Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Weekly Update For Sunday, September 29th, 2013 - Back in action!

Sample page frame from Mr. Maggi

The first bit of big news from The Workbench for this week is that I have been very busy taking all of the miniature figures out of their bins / trays where I keep them and completely reorganizing the collection from the ground up. I've got over thirty years' worth of lead sitting around, and it was time for a really good housecleaning. I have taken a lot of the 'substitute' and 'proxy' figures out of active game service, and they'll get a bath in my paint stripper of choice and be evaluated for future use. The rough inventory count says that we're at about 5,000 figures in the collection; I'll see if I can refine that further and have better numbers for you - and pictures, too!


The second bit of big news is that my book, "To Serve The Petal Throne". about gaming with Phil - "Prof. Barker, but call me Phil!" - is now within touching distance of the first milestone of the first 100,000 words. I'm at 96,260 on the word count today, and steaming right along. I've also been reorganizing the book to make it very, very clear that the book is made up of little vignettes and short stories - and not one huge, indigestible lump of prose. I'm redoing the Table of Contents to make it easier to locate specific events in the time line, and I suspect I'll add an index to the thing to make it easy for readers to find all the people, places, and things we ran into over the dozen or so years that we gamed with Phil.


I have now finished a three-week run of football home games, and will have the next three weekends off. I expect great deeds to be done. Youngest Daughter Maya will be visiting from Zurich, and we'll be entertaining a guest from the United Kingdom next week. More on all of this, as the situation develops, of course.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Weekly Update for Sunday, September 22nd, 2013 - The Greatest 'Braunstein' In The History Of Gaming

The palace staff, all based up and ready for the primer.

Lots of stuff going on, so let me begin at the beginning...

First off, the new figures from Mike Burns in Leeds have arrived - see above. Better pictures of all of them are on his two Indiegogo sites:

These are very nice figures, and work very well as 'civilian' Tekumel figures - Phil had a taste for 'Hollywood Aegyptian' movies - see also his drawing of Miss Claudette Colbert as Empress Nayari of the Silken Thighs (Empress Poppea in "Sign of the Cross", and as Queen Cleopatra VII in "Cleopatra", both by Cecil B. De Mille) - and these are just perfect. Mike is planning on offering the figures in the future as part of a range of such figures, and I'm eagerly awaiting his next releases. The figures seem to be 'true 25's', are very charming, and paint up a treat.


The game schedule for the upcoming holiday season is firming up nicely. I am getting back into the old pattern of holiday game mini-events that I had been doing for quite a few years, and my work schedule is dovetailing nicely with the holidays this year. So, here's what I', planning for November and December:

November 29th (Friday) - Annual Thanksgiving Game

This is the traditional opening of the campaign year, and I normally do a miniatures game in the game room; if there is suffcient interest, I can move the game to Fantasy Flight Games' Event Center, on Saturday (the 30th of November) so we have more space. I have two days off prior to this game, so I can get it all ready and set with plenty of time to spare.

This game will be shown on live streaming video, using our Sony 'Bloggie', at our video website (see link to the left, please.) We'll also have it up on the site later on.

December 28th (Saturday) - Annual Holiday Game Event

This is the annual festive holiday game; we had a very successful mini-event some years ago, and I want to get back into the habit of hosting that kind of thing. This mini-event will be held here at The Workbench, using the game room, the Lava Lounge, and The Spare Room. I have a five day holiday before Christmas Day, so I'll have the time to cook up something really special. Consider yourself warned.

This game will also be shown on live streaming video, using our Sony 'Bloggie', at our video website (see link to the left, please.) We'll also have it up on the site later on.


The annual game event I run in the spring, - The David L. Arneson Memorial Maritime Miniatures Mayhem and Professor M. A. R. Barker Memorial Miniatures Game Event - will be held in April of next year, getting back to our normal schedule for the campaign year. I will have better scheduling information around the turn of the year. The event will be held at the Fantasy Flight Games' Event Center where we have the room to spread out and have a really good-sized table.

This event is shaping up to be the greatest 'Braunstein'-style game that I have ever run in my entire career as a gamer. I have had the most amazing and inspiring idea, and I thing people will be amazed and astonished when they see the game table and the scenario sheets. I am genuinely shocked that I hadn't thought this one up before; it seemed like a 'natural' to try running. I will, I think, be hitting every possible trope in gaming, but with a twist. The game session will last no more then four hours; I will have everything set up - in secret! - and ready to play.

As we did this previous year, we'll have this up on line for people to watch.


Everything is felling into place for the first of my video podcasts, which I will have up on the web on Saturday, October 19th, 2013. This will be a half-hour podcast, where I'll talk about my time on Tekumel with Prof. Barker and the various projects I'm working on.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Year Later, and I'm Still Alive...

For the Big Picture, go back to the September 2012 post.

Well, we're a year later; I'm still alive. What else can you say, besides a big 'Thank you' to everyone who cared.

The Weekly Update for Sunday, September 15th, 2013 - "Kaor, my Princess! Helium, now and forever!"

The cosmic GM?

The big effort for this past week has been sorting out and mining away at the mountain of unpainted led in the game rooms. I have pounds of the stuff, accumulated throughout the years, and I am working away at getting it all sorted out and boxed up. My lovely 'not - Barsoom' figures now have their own quarters, all ready for the next time my players mess with some dang Ancient Device and wind up sitting in front of the twin towers of Helium. I am seriously thinking of running a game where john Carter and the incomparable Dejah Thoris persuade Our Heroes to help them Save The World; this may be the theme for the November game event (see below). I have to paint the faithful Woola, but other then that I'm primed and ready to go - now, where did I put that aether flyer?


As I am in the beginning of football season, we will have one RPG game session in October (with my Youngest daughter and a family friend visiting us as observers) on Saturday the  12th,  a regular RPG session on either November 2nd or the 16th presided over my that nice Mr. Leduc, and then we shall start the campaign season with a bang - well, actually a miniatures game! - on the day after Thanksgiving. It's been a long-standing tradition here, at The Workbench, to use the extended leave time I have at work over the Thanksgiving holiday to cook up something special, and I have a hankering to do so again this year; last year, at this time, I was occupied with getting the whacking great scar in the back of my head to heal up. The suggested date this year will be November 29th, a Friday, as I have both the nights of the 27th / 28th and the 28th / 29th off, allowing me time to cook up something quite out of the ordinary.

As this will be one of my classic 'Braunsteins', this weekend booking also allows me the option of having the game at the Fantasy Flight Games Event Center if there is enough interest on the part of people; it has to be admitted that the space in our little house is limited and if I get enough people interested in showing up, I'll move the game to the next day and to the Event Center. E-mail me if you have a hankering to play...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Weekly Update for Sunday, September 8th, 2013 - On Culture Shock and Frequently Asked Questions

Another day, another conquest.

And now, the news from The Workbench:

The Missus is hip-deep in getting all of Phil's Tekumel fonts set up for use; she's been working with his files to set up font maps that can be used on any computer to 'type' in his various languages. She's been going through all of the various editions of scripts like Tsolyani, collating all of the various versions of the script / fonts that he'd done over the years and creating unified files.


I'm in the process of indexing and filing everything, and I may yet have to invest in a file cabinet on casters to hold it all. There's space for such here in the writing room - what used to be classified as the home office - and I'm getting more and more deeply into the writing process for both "To Serve The Petal Throne" and the second edition of "Qadardalikoi", I think I need to concentrate my files.


Due to my overtime / football game schedule, there will be some irregularity in the game session schedule here in the game rooms. Please contact me for the latest information.


Some Frequently Asked Questions:
(which will be reposted as a permanent page, too, and I'll do updates for you.)

Why don't you play [insert name of game here]?

Because I'm not really a 'gamer'; I'm really much more of a model builder. (Gasp! The Horror!) I am not all that big on rules sets or game mechanics; I do use rules sets, but I'm much more of a storyteller who tells stories in the course of a game session. This is the way Phil used to GM Tekumel, and I seem to have inherited that faculty.

I use my miniatures and models in the course of game session to help tell those stories, and what I really enjoy is the look of wonder on the players faces when they come into the game room and see something set up for their enjoyment - for me, that's what it's all about.

How long does it take you to paint a figure?

I've found that I take (on the average) about an hour to do a specific 'personality' figure; a big part of that is the research in the files about that person. 'Rank and file' figures, the ones in the military units, take about ten minutes each, but it needs to be understood that I do these in batches of twenty or so in a form of mass-production. I also work in acrylics, which take a lot less time as I don't have to wait for the paints to dry when I'm working - they dry quickly, and this cuts the cycle time way own.

What brand of paint to do you use?

Various brands, really. I use Liquitex, Howard's Hues, Testor's Model Master, and various craft paints I got cheap on sale. I use these on the miniatures; for scenery and terrain items, I use cheap house paint from the big-box DIY stores. They do custom-mixed paints, and I buy the cheap 'mis-matched' paints that wind up being sold at a fraction of their retail prices; you can get a full gallon of really good paint for the cost of the little hobby paints, and they work just fine. All you have to do it look at the colors, see if it's something you can use, and Bob's your uncle.

Why don't you go to [insert name of convention here]?

Because I started going to SF conventions some forty-five years ago, and I get really bored 'just hanging out'. I find that I need to be doing something to occupy my time, like programming or operations, and I've done that for some thirty-five years. These days, what with the big hole in the back of my head from the surgery, I just don't have the energy to do that kind of thing anymore.

And it's all about the logistics - the recent 'Braunstein' game that I ran at Fantasy Flight Games' Event Center used about thirty cubic feet of space in the back of our cargo van to hold all the terrain, scenery, miniatures, and boat models for the game. While I've done a lot to 'containerize' my games, they still take some real work to move around to 'external' venues.

Use Skype. It's both easier and cheaper.

Why do you have so much stuff?

Because I tend to hang onto things, much like a theater company tends to build up a stock of sets, props, and costumes over time to make it easier to mount productions. It's just easier, and I'm lazy.

Why don't you have a really impressive website?

Because I'm both dyslexic and ambidexterous. If you are web-literate and would be delighted to build me a really cool website, we can talk. There'll be no money in it; you'll have to do it for the love of the thing, like I do with my game sessions.

And please, do feel free to e-mail me with more questions!

Monday, September 2, 2013

A New Book About Professor Barker!!!

So, I was having a look at the Internet the other night, before I had my milk and cookies and assorted pills, and this item showed up. I can do no better then to quote this information from the publisher:

ISBN: 5512271768
ISBN-13: 9785512271766
Title: M. A. R. Barker
Format: Paperback
Year: 2012
Pages: 86
Publisher: Book on Demand Ltd.
Dimensions: 8.3 in. x 0.2 in. x 11 in.

High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles! Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barker (born November 3, 1929 as Phillip Barker) is a retired professor of Urdu and South Asian Studies who created one of the first roleplaying games, Empire of the Petal Throne, and has authored several fantasy/science fantasy novels based in his associated world setting of Tekumel.

From what I can gather, this book has all of the various Wiki articles on the late and lamented Professor all nicely compiled into one handy volume. I would venture to say that this is a 'must-have' for the real Tekumel enthusiast, and I can only speculate regarding the possibility that the publisher will offer a special, hard-bound, numbered and signed, limited edition for collectors.

"Oh, brave new world, that has such creatures in it!"

- Miranda, The Tempest

by Bill S., from Stratford-upon-Avon

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Weekly Update for Sunday, September 1st, 2013

It's Edgar Rice Burroughs birthday, today! Hurrah!


Well, it's been a very busy week here at The Workbench. I have finally gotten the storage situation here at the old place sorted out, and over thirty tubs of gaming scenery and supplies have now been sorted and stored. I have something like 430 cubic feet of gaming stuff like trees, hills, and other scenery, and it was all taking over the game rooms to the point you didn't have room to game. I still have some odds and ends to sort out, but we're on the back side of this particular hill.


The video side of the house is also done, and I will be doing the first 'pod cast' in October; I'm not going to try it in September, due to my work schedule, but I'm hoping to have a regular series of half-hour 'shows' from then on. They will be done on Saturdays, live at two on non-game days, and then available on the web as archived programs.

Video participation in games is also in the works, with upgrades to our computers being mooted.


Brett Slocum has the preliminary programming information for Con of the North, here in the Twin Cities, up on the Yahoo group he's established for the event:

I think Brett's done a great job of getting some really good games on the schedule, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens!

One note: Yahoo has changed their page format, to be more like Facebook or something. I find it very hard to use, and with less features then the old format; be patient.