Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Weekly Update for Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 - No game yesterday, due to snow!

My poor, forlorn flock of plastic flamingos - buried under feet of snow...

There was no game session yesterday; we're still digging out from the recent storm, and we've got about two feet of drifted snow we're dealing with. Back into the cold as well, so we're taking a break for the weekend. Stay indoors, and be careful if you have to do any driving!


Mike Burns' Ancient Egyptian Indiegogo is doing very, very well. The first three stretch goals have all been met and unlocked, and we're closing in on the fourth. There are new photos of the various figures up; have a look:


Following up on the recent discussion of matters maritime, may I suggest having a look at one of the movies that Phil told me he enjoyed - light on historical accuracy, heavy on spectacle:

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"And All Of Fandom Was Plunged Into War!" - The Latest SFWA Flap

The current situation in SFWA, from an ancient and former fan's perspective.

No. No comment. I used to be a fan, until The Great Purge of Minicon, but now I'm not. And this current flap, as well as a number of other unsavory incidents, is one of the major reasons why I'm still not a 'fan'...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, February 16th, 2014 - Busy Times, Here!!!

Details of the local decor...
Whew! It has been very, very busy here at The Workbench this week, and I am way behind the curve. I should have done my monthly podcast yesterday, but I had a schedule conflict; we hope to be able to do it today, in order to get caught up.

My beloved brother and his son - my nephew - came up to the Twin Cities for Con-of-the-North, and had a great time at the event. They stopped by here on their way home, and we had dinner and some time to talk about gaming and stuff.

Mike Burns' "Ancient Egyptian" Indiegogo has been very, very successful; three of the four stretch golas have been met, and the campaign is closing in on a fourth. Amazing!

Howard Fielding has sent me quite a few of his new figures, and I will try to get photos of them of you as the week goes on. The casting is crisp and clean, and the poses are great! There's a link to his site over in the left-hand column, and you really should head over there and take a look.

Lots and lots of Internet stuff happening, and I need to get back to work - more later, as I get the time!!!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Weekly Update for Sunday, February 9th, 2014 - "Ask not for whom the klaxon honks, it honks for thee..."

Party!!! Party at the palace!!! Whee!!!

(Photo by Mike Burns)

Here at The Workbench, the hot news of this past week is that Mike Burns, Leed's answer to Amenhotep the Third, has launched his new Indiegogo campaign to help fund his line of Ancient Egyptian 'civilian' figures. While he's planning on opening an on-line store as "Dark Fable Miniatures", this campaign is a great way to get in at the beginning of things and get some great figures. The home page for the current campaign is:

There are also links to his previous campaigns, and lots and lots of photos of the figures.

The Tekumel fan may be wondering why I'm so giddy about these figures; it should be noted that the Professor was a huge fan of Ancient Egypt, and we used to use a lot of his figures for Tsolyani 'civilians' in our games with him. I've always wanted to run a game set in a party in a palace or clan house, and these figures will come in very handy for games like that. Heaps of 'charm', and lots of 'play value' here.


Not to be outdone in the miniatures department, Howard Fielding has kindly sent me an e-mail saying that his own Tekumelyani 'civilians' are shipping; I am really looking forward to seeing these, as they promise to be great. Use the link in the left-hand column, and have a look at The Tekumel Project; Howard is working very hard at making Phil's vision a reality, and he's worth a visit!


As noted earlier this week, I have hit the first big milestone on my book, "To Serve The Petal Throne" - see also the post from yesterday, February 8th - and after quite a lot of thought I have reorganized the text into six separate books. Middle Daughter, who is a professional editor, pointed out that at the rate I was going, readers were going to have to be equipped with hernia trusses in order to be able to simply lift the book in my original form; it was one massive volume, and about the size of the phone directory. (Do they still have 'phone books', these days?)

My original thought had been to divide the text into five volumes, the same as the phases of Our Hero's career, and do the thing that way. However, after mashing the keys for a while, I realized that I had a sixth book in hand - "What did you do in the civil war, daddy?" - and so we now have six books. I also broke out the word counts for each, after I got it all sorted, and you can see where I need to get cracking to fill in the blanks.

I still have no idea how long this whole thing is going to be. I'm still a little shocked to think that I've managed to rack up 100,225 words, as I think I'm just getting started! I'll tell all of the stories that Phil played out with us, and we'll see how it goes. I have a suspicion that we'll end up with about 250,000 words in total, with each book hovering around 40,000 words; I have no idea how that compares with books these days, so I can't really compare what I'm doing to the work of others.

I am now looking for at artist to do the six covers; I'd prefer to get one person to do all of them, for stylistic reasons, but I'm open to ideas since my career as Chirine ba Kal had six pretty distinct phases over the years. Different artists, with differing styles, might convey that better, but I really don't know. All of the books will have identical 'covers', in terms of format, and I think I'll use a different color for the background of each so people can tell them apart more easily.

There will also be internal artwork and maps, a lot of which has never been published as it was part of the archives of the original Thursday night group out at Phil's, and stuff we used in our gaming. I use a lot of this in my model-making, like the plans for Castle Tilketl, or the tube way car plans I did for Phil. I hope you'll enjoy them!

I'm also thinking that each book will mostly be able to stand alone, so that readers can delve into each a they have the time and interest. There will be a common timeline and index, so that readers can find things more easily, but I am not expecting people to sit down and read all six at one go!

I hope you'll enjoy the book; I plan on getting it done late this year, and I think you'll be amused at our misadventures in the world of the Petal Throne...


The bout with the 'flu that I had earlier this week seems to have subsided, and I do feel a bit better; getting the new Indiegogo and other miniatures news has cheered me up no end, as has finally getting past the first big milestone on the book. I've been pushing fluids and Enya, and getting a bit done here at the computer; I'm pleased.

I am also stepping back a bit from my Internet connections; I have scheduling issues, as I've noted, and I type very slowly due to my dyslexia and ambidexterity. So, I'm going to be spending a lot more time - and blood pressure capacity  on the book, and trying to stay out of the kinds of Internet discussions that have taken the place of the letters and phone calls that Phil and I used to get telling us in the strongest possible terms


Ah, me. I have some personal favorites from the thirty-five years I've been getting these kinds of communications; here's one or two for your amusement...

When I did "Qadardalikoi", I was soundly chastised for not stating in the rules that Tinaliya heavy pike units do not rule the battlefields of Tekumel, and are the Arm Of Decision in combat. I ran this past Phil, and he laughed himself silly at the notion.

Phil's views on how magic works on Tekumel are wrong, and he doesn't know what he's talking about.

When I did "Qadardalikoi", I was soundly chastised for not stating in the rules that Shen heavy infantry units do not... You get the idea. Insert "my favorite whatever here", and that takes care of a lot of the complain letters I got - and still get.

Phil's view of how Tekumel works is wrong, and he doesn't know what he's talking about.

I read a book once (or played a game), so I know better then you how Tekumel works, Barker. Who do you think you are, anyway? Gary Gygax?

Why can't I have a 250th level balrog in Tekumel? I want it to be OFFICIAL Tekumel, too!

Ah, well. Enough of that. It's a lovely morning, I've had a nice omlette, and I'll be back to bed at noon after I talk to my girls in Zurich in about two hours.

Have a decent week, if I don't write, and we'll talk to you later!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A New FAQ Page for "To Serve The Petal Throne"

The very first version of Princess Vrisa Vishetru's armor,
made while waiting to roll some dice on Thursday nights.

There are 15,800 steel rings, with an additional 1,200 copper rings in the trim.
The sword and dagger are the real thing; we liked to play rough, in those days.

FAQs on "To Serve The Petal Throne" - The Adventures of Chirine ba Kal

To Serve The Petal Throne - The Adventures of Chirine ba Kal

The work is divided into six volumes, for the ease of the reader:

Book One: The Chalice Of The Flame [11,238]

Relating the beginnings of the original Thursday Night Group, and their adventures up until the revealing of Prince Mirusiya hi Tlakotani…

Book Two: Beneath The Blazoned Sail [20,895]

Relating the further adventures of our heroes, on their first voyage to the Southern Continent with Captain Harchar of the Clan of the Blazoned Sail, and what befell them there…

Book Three: Advance Standards! [6,927]

Relating the epic adventures of our heroes as they go to war, on the Northwest and Northeast Frontiers, and their battles lost and won…

Book Four: Across The Sea Of Worlds [7,526]

Relating the adventures of our heroes on their second voyage of discovery with Captain Harchar, and the strange places they visit…

Book Five: The Golden Seal [37,323]

Relating the adventures of our heroes as they march forth on the marches, trying to preserve the City and Province of Hekellu and the Chaigari Protectorate, and the many and strange occurrences on their way…

Book Six: To The Distant Shores [16,316]

Relating the continuing epic (and not so epic) adventures of our heroes as they attempt to age gracefully in a time of strife and civil war…

[Word counts per book are as of 2/8/14. Total word count as of this date for the series is 100,225.]

What is this all about, anyway?

This series of books are the adventures of the original Thursday night gaming group of Prof. M. A. R. Barker, over some fifteen years of gaming. The text is taken from the logbooks and audio recordings made during those game sessions, with additional enlightenment from the Professor as thought needed for the education of the reader.

Why should I take the time to read this?

You might be able to learn something about the way the Professor viewed his creation, and how he liked to present it to the group. You might also find a few nuggets of information that you might be able to use in your own games set in his world.

How can I get a copy?

We'll be setting up a dedicated website for the book; watch this space for announcements.

We'll add to this FAQ page as time goes on…

Thanks! - The Management

An Essay On The Past; You Probably Won't Be Happy With It. (From the Yahoo Tekumel group; I'm the author of the thing.)

Who's that, skulking around in the underbrush?

I have to say that I've been hugely amused at the direction that this discussion [On the ranges and distances of magic users in naval warfare, on the Yahoo group - editor] has been going; it takes me back all those years to the early 1980s when quite a few gamers / Tekumel fans bombarded me with their complaints about "Qadardalikoi", and why it wasn't a "realistic" or "accurate" set of rules. And, for that matter, just why Prof. M. A. R. Barker really had no clue about how Tekumel really worked. Or should work. Or something.

Phil's mental concept about how warfare worked in his creation was very firmly rooted in his research into the wars of the Diodachi, modified by his research into both Meso-American warfare as well as that of the South Asian sub-continent. And yes, he was quite aware of the latest in thought in the wargaming world; he was a founder of The Society of Ancients, and kept up his subscription to their publication "Slingshot" from issue #1 onwards through the rest of his life. As many people are probably aware, 'our' Phil was a cousin of 'yes, that Phil' of WRG fame.

When we set out to create "Qadardalikoi", I wanted to address Phil's concerns about how the subject had been handled in both Gary's "Missum" (a WRG-style of rules) and Dave's "Legions" (which was a forerunner of the DBx style of rules); I needed a set of rules to publish, as we couldn't get publication rights to either set of rules for various reasons. The goal, according to Phil, was to be able to push lead around the table and have some fun within the broad lines he set for what he thought his world was like.

The ground scale, we thought, should be easy to remember and use - it had to work well in the type of 'campaign games' that we did here in the Twin Cities, back in those days, and it had to fit on the table and look reasonably good as a miniature 'picture'. We settled on a 1:1000 scale; 1mm on the table = 1 meter on the ground. From that, we went down to the basement and Phil's 5' x 9' ping-pong table, set up some little lead people, and had at it for something like three years.

Here's a practical experiment for you. Obtain a meter stick - you can still get these ancient artifacts of early gaming at Office Depot, the Internet tells me - and wave it over a game table. I use a standard 30" by 60" folding table in my game room, as the the three I have put side-by side as a 60" x 90" is a reasonable analogue to Phil's game table. (We found in practice that we never really used the foot or so at each end of his table - that space was always getting used for drinks, snacks, dice, rulers, and sets of rules.) That meter stick is one kilometer long, at our scale, and 133.333 of them make up one 100 tsan hex on the campaign maps for both the NW and NE Frontier sets.

Put some miniatures on the table. Wave your meter stick over them, and consider the distance that the meter stick represents. That's what Phil looked at when he gave me his views on how far things could move, shoot, fly, swim, or cast spells. I translated the little markers he put down on the table into numbers, and that's how we got the numbers. This was accompanied by all sorts of learned dissertation by the Professor, with quite a few of the rare and obscure books from his extensive library - over 2,500 books on Ancient Egypt alone, according to the inventory lists we did after he passed away - and with lots of quotations and references cited.

An example of this is the recondite issue of the range of the 'longbow'; in his 'correction' of "Qadardalikoi", "Warfare on Tekumel", Mr. Faulkner states that the range of the long bow Phil and I gave is complete nonsense and utter rubbish. Both Phil and I happen to agree, if we had been talking about the Terran version of the weapon, the classic single-stave weapon made from yew and used during the Terran Middle Ages to such deadly effect. Apparently, it's difficult for many historical gamers to make the jump from a favorite set of historical miniatures wargame rules based in the usual course of Western European history; Phil, while a very well-read historian of the Middle Ages (some 900 books in his personal library on the subject) ranged far and wide in his research. I would direct the curious reader to that wonderful work by Sir Ralph Payne-Gallway, "The Crossbow" - still available on, by the way - which has the author's observations of the actual weapons being discussed, as well as the results of actually using them. I treasure my original copy of the book; it's a fun read, especially when Sir Ralph tells us about when thing go wrong with his catapult replicas...

The Tekumelyani longbow, as used by a certain famous Mu'uglavyani legion of archers and others, is a long composite recurve bow; the prototype for it is currently held in the collection of the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul (Constantiople, to us Byzantines) and was one of the weapons test-fired by Sir Ralph back in the day when you could do that sort of thing with the right credentials. Sir Ralph made careful measurements of the results, and Phil based his numbers on those. In the second edition of my rules, I will be making this point - as well as many, many similar ones - obsessively clear, with lots of footnotes and reference citations.

In reference to the discussion on naval warfare, take the little soldiers off the table and replace them with your favorite little ships. I bought, back in the mists of antiquity, a set of the C-in-C  and Valiant 1/1200 ships for our naval games - I still use them - and wave your meter stick over them. That, according to Prof. Barker, was how far one's mighty spells can have an effect. Is that far enough? Phil felt that since it covered most of the table, and looked good with the little models, it was fine; he did not feel that battlefield magic was the Ultimate Weapon Of Decision on the battlefields and seas of his Tekumel. It provided tone and color, as well as lots of fun and excitement, but he held that it wasn't The Nuclear Option. In his version of Tekumel, anyway; he had no opinion - he felt that it wasn't his business to say anything - about what you do in your Tekumel.

So, there we are; a little 'backstory' and 'history' on a Saturday morning.

yours, chirine

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On Being Sick, Suffering From Insomnia, And Reaching 100,140 Words Worth Of Text

100,140 words about this guy? Who would have thought!

The bad news is that I have been home sick for the past 36 hours with some sort of stomach bug, which has occasioned many, many trips to The Room Of The Laughing Waters. I finally got some sleep today, and do feel better after pushing lots of fluids and getting a lot of lay-in-bed-and-look-at-the-IKEA-lights time.

Insomnia has been an issue - one can only run down the stairs to The Room Of The Laughing Waters so many times before one simply gives up and stays there, and I managed to use some of the time I was awake and staring at the wall to produce some more text about life with Phil.

I am up to 100,140 words on "To Serve The Petal Throne". If I feel well enough this coming weekend, I shall divide up The One Big Manuscript into the five volumes that comprise the work. I'll post the word counts for each when I'm able to.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Weekly Update For Sunday, February 2nd, 2014 - Short Takes

Yes, I'd rather be in my deck chair someplace warm.
(note to self: must glue that mace back on!)

Today's update is going to be a short one; I have come down with a cold, and I'm tired and a bit cranky. I think I'll be off to bed, once I take my medications to keep my blood pressure down. in the 'human normal' range. Anyway:


The Big Event in February, here in the Twin Cities, will be the long-running Con of the North game convention. They are in a new and much larger hotel space this year, and the convention will be held on February 14th through the 16th - just a couple of weeks away! For more information on the convention, try this link:

There are Tekumel-related events on all three days; you can click on the "Registration" button on the convention's website to see all the events.