The drums continue; from out of the tall double gates, armored in buffed and polished armor, comes Lord Chirine himself ; he is what he is, the commanding general of his legion, and a mighty and powerful sorcerer. He goes to the golden spot in the center of the plaza, and waits.

It is the summer solstice.

The drums fall silent. A single flute begins a tune, and one by one Their Ladyships, Si N’te and her wives, spiral out to the five circles set into the pavement. Each takes a color; she herself takes the blue circle, and as more flutes and conch-shell horns take up the melody she is joined by her two twins, who each circle around her in opposite directions like their namesakes do in Tekumel’s sky.

It is the night of The Circle Dance, sacred to the Goddess Mretten, and the dance is being danced by the Goddess’ own First Dancer, Lady Si n’te with her family. As the last of the sun touches the horizon, her husband raises his hands and the plaza is illuminated by his sorcery. Their Ladyships and the twins spiral away, leaving Chirine and Si N’te alone and together in the plaza as then have been for nearly forty years of action, adventure, and romance.

Chirine lets his spell fade, and the night’s revelry begins.

It is the summer solstice.

Thank you Phil, for the world that you gave us and the adventures we had with you in it…

Monday, June 17, 2019

A Look Around The Table

 A moment in time during the 'Free RPG Day' game, when we were in one of the many 'cake breaks' in a valiant attempt by the party to Do Something about all that cake I'd gotten in a midnight raid on the grocery store.

Going around the table: The Glorious General, a Sacred Cat of Bast, a Librarian, a Lady-in-Waiting, a dodgy Yan Koryani nobleman (we think; he's kinda vague about his past), a Nlyss mercenary (the famous Murr dir Oboe, no less!!!), some guy who popped out of a telephone booth and says he's a Physician (Personally, I think he needed to get his washing machine fixed, as it made all sorts of terrible noises), and our very own Vampire Real Estate Agent.

A lot of other people showed up, too, but I was so busy I forgot to take pictures...

Seventh Daughter, All Tanked Up

Yep, the rumors are true. I have two new Daughters, the Sixth and Seventh of that ilk. Seventh Daughter flew in from out of town for the 'Free RPG Day' game and the associated festivities, and allowed that she had had a great time.

"Living the dream!" she said.

She also allowed that she'd like to wear Dad's armor (Wasn't that a British sit-com, back in the day?) soe we got her all suited up and she wore the 38 pounds of steel and leather for the next five hours to great acclaim. I made sure that her citizenship papers and writs were in her dispatch case...

This was a pretty amazing moment; Chirine hasn't been worn by anybody since he was shown off at the WorldCon in 1988. Seemed like a good idea to get him off his mannequin, dust lightly, and get a Priestess of Vimuhla all suited up...

Free RPG Day Has been Survived!

Three views of our little corner of the game store. The chaise lounge was for one of our players who had a bad fall and suffered a concussion. She came and played anyway; you just can't keep those Shieldmaidens down!

Twenty-one players, nine hours of continual gaming, twelve pounds of assorted cake, thirty-four dollars on the drinks tab I had with the store, one hundred and twenty flyers distributed, thirty-eight business cards handed out, and uncounted laughter.

It's been a long and very busy five weeks leading up to this event, but we're getting back to normal around here. More to come... :)

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Arrival Of An Annual Event...

The artwork may look familiar.

'Free Comic Book Day', with the Usual Suspects' tables

The Shieldmaidens, bless their little black hearts, continue to spread their subversive message of "Gaming is fun!" to the masses. As part of their continuing program of spreading chaos and laughter, they have 'invited' me to run an event at The Source for 'Free RPG Day' on June 15th, 2019, from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm; this will be my usual 'open table' game, where people can drop in and out as they have the time, and I have to work them into the game.

No safety net for this high-wire act, folks, and I like it that way.

As we did last year, this game will feature "Lady Si N'te And Her Nameday Party", set in our palace in the Nyemesel Isles in the far eastern waters of Phil's campaign. A screamingly good time was had by all last year, including the guy who got nibbled on by the Akho in the harbor. (That'll teach him to punch old ladies down in the coastal village!)

And yes, by popular demand, there will indeed be cake. Lots and lots of cake.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sea Battle Continued - (5)

Lots of ships got sunk; about half the pirate fleet got off the board, and about a third of the Akho took damage of one kind or another. No clouds were harmed in the making of this game.

All in all, I was very pleased with this game. People had fun playing in it, and I had a lot of fun setting it up and running it.

Sea Battle Continued (4)

The running battle became general across the board, with the Akho having to be very careful of the rams on the pirates' warships - the merchant ships counted as blunt force trauma, with the larger ships abl to kill an Akho by ramming. This was not a very one-sided battle; both side got pretty hammered in the fighting.

Sea Battle Continued (3)

As might have been expected, a melee broke out in the rear of the convoy as the first group of Akho attempted to drive the ships into their submerged ambush. Lacking depth charges, the wicked pirates started throwing food supplies overboard in an attempt to distract the Akho.

When they ran out of hardtack, they started throwing slaves over the side. I had to come up with grappling and digestion rules on the spot. More markers came out to indicate who was being fed, and the movement penalties involved.

Sea Battle, Continued (2)

The pirates elected to split their fleet into several squadrons, as did the Akho. The latter then threw me for a loop, announcing that they were electing to submerge most of their forces and attack from below. I had to come up with submarine rules on the spot, put ot chits on the miniatures to indicate who was and was not submerged, and the game continued.

The Haida Pakallans vs. The Akho - 1

The story behind this fight is that one of the players made a comment to the effect that it would be fun to actually play out the battle between the pirate fleet and the Akho. In the best Dave Arneson tradition, we did.

Any student of naval warfare would instantly recognize this as a prime example of the Jeune Ecole school of naval strategy, with the Haida Pakallans playing the role of Queen Victoria's Royal Navy and the Akhon the role of the French Republic's torpedo boats.

The pirates enter on the north side of the table and have to get the majority of their fleet off the south side. The Akho enter from the east side of the table. Both sides need to watch out for the shoal waters near the shore, thoughtfully marked out by lit buoys from IKEA provided by Yours Truly. The round templates are clouds, and move with the wind.

The pirates are being played by four of the Fourth Sunday group, and the Akho by the five members of the Second Sunday group.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Out of the depths and into the light - Two steps forward, one step back...

We're off on a boat, again...

My apologies for being off the air for so long; it's been a pretty poor month in my gaming life. The actual gaming has been really grand, with both game groups really getting into their groove and into Tekumel. It's the external stuff that has really gotten me down, and I'll avoid burdening you with it.

Suffice it to say that the New Year's game sessions have been a success, and the Tiki decorations will go back into storage for another year.

We'll be back this week with our regular programming, including the photos from the sea fight.

Thanks for your patience!

Monday, March 25, 2019


The tradition, back in the day, was for a bunch of friends to get together at somebody's house for a game and some fun. I think we managed to continue that tradition, yesterday.

On to the naval battle!

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Effect Of Weather On Gaming - The Logistics Issue

Look! You can see the Bug!

The plastic flamingos, bravely carrying on...
From Scott Anderson - February 21, 2019 at 12:30 PM

Does more snow mean more gaming, or less?

More, actually, now that most of my gaming take place here at the House of Wonders. (1)

The sheer agony of moving out of the basement and into the transport vehicles during the winter makes gaming outside the basement a sheer pain in the tush. The shed out back where most of my 'large game stuff' lives in their transport tubs was buried by three-foot-high snow drifts this winter, and I jus got into the shed yesterday to get out the decor for this weekend's Tsolyani New Year's Party & Game Session. (2)

There are three conventions in the February - March period (Con of the North, MarsCon, and Gary Con)and since I have to book my time off well in advance and make the hotel reservations and do the event registrations a year out, it's a crap shoot betting on my being able to actually get to the convention. Likewise, getting to the local game venues is just as difficult; my style of Big Miniatures / Big Braunsteins means that doing a game at the game shop five minutes from the house is just as much logistical work as doing Gary Con in Lake Geneva. The only difference in the trips is the time I'm on the road, and that gets old in the winter when you're driving for any length of time.

It's been suggested that I should / need / must change my style of gaming to that of the folks at the game stores, where it's a battle mat and a couple of pre-painted figures. My kind of game, where you have a 120" x 60" table covered with scenery like the ones I did for the Shieldmaidens, is most assuredly not that kind of gaming. I certainly don't mind or denigrate what I consider a sort of 'minimalist' / 'theater of the mind' kind of game - it's just not what I like or what I like to run for people.

Redoing the basement game room ha really made a huge difference in my gaming; I can now have ten people in for a big game like the one we just had - photos and report forthcoming! - without having to book the venue, make all the reservations, handle the catering, and haul everything up out of the basement and out of the shed while freezing my fingers off.

Yes, winter does get old, up here in the North Woods. But is has made for better and more frequent gaming.

Footnote (1): The Shieldmaidens have taken to calling our house the 'House of Wonders' because of all the cool stuff stashed away in the odd corners. I'll take that, and we're getting a nameplate engraved.

Footnote (2): Traditionally, I've held a Tsolyani New Year's party the first game session after the spring equinox, to mark the change in phil's Long Count of years. Since I now have two game groups, the decor will stay up for both. I'd like to think Phil would have approved. There will be cake, or some sort of treats.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

A Better Answer For Desert Scribe On Rules

From Desert Scribe February 10, 2019 at 9:34 PM

Hi Chirine! So are you using the same rules for this sea battle that you used for the Longest Day scenario you ran last time, or do you switch rules to better suit the narrative (i.e. zoom in to individual characters or zoom out to a larger battle as needed)?

First off, thanks for your patience; this is the first quiet weekend we've had in a while. Between the snow, the cold, and the problems with the van, it's been exhausting. The van is now gone; it was unloaded, stripped of anything of use to us, and sold for scrap / parts last weekend. I do miss the old beast, but we did get our money's worth out of it...

Right, then, rules.

The attack on the little town by the pirate raiders was pretty much a straight one-on-one RPG, with the addition of "Chainmail" / "Qadardalikoi" morale rules for the pirates. The problem withs game, from my point-of-view, was that I had to both run the game and run the pirates; I prefer to have live opponents, but in this case the poor weather that day meant that we had to run with what we had.

So, every turn I'd roll for initiative for each of the four shiploads of pirates, and their reactions to what the players were doing. As the melee progressed, and casualties started to mount, this was also factored into the dice rolls. Eventually, the surviving pirates broke and ran for their ships, leaving the players in command of the field. (And a mess to clean up, but there you are.)

The upcoming sea fight will, as you put it, 'zoom out/ a bit to treat the individual ships as 'PCs', and the individual Akho the same. This will make for a short sharp action; getting individual melees going will really slow down the action, and as this is a pretty large 'mass game' I'd like to avoind that. If this was a 'straight RPG', I'd 'zoom back in' and put out the ships or deck plans and use the 'man-to-man' rules for the fighting.

This game is going to be all about sinking ships / killing Akho, so I'm going to use pretty minimalist rules for sailing and melee; I don't know if the players have done much of this kind of thing before, so I'm erring on the 'keep it simple' side. Simple rules, turning circle templates, that kind of thing. I also mounted my 2' x 4' piece of dry-erase board onto the wall in the miniatures room, and the short and sweet rules are all now written on that for players to look up at.

So, yes, I think the answer to your question is that I do indeed zoom in and out the rules to match the size of the action. In a large-scale battle, it's be "Chainmail" or "Qadardalikoi", or something similar. I don't have a set or actual game rules for mass naval actions like this that I like, and certainly none that I'd want to saddle my players with. So, we'll keep this as simple as possible, and let the players loose on the water.

Does this help, at all?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Did I mention that it's been snowing a little bit? - Weekly Update

The day before yesterday.



There will be longer posts this weekend, especially one to answer Desert Scribe's comment, but for now I have to do some more digging...

Thanks for your patience! :)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The Sushi Bar and The Lost Art Of Campaign Gaming - The Weekly Update - Sunday, February 10th, 2019

It's quiet. Too quiet.

Today's battle between the Haida Pakallan fleet and the Akho has had to be delayed for a month; the "light snow flurries in the evening" was actually four to six inches of snow starting in the morning and continuing all day. The players and I agreed to hold off until nest time, which will give me more time to get things ready for this maritime mayhem. Better clouds - to indicate wind direction - and a compass rose are in order. Pirate hats, bandannas, and eyepatches are all to hand, as are squid hats.

There are yet more shelves up in the miniatures room, and the Dave Maggi posters will go into storage until I work out a way to display them. The rooms are a work-in-progress, and I am progressing.

The genesis of this battle was a comment made in the last game session by one of this group, on the order of "Since we're controlling the Akho, maybe we should fight the pirates?" Well, why not, I say - this hearkens back to the dawn of time, where we did a lot of 'campaign gaming' and the players would throw these curve balls at the referee / GM who would then have to Come Up With Something For the Next Game Session.

What I've found interesting in my contacts with local gamers is that this sort of 'campaign gaming' is almost totally unknown. "Tony Bath, who?" is an example. Back in the day, we more-or-less expected that long-term campaigning - both for 'RPG' and 'miniatures' gaming - was the usual format. See also the Hyborian campaign, which started out as a way to generate battles and like this campaign -

- kept morphing into what could be termed 'RPGs'. There's been a lot of on-line discussion based on Rob Kuntz and his book on Dave Arneson - see also:

And I have yet to see any mention of the kind of 'campaign gaming' that we used to do back in those pre-historic days.

Maybe I need to do an essay or three on this... ?


As part of the run-down and closure of Google+, most of your comments here have been removed by Google; I have no recourse, they tell me. Som if you want to, please e-mail me your thoughts and comments and I'll post them here for you. Thanks!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

"The Seven Samurai" Meets "The Longest Day" - Battle Fought And Won By Our Stalwart Adventurers!

Our defenders in position, as the attackers wade ashore, not expecting any resistance

Which they get in quantity, between spells and missile fire

Then the Priestess of Avanthe casts her spell on the shrubbery, and things get nasty on the beach

The attackers fail their morale checks in spectacular fashion...

 The players opted for an at-the-waterline style of defense, and it all worked out well for them. Putting up the stakes above the high-water line stopped the onrushing hordes in what almost instantly became a killing zone for both missile weapons and spells - neither of which the attackers had a counter (or a capacity) for - and while a few of them made it through the stakes into the open they were very quickly (and very messily) disposed of by two Nlyss warriors in armor, with two of the Legion's soldiers also in armor. Which shows you what happens when unarmored rabble meets disciplined soldiers, as Phil would say.

The players caused enough casualties to force multiple morale checks, which got worse and worse as the game went on. Eventually, the attackers had enough, and left in a hurry. Of the four ships, survivors were 50%, 70%, 40%, and 50% of the original crews.

All in all,  very fun and very satisfying game in Ye Olde Style; I even got to discourse on game mechanics a bit.

Next up, in two weeks: Pirate Ships vs. Krakens (well, Akho, really)...

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Ready For Adventure - In Two Weeks!

Looking seaward

Looking along the coast
It's nice and quiet now, but in two weeks our heroine - Murr dir Oboe, late of Nylssa and points south - and her colleagues in the Fourth Sunday Group will have their work cut out for them as the Haida Pakallans drop by for one of their raiding, looting, and pillaging visits. This time, the player-characters are ready and waiting for them so we'll see who ambushes whom.

I very specifically set this table to look like what it would have looked back in the day at either my place or at Coffman Union for  Conflict Simulation Association meeting. Lots of 'Life-Like' model railroad trees and lichen, and the same company's 'grass paper' for ground cover. The buildings are newer, of course; Hudson and Allen, Battlefield In A Box, and Scotia Grendel by way of I-Kore. The stakes to the fore are historical objects in and of themselves - Heritage USA, by 'Duke' himself.

Figures are the usual mixed lot, with the locals from the Foundry range; PCs by The Tekumel Project, Reaper, and Crocodile Games. Real reed boats are from Ecuador, by way of The Missus on a shopping trip at the Minnesota State Fair's 'International Market'.

It took about a half-hour to set this up; what with having all of my miniatures stuff within arm's reach of the table, it is a real pleasure to set things up. As I've mentioned, I like the look of the thing, and I am very happy with the way this table looks.

Mayhem will ensue, at 5:00 pm on January 27, 2019. :)

Ready For Adventure - Tomorrow!

The North Room, set for RPGs

The Tekumel map wall; orrery below and to the left

Tea bar, snack bar, and South Room
It has been a long haul, and thank you all for your very kind comments and patience. We're now set for tomorrow's RPG with the Second Sunday Group, and set for the big fight with the Haida Pakallans that's coming up for the Fourth Sunday Group.

I am tired out, but very pleased. We never had anything like this back in the day, mostly because we were either too nomadic or too logistically-challenged. With this redoing of the rooms, we can now do all the things we used to do balanced on TV trays and wobbly tables.

There's still a lot of detail stuff to do, but the all major and most of the minor things are all done. Next stop, the computer and video gear to be set up and tested...