Wednesday, October 30, 2013

News Update - October 30, 1938 - MARTIANS INVADE!!! FLEE!!!

Photographic proof!!!
A picture from Woking, in the UK, as the Martians invade!!!

Yes, it's been seventy-five years since Mr. Orson Welles scared the pants off a goodly number of people, showing what the power of the spoken word when combined with a new communications medium can do. You can do the same thing, at your game table, when you tell your tales...

And if I may quote the man himself:

"This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character, to assure you that The War of the Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be; The Mercury Theatre's own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying "Boo!" Starting now, we couldn't soap all your windows and steal all your garden gates by tomorrow night, so we did the next best thing. We annihilated the world before your very ears and utterly destroyed the CBS. You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn't mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business. So goodbye everybody, and remember please for the next day or so the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, that was no Martian, it's Halloween."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Annual New Year's Holiday Game - or - "Safari to the Psgheti, Redux"

Image Copyright Mr. David Helber

I still don't know what I'll run for the scenario for the Annual Thanksgiving Holiday Game, but I know what I want to run for the much less serious and much more light-hearted New Year's Holiday Game on December 28th, 2013:

A safari.

"Huh?" I hear you ask; what's he on about this time? May I direct your attention to one of the very best 'old school' gaming websites you've likely never heard of:

This is the kind of 'miniatures gaming' that I grew up with, and I think it's pretty fun. So, with that, here we go...

In what may be the most ill-considered move in all the rich history of Tekumel gaming, Lord Chirine ba Kal has acceded to the wishes of his family to "Take us someplace we've never been yet!!!" for their annual vacation, and packed up his wives, concubines, children, handmaidens, bodyguards, assassins, chamberlains, servants, musicians, household troops, dancing girls, cooks, ladies-in-waiting, rowers, bosuns' mates, food tasters, bearers, and all the other staff needed for gracious living in Tsolyanu into an assortment of palanquins, chlen carts, trunks, tubeway cars, boats, tents, barges, aircars, baskets, and packs and gone on safari to the placid banks of the Psgheti River.

What could possibly go wrong?

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Campaign Year - 2014 ( as I'd like it to be...)

The Game Room every March, for the Tsolyani New Year's game session

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm getting back to the 'campaign year' sort of schedule that I used to follow, and which had been very successful for over a decade. The basic idea is to give a structure for both game session and build cycles - the former drive the latter, at least in the way I do things. The needs of the game campaign, and the various amusing incidents that crop up, provide the inspiration for my model-building; we used to do this in the original Thursday Night Group, where my 'job' was to build things for games, and it worked well there as well as in our own newer game group. So, here we go:

The Campaign Year - November 2013 to November 2014

(Yes, I know that's a little odd, but it's how my holidays fall at work.)

November, 2013
RPG game session
Annual Thanksgiving Miniatures Game
Convention: U-Con, Ann Arbor, Michigan (Support for games)

December, 2013
RPG game sessions
Annual Holiday 'Braunstein' Game (subject to be determined)

January, 2014
Two RPG game sessions
'Build Month'

February, 2014
One RPG game session
Convention: Con of the North, Twin Cities, Minnesota (Support for games)

March, 2014
Two RPG game sessions
'Build Month'
Annual Tsolyani New Year's Party (at the game session closest to March 15th)

April, 2014
One RPG game session
Game Event: The Annual David L. Arneson Memorial Maritime Miniatures Mayhem Event
(A 'Braunstein' set in Lake Parunal)

May, 2014
Two RPG game sessions
'Build Month'

June, 2014
One RPG game session
Game Event: The Annual Dr. M. A. R. Barker Memorial Game

July, 2014
Two RPG game sessions
'Build Month'

August, 2014
One RPG game session
Convention: Minnesota Miniatures Gamers "Recon" , Twin Cities, Minnesota

September, 2014
One RPG game session
Game Event: The Annual Labor Day Holiday Miniatures Game

October, 2014
One RPG game session
(During my football season, where I work extra weekends...)


I think you can see how this works; a month of build time followed by a game event, with games from 'stock' in months where I don't have time to build things.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Weekly Update for Sunday, October 27th, 2013 - The Reviews Are In!

Yours Truly, in 25mm, with deck chair and lunch

This week's update will be short and concise: I've been spending my time this past week primarily responding to comments and e-mails about the podcast I did last Saturday, and which is up on both and You Tube for your amusement. (For links to both sites, scroll down the left-hand column - the links are at the bottom of the column.) The 'reviews' have all been very positive; people seem to like what I have to say, and I have gotten quite a few requests for things I should talk about. I'll get those sorted, and publish a list of the future podcasts where I'll talk about them.

There will be two podcasts in November; one on the day of our regular RPG session, and one on the day I'll be running a miniatures game for folks; I'll have those dates for you a little later on this week, as things get firmed up. I think the same pattern will repeat in December, as we have both RPG sessions and a miniatures game coming up over the holidays. Again, I'll post the dates well in advance.

All of the podcasts will be up on both Qik and You Tube; the live 'casts will be on Qik only, as that's the way the little 'Bloggie' works.


In a related development, I will try to do a regular Friday Night 'Google hang-out'; I'm on Google Plus, and one of the requests that came in was for a regular question and answer session for people. We'll give this a try, and see what happens. More news on this as I get it!


I will try to have a calendar for the upcoming 'campaign year' for all of you as soon as I can; I'm trying to get a few dates nailed down, an as soon as I do I'll have that for you. Thanks for your patience!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Announcing A New Book About The History Of RPGs!

Just so I don't get it wrong, here's the text of the e-mail I got from the authors of this new book; Konrad is the journalist who did the wonderful articles about Prof. Barker for "Der Spiegel Online"...

The Text:

"Dear Jeff Berry,

some time ago we interviewed you for our upcoming book about the history
of roleplaying games. We have finished the manuscript and wanted to give
you a quick heads up what is going to happen next.

Our book is going to be be published in German in early 2014 (and later
in English). It will be called “Drachenväter. Die Geschichte des
Rollenspiels und die Geburt der virtuellen Welt.” (Dragonfathers. The
history of RPGs and the birth of the virtual world.) It is a cultural
history of RPGs, from the Prussian Kriegsspiel and Howard’s Hyborea to
the birth of D&D and the rise of role playing.

The finished book will be a 300+ page affair, in full color, with dozens
of pictures. It will be more like a coffee table book than a classic HC,
containing lots of old covers, pictures from conventions etc. It will be
available in print and various digital formats.
Here are some early layouts, to give you an idea:

We have just launched a crowdfunding campaign on
(the German equivalent of  Kickstarter) and hope to raise the 10.000
Euro needed to go ahead - if this spread on social networks we will be
sucessfull in financing layout and printing. If all goes well, the book
is going to be published in Q1/2014 to coincide with the 40th
anniversary of D&D.

We intend to follow up with an English version. We have not yet decided
whether we will do this through Kickstarter & self-publishing or with
the help of a classic publisher and literary agent (yup, we actually
have one). Should you have any suggestions on how to go about it (we do
not know the US book market very well) then we would be most grateful.

Once the German book is ready we will reach out to you and tell you
where you can download a free digital copy.

We would like to thank you again for helping us with our research. The
most amazing thing about this three year journey has been the support of
game designers all over the world. Almost everyone agreed to be
interviewed. We hope you like the result as much as we do.
Any questions? Feel free to contact Konrad (e-mail edited) or Tom
(e-mail edited). You can also follow us on Facebook & Twitter or
have a look at our bilingual site:

Best regards from Hamburg and Munich
Konrad & Tom"

I can hardly wait! And I'm glad I have daughters who can read German, too!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Weekly Update for Sunday, October 20th, 2013 - Quiet, Cold, and Wet

Presentation model done by the sculptor for Prof. Barker

There is actually very little to report, today; the big news is that the first video podcast is up on the site for you to be bemused by; scroll down the left-hand column to get to the link, and click on it - you should go right to my video page.

Aside from the video yesterday, I have been busy for most of the week stripping and sorting old figures as part of the reorganization of the miniatures collection. I'm in the middle of the process, and I'll have more to report later on.

It's cold and wet here, with snow expected.  Brrr!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Whew! The first video podcast is up!


The first of my podcasts is up; I'll be doing these once a month for people to try and cover things around the Workbench in more detail then I think I can in blog posts. We used the Sony 'Bloggie', which sends the live video to the Internet, and records in half-hour segments. I was sure I'd run out of material, but as usual I ran long due to blathering on and on and on and on...

You get the idea.

Anyway, this first effort is now up on the website for your bemusement:

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Weekly Update for Sunday, October 13th, 2013 - Good News, Bad News...

From Dragonblood Miniatures, now Cavalcade Wargames

Very much a mixed bag of news this week, and I'll try to get it all organized for you...

First off, I will be doing my first 'podcast' this coming Saturday, October 19th, at one in the afternoon (local time). You'll be able to see it live at our video blog website,

where it will also be kept up for your amusement. I'll be taking about gaming with Prof. Barker and Dave Arneson, back in Ye Olden Dayes, as well as various other topics that might be of interest. If you have a question or thought you'd like me to address, comment to this post of e-mail me and I'll do my best for you. I'll be on for half an hour or so, vis the 'Bloggie' camera; I'll also do a follow-up post here for you.


I am very sad to have to announce that Cavalcade Wargames, the people who brought us the line of Dragonblood Miniatures, are closing their store. They had some nice figures that are pretty useful - see above - and from the sound of it they'll be selling the lines of miniatures to other folks. For more information, see their website at:


We had quite a fun game session yesterday, with myself in the GM chair presiding over a murder investigation. The Likely Culprit has been discovered, and now Our Heroes are trying to figure out what to do about the problem. Our nest RPG game session will be on Saturday, November 16th, and I believe that Mr. Leduc will be at the helm as his marines try to survive on their isolated island while exploring the Mysterious Ruins.


Our next miniatures game session will be on Friday, November 29th, as our Annual Thanksgiving Holiday Game Event. I will be running a small but entertaining 'Braunstein' for the amusement of the players. Please contact me for more information.


I will be running another miniatures game session, our Annual New Year's Holiday Miniatures Game, on Saturday, December 28th; yet another 'Braunstein', this will mark our return to our regular calendar for the 'campaign year' of gaming here at The Workbench. I'd like to repeat the kind of three-day holiday event we did a few years ago, where we had several days of miniatures and role-playing of all sorts. People had fun, and that - in my opinion! - is what it is all about.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Weekly Update for Sunday, October 6th, 2013 - Arrival of the Aparsas!

Three of the some two dozen statues recently arrived.
(15 cm ruler for scale)
It's been my first Saturday off in four weeks, and there's a lot of stuff to catch up on; it's been busy!


The wireless router that powers the network here at The Workbench failed this past week, and has now been replaced. We now have a much nicer router, and we expect that this will make the podcast - scheduled for Saturday, October 21st - work a lot better; the 'Bloggie' video camera we use is a trifle sensitive to fluctuations in network signal strength. More news on this as we come up with it.


Mrs. Ambereen Barker, the much esteemed widow of the late and lamented Prof. M. A. R. Barker, has been able to sell the house that she and the Professor had shared for some forty years here in Minneapolis and is moving out to California to be with her siblings. As part of the process of closing up the old house, she has been kind enough to send to us as a memento of the Professor: his collection of some two dozen aparsas; these are replicas of some of the statues on the temples of Khajuraho, in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India.

These replicas were collected by the Professor in the 1950s, he told me, while he was on his Fulbright Scholarship in India. They are plaster, carved by the same stonemasons who maintain the temple carvings themselves, and have been around a bit with the Professor; we're very grateful for the opportunity to give them a home, and to remember Phil.

Thanks, Ambereen!!!


Two other Divine Maidens are also to grace The Workbench this week; our Youngest Daughter Maya is in from her home in Zurich for a two week visit, and an old family friend, Miss Price of Cornell University, will be arriving this Friday for a weekend visit. I will be running an RPG session for them, with the able help of the game group. It should be entertaining!


My book about my adventures in Prof. Barker's game sessions, "To Serve The Petal Throne", is now within touching distance of the first 100,000 words. I am also redoing the Table of Contents to make the book's short stories and vignettes easier to use and place within the larger context of Prof. Barker's publications, and I will be including end notes and a timeline of his campaign at the end of the thing.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Breaking News - GW Legal Does 'Own Goal'!

My only comment.

Even I am impressed, after some thirty-five years of watching normally intelligent people mess things up...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tom Clancy, Larry Bond, and How We At Adventure Games Won The Cold War

Yes, that's a first edition. Yes, he signed it. Yes, I still read it regularly.
No, I don't think it is 'collectable'. Book are meant to be read, not preserved in aspic.
The news about Tom Clancy's passing away came across the wires as I was heading out to the airport yestderday afternoon to collect Youngest Daughter; I got it from CNN, as we were in the midst of a failure of the wireless hub that serves our household network, and I had no Internet access until this afternoon. We're back on line, and I thought I'd say a few things about the man.

A long time ago, and far, far away, I was working for Dave Arneson at Adventure Games as the "Vice President for Tekumel Affairs", being the guy who was dealing with Prof. Barker. One of our 'stable' of authors was local gamer Larry Bond, who had gone into the Navy and was a Commander, who had written the modern naval miniatures (this was back before home computers had been invented, remember!) game "Harpoon". We were gearing up for a trip to flog the merchandise at Origins, to be held in Baltimore, when we got a call from Larry; he told us that his local hobby store, in the DC area, had been given a special order for a dozen copies of "Harpoon" by - of all people! - the Soviet Naval Attache at the Soviet Embassy. From what Larry had gathered of the conversation, as relayed to him by the store's owner, the Soviets had gotten wind of the news that the U. S Navy had introduced "Harpoon" into the curriculum of the Naval Reserve Officers' Training Program (ROTC, for short) and was using it to teach naval cadets all over the place about modern naval warfare. The Soviets, it seemed, wanted to introduce their own cadets at the Frunze Academy in Moscow to modern naval warfare and wanted to use "Harpoon" to do it, and so could we please expedite the order when it came in.

"Well, of course, Larry," we replied, "anything for an old friend!"

The order duly came in, and we sprang into action; we were going to show those Godless Commies what real Americans - albeit a collection of fairly odd ones - could do. No Five-Year Plans for us, no sir! This was going to be good old Americian hard work, thrift, family values, and sheer grit! We put on the Ethel Merman tape of her singing "God Bless America!", and sprang into action; we'd show those Rooshins!

We pulled a dozen copies of Harpoon off the shelf, stripped out the separate statistics sheets from each set of rules, and fired up the typesetting machine. We generated new stats sheets, with the Soviet ships and weapons systems all upgraded by 50%; all of the NATO ships and weapons systems were degraded by an equal 50%. We printed up the sheets, collated them into the rules sets, shrink-wrapped the individual copies, boxed the order up, and sent it all off. We got a nice thank-you note, by the way.

We got to the convention, which was being held in a college gymnasium, set up our little gypsy stand, and fell to selling the goods. Being a shameless marketing kind of guy, I had a sign posted that said: "Harpoon - The Official Wargame of the Soviet Red Banner Fleets!". Dave Arneson had a fit, but as it was selling copies he bowed to the will of the people; I merely smiled and started painting up some C-in-C 1/2400 modern Soviet ships for Larry to use in his game demo. (Gosh, I was clever; I used the white circles from some 1/285th WW II Allied star-in-a-circle decals for the helicopter pad markings on the deck of the Kiev.) So, I'm painting away, praying that the paint will be dry before the game in a couple of hours, when this kinda stockbrokery / insurance agenty kind of guy comes up, and compliments me on my painting ability.

I thanked him very kindly, as he was about the only person (besides Larry) at the convention to notice the helipads, and he was very nice and polite. He asked me if Larry Bond would be here at the convention, and if he was, could Larry take some time out to talk to the gentleman. I assure him that yes, Commander Bond (That's "Bond, Larry Bond", of course) would be happy to do so, and might I ask his name so I could introduce them properly. "Tom Clancy," the gentleman says.

So, while still holding poor old Kiev in the one hand and a paintbrush in the other, I stands up on my chair and roar - in my very best Command Voice - across the hall "Larry! One of your rabid fans is here to worship at your feet!"; I hop off the chair, and inform Mr. Clancy in my best major-domo's voice that Commander Bond would be with him in a moment. (Mr. Clancy couldn't stop laughing.) Larry perks right up, comes over, I make the introductions, and the rest - as they say - is history.

If you want to see a product of that history, look on the bookshelves at your local book store for either Tom or Larry's work. Or look at Larry's website:

We've lost a master storyteller, who created a genre for all of us to enjoy, and a real gentleman. God bless him.