Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Weekly Update for Sunday, January 26th, 2014 - Heap Big Scandals & Lead On The Table

One's sword doesn't seem all that effective when confronting a Ghar.

We had a fun little game yesterday, with the much-put-upon Tsolyani River Police on the Lushomon Canal being called out to investigate Odd Doings in a small village. They arrived in the small galley only to find that the villagers - the living ones, anyway - had fled, leaving the dead behind, and that the local 'riverine wealth enhancement consultants' had arrived first to have a look at the situation.

The stalwart Hereksa commanding the river police had the Bright Idea of arresting everyone in sight, but his equally stalwart deputy commander pointed out that the cops were outnumbered some three to one, and that maybe some subtle diplomacy might be indicated. Shortly after that conversation, a Ghar lumbered up out of the canal - drawn by the stench of the late lamented villagers - and everyone suddenly had other things to worry about. The Ghar was finally dealt with, after much shrieking and shouting, but it did a lot of damage in the process.

Much fun was had, which was the whole idea.

It was a great outing for my Bronze Age Miniatures 'Dead Earth' figures, I have to say! (There's a link off to the left, by the way!)


I am very pleased to be able to report that I have used the confinement occasioned by the extremely cold weather hereabouts to get the last of the storage shelving installed in the game room. All of the miniatures, boats, ships, and scenic items now have permanent homes, and everything is now right to hand for games.


Jon Peterson, of "Playing At The World" fame, has a wonderful video up that I highly commend:

You can get to this video through his blog, as well; there's a link to this in the left-hand column for you.


Other news from the world of gaming and F/SF fandom is, I am sorry to say, not so nice as Jon's video.

The week began with the news that a Chicago-area F/SF convention, 'Chi-Fi', had 'issues' with it's convention hotel, and was backing out of the contract with the hotel. What made this news-worthy, at least for me with all my decades of convention-running experience, was that the convention organizers were claiming that the hotel was against the convention's anti-harassement policies, and that they'd been called "freaks" by the hotel management. The Internet is up in arms, of course, but as usual there is a little more to the story.

The convention organizers are young, inexperienced, and full of piss and vinegar about how they can run the very bestest convention evah! According to local F/SF fans, amongst whom is the 2012 World Con committee, Chi-Fi turned down many offers of help and assistance from local fandom, preferring to go it alone.

Local Twin Cities fans will be familiar with this scenario - you will remember the recent "Kakkoi-Con" anime convention, which went out of their way to antagonize local convention runners, and which was quite possibly the worst-run convention I have ever had the misfortune to have to be present for. Things  got so bad that I - a non-attendee dropping stuff off for friends - was asked to drive several of the convention's Guests of Honor to the airport to catch their planes because - wait for it! -

The convention committee had either gone home or otherwise vanished - they had left the hotel.

Yes, that's right; the convention committee had left their attendees and guests in the lurch. They also left the hotel in the lurch, too; they defaulted on their hotel bills, and are now on The List that local hotels keep of dead-beat customers.

Chi-Fi's accusations against the hotel seem pretty far-fetched; what it smaller like to me is that they could not pay their bills and had to get out of the hotel contract as soon as possible. The Big Dead Fish that alerted me to trouble was the information that the convention had promised the hotel 500 room nights - that's an absurd number for a first-year convention, and wildly over-confident. An old, well-established convention with about 3,000 to 4,000 members can generate these kind of numbers, but not a first-year startup that's aimed at primarily media-fans. It just doesn't happen, folks.

The net result / fall-out from all this is that it will become much harder for 'young' conventions to book venues. The hotels, etc. , will want a lot more 'up-front', and impose much bigger penalties and charge higher fees for F/SF and gaming conventions. I've seen it happen, and it's not pretty.


The week ended on an even more sad note, with the Torn Armor Kickstarter reporting that it had lost a huge chunk of their funds to a company called Defiance Games; Torn Armor had contracted Defiance to do some production work. Defiance took the money, didn't do the work, and is now claiming that they can' refund the money as they spent it on their own projects.

Defiance, I should mention, has a quite a track record for taking money from people, or taking products from suppliers, and then not delivering much of anything. I wouldn't have hired the guy who runs it to take out the trash, let alone make anything for me, but then I've been around the block a few times.

As might be expected, there is a storm upon the Internet about this; here's a small sample of the sort of thing that's being posted:

A Google search will also turn up more information on this. This is possibly the most 'high-profile' failure of a Kickstarter of late, and I suspect it will have a chilling effect on the industry.

Sigh. Onward...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Weekly Update for Sunday, January 19th, 2014 - A Nice Holiday!

The Carlton Hotel in Lucknow;
Phil started his first Tekumel novel, "No Heights of Glory", here, in room 211.
Some of the new figures from Mike Burns;
his next Indiegogo campaign starts February 3rd.
I have a holiday tonight, in honor of Dr. King, and I am looking forward to a night of rest and contemplation. In the meantime...

It's been a tiring week, here at The Workbench; I think I have a minor cold, and have been trying to push fluids and get as much rest as possible. I have been able to answer questions on Google+, and the new PC has been set up to do Google Hangouts.

I have also done pretty substantial upgrades on the home office's computers; the trusty old IMac now has a really good audio system attached, and I can hear things a whole lot better then I used to. I can also do audio and video editing a lot better, so I have hopes of some cool things happening. The Dell PC that handles my Skype links and now the Google+ Hangouts also has been given an audio upgrade, and we have a lot better audio links as the result.

I will be working in the game room tonight for a bit, getting some shelves rearranged and some stuff put away. Nothing too hot or heavy - I need a little time off.


One of the things we've been discussing on Google+ has been the publication history of Phil's novels; I have posted a photo that was very kindly sent to me by a regular reader of the Carlton Hotel in Lucknow, where Phil started "No Heights of Glory", his first Tekumel novel, in the 1950s. I found the fifty-odd pages rolled up in the map tubes when I did an inventory of his Tekumel collection; he'd lost them, at some point...


Mike Burns has announced that he's planning on starting his third Ancient Egyptian Indiegogo campaign on February 3rd, and has posted photos of some of the new figures. I am delighted with the list of some thirty-six figures that he's planning on offering; they will fill in a lot of gaps in my palace staff and townsfolk. I will post more information as soon as I get it.


I've been asked why I want 'civilian' figures like these for my collection; to many gamers, they don't seem very useful at first glance. Well, I like to run games that are a little different then the usual; one game I have always wanted to run is one that we played many years ago out at Phil's - we spent a whole night shopping our way through a city marketplace. We were looking for clues in a mystery, but we spent most of the time just haggling and talking. It was great fun, and I want to do that 'scene' for people.

These figures are also useful for 'party at the clan house',  'reception at the palace', 'a day at the arena', and similar games; I find that miniatures inspire me and kick-start my imagination. I use them to tell my stories - they help me to explore the limits of my vision...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Happy Birthday, Ian!

I'm working on getting a current picture -
getting him to hold still long enough is the problem...

Today's podcast was done a little later then I had wanted to have it up live; however, it's my grandson Ian's first birthday, and he was here at The Workbench being exhibited by his proud parents to his awestruck grandparents...

Happy Birthday, Ian!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Video Podcast Tomorrow!

Amazing. So natural, so lifelike... :)

I will be doing my monthly video podcast tomorrow; we'll be live at one p. m., local (CST), and then the video will be up on line for your viewing pleasure on my YouTube channel - the links are at the bottom of the left-hand column

Storytime with Uncle Chirine, a series about those thrilling days of yesteryear when we still pulled randomizer chits out of bags, will tell the astonishing tale of "The Adventure Of Gary Gygax And The Unpronounceable Name" - a tale of Ye Olde Gen-Con, back in Ye Olden Dayes at UW-Parkside, when we lived in the gypsy encampment in the gymnasium...

yours, chirine

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Trouble Ticket Update: Is Down... www.tekumel Is Up!

Ah, technology! It's wonderful, isn't it?

It's been brought to my attention that the website,, is down. As clicking on the usual link takes one to a placeholder page at, I have removed the link in the left-hand column of this blog until further notice.

Update, as of Tuesday (1/14/14) at 0734: I am informed by a number of Reliable Sources that the site is back up, and I have restored the link over in the left-hand column for your use.

Thank you to everyone who commented and e-mail to keep me posted on this problem - thank you!

The Weekly Update for Sunday, January 12th, 2014 - Something very cool happened this week...

Yes, the mannequins have been repainted into a better match to Phil's old
'flesh tone' of Floquil "Samoa".

The week started off with record cold temperatures, but it's now much warmer hereabouts. I got all of the tubs of scenery and terrain up from the basement game room and back into the storage shed out back; I could not have done it early in the week, where the air temperature was hovering around -20F.


I had something wonderful happen, this week:

I had no idea; I am always surprised to find out that anyone actually takes the time to read this little effort. let alone be moved or influenced by what I write. So, seeing this post, I was both impressed and touched.

Thank you - you, and all of you other readers, are why I do this.


There really isn't much else to say, this week. I have been more or less in survival mode, trying to get through this late cold weather, and I haven't gotten a lot on any front. I did get another 2,000 words done on "To Serve The Petal Throne", and I guess we should call that progress.

So, onward!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Weekly Update for Sunday, January 5th, 2014 - In the frigid wastes of the Northwoods

Just in from Mike Burns in Leeds, for his new Indiegogo campaign

New figures from The Tekumel Project, if you haven't seen them before

If you haven't heard, it's extremely cold hereabouts; we've been in the below zero (F) deep-freeze for about a month, and it's getting old. Warmer this coming weekend, they say, and I'll believe it when I see it.


Be that as it may, the big news this week from my perspective is that Mike Burns has sent along some photos of the sculpts of the Ancient Egyptian 'civilian' figures that he'll be offering in his new Indiegogo campaign. I backed the previous two campaigns, and I was not disappointed; these are superb figures, nicely detailed, crisply cast, and sculpted with a lot of personality and what I call 'charm'.

I was originally tipped off to these figures by Howard Fielding, he of The Tekumel Project (link in the left-hand column for you), and it was one of the very best tips I think I've gotten in the forty years I have been doing miniatures. Howard also has some new figures out, and you should click over there to take a look; I have my order in for them, and I'm looking forward to seeing them.

These 'civilian' figures are a nice change from all the usual 'wargame-style' miniatures of 'Pharoah-in-his-chariot-smiting-somebody' accompanied by hordes of 'guys-in-kilts-with-stone-maces'; I like to run games with a hefty 'local color' component, and one of my dreams over the years has been to run the classic 'you go to a bid swanky party at the Sea Blue clanhouse' game were most of the terrain is the furniture and the servants.

I like swashbuckling games, as they are normally much more fun to both build and run. I tend to build stuff for specific games, and painting up the new arena judges from Howard's The Tekumel Project has gotten me to thinking about getting out my old Foundry gladiators and finally getting their Kheschal plumes glued onto them and running a day out at the arena for the amusement of the family.

Do have a look at The Tekumel Project; thanks!


If I may, I'd like to take a moment to comment on something that has really put me off about many of the on-line RPG / gaming forums, and has contributed to my reluctance to participate in them / contribute to them...

What's up with the oft-expressed disdain / hatred for miniatures in RPG gaming? It's ben my experience that when I talk about this, people get pretty wound up about the subject, and I get some pretty nasty e-mails as a result. I have found this all pretty odd, especially when it comes from some of the pillars of the 'Old School Gaming" movement; back in my day, that is, before we all became ancient relicts, we used a lot of miniatures in RPG gaming.

We used them because it was fun; most of us enjoyed painting the little lead people, and running games that we used to show off a bit. For us, miniatures were - and for me, still are - a 'game aid'; they are a way to show the players where things are, who can see who, who is fighting who, and stuff like that. I should note that we used chess pieces, tiddly-winks, dice, Scrabble chits, coins, glass beads, and a host of other things 'on the table' to indicate information to the players.

For us, the miniatures were - and still are! - an aid to help me tell my stories and to entertain my players. Over the some thirty-five years I have been doing Tekumel, these little lead people have been the 'extras' and 'bit part' players in our continuing series of 'shared-performance plays'; it was that way as well for Professor barker, who used to keep index cards on all of his 'personality figures' so that he could keep track of their 'back stories'; when we met these people in our adventures, we'd know instantly who we were talking to and dealing with.

For us, back in the day, that was an important part of 'role-playing'. Why has something we all loved become anathema?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking back, looking forward - January 1st, 2014

Yes; magic works a little differently around these parts...

Ah, another year gone - where do they go, eh?

It has been, from my point of view, a good year - I am still alive. Last year at this time, that was still in doubt, and I'm just happy to be here. I still get tired very easily, I don't have a lot of stamina, and I sleep in four-hour segments due to the medications that keep me alive. It could be worse, though...

A lot of stuff got done; the gaming supplies got all nicely organized, to the point where last Saturday's game took mere minutes to pull all the supplies off the shelves. The game room is also all nicely set up and organized, and it seems to work just fine as a place for people to come and have fun.

The new computer, the PC we got for Skype calls and Google+ hangouts, works just fine; I think that this will be the centerpiece of my on-line gaming this coming year. Moving my Tekumel archive up on-line is going well; we'll be done with that by this time next year.

I'm still plugging away on "To Serve The Petal Throne" and getting back into working on "Advance Standards"; I had a bad time with the former, last month, when I posted one of the chapters of the book on the Tekumel Yahoo group, and got a serious question about my spell list and why it wasn't in the rules. I also got a comment that the book is too long, and people don't have time to read anything that long. So it goes, I guess; I have a feeling that I'm still so far out of the 'mainstream' of gaming that people just don't know what to make of the things we do hereabouts.

This year will continue to build on last year's progress; I have lots of figures to paint, lots of model-building projects to finish, and games to run.

I'm looking forward to it!