Monday, March 30, 2015

The Weekly Update For Sunday / Monday, 29th / 30th of March, 2015 - The First Gary Con VII After-action Report

Chirine spent most of the event in the bar area, handing out our cards to the passer-by
My Saturday night RPG - the calm before the storm, with Bill, Katie, and Mark
The first level of Jakalla's Underworld, projected up on the wall; Kevin posts to the Web

 Well, I tell ya; I had the fight of my life at Gary Con VII, and one heck of a good time. It was a lot of work, and a lot of effort, but I got a lot of help from some really nice people, and it all happened on time and under budget. People told me that they really liked what I did, and I seemed to have generated some good interest in Tekumel.

To begin at the beginning, I packed up on Wednesday and Thursday, and loaded up Thursday night and very early Friday morning. I left the house at 0130, and got to Lake Geneva at 0845 after the usual long haul across darkest Wisconsin. I loaded my Friday seminar session into the Geneva Ridge Resort for my 1400 question-and-answer session, and my suit of armor was posted by Dale at the entrance to the open gaming area and the bar where we were doing all the seminars. I had taped a nice shiny brass bowl to his open hand, and The Missus did a big stack of business cards which went in the bowl - I think that people were highly amused that a suit of armor on a mannequin had his own business cards!

I had a good time at the Friday Q&A. Dr. Raymond of the Tekumel Foundation took time out of his very busy schedule (he was doing a lot of old-school games over the weekend) to be there and answer questions and help explain things for people. I did my usual thing, explaining about Tekumel and gaming with the Professor, and people seemed to be having a good time. The bartenders helped out, too, keeping an eye on their 'doorman' for me all weekend; all of the hotel staff was very kind and helpful, with the front desk staff asking if Chirine could stay with them at night, 'guarding the office'. (Well, you never know, do you?) I did record the session, and we'll see what we get; ambient noise was an issue all weekend, which is nobody's fault - the convention was packed with folks, all having a very good time.

The big push for Saturday was my classic 'pre-school' RPG session, played the way we used to do out at Phil's; I even brought all the old figures that I'd done for our games back in 1976 and 1977, and these seemed to go over well with people. I got everything set up, and sat back to await developments. I had done packets for the players, each with a notepad, color ID badge with their PC name and image, sheets with their PC's information, and a special commemorative figure just for Gary Con VII.

I had The Missus' digital version of the Underworld, as well as the paper back-up, and I projected the maps up on the wall so that all the players could plot and plan more easily; this seemed to go over well, too. I had Bill Hoyt and Mark Eggert along as 'Designated Tekumel Experts', and I managed to persuade one of Phil's very first players, Mike Mornard (The Glorious General Korunme Mnashu hi Chaishyani, Mnashu of Thri'il) to come and play and be the party's Expert Guide. Katie, Bill's daughter, was there as a player, and she got to choose one of the ladies I'd generated. All of the PCs were hidden in envelopes, and the players got to choose their envelopes based on the the name, occupation, an artwork of the PC. What you see is what you get, and all that - just like in the old days.

My goal was not to kill the entire party, but to give them an enjoyable time and introduce them to Phil's wonderful creation. And to have some fun, myself; I didn;t give Mike his usual player-character; instead I generated a Flemish man-at-arms that he'd rolled up out at Phil's back in 1977 or so, and didn't tell him what I'd done. I wanted to surprise him, and I did - his reaction on seeing the player-character packet was worth the drive! As I had predicted several months before, he shrieked, pointed at me, and cried out in a heart-felt tone "YOU BASTARD!!!" He'd completely forgotten about dear old Robert of Barthesville, and was almost in tears that I'd remembered and had gone to the trouble of surprising him.

He looked over the table at all my preparations, turned to me and gave me one of the very best compliments I've ever gotten: "Chirine, you've outdone yourself!" And then, it only got better - Dave Wesely (Major David Wesley, creator of the Braunstein and an old friend) came by the table to apologize that he was not going to be able to play in this game, as he was doing an interview with the Ney York Times. This is a Very, Very, Very Big Deal to me; Dave does not play RPGs, especially of the 'fantasy' kind, and here he is wanting to play in one of my little efforts!!! I was very humbled, especially as I had some very well-known OSR folks playing in the game...

Well, gosh. I'm awed by this. Seriously.

Precisely at seven o'clock, the players opened their envelopes, and we got to work. I had pre-rolled the basic statistics to save time, but the players could choose their own skills and spells. "Surprise me," I told them, and they did. This convention attracts skilled and seasoned players, and I gave them a half-hour to get themselves and the party organized. They did, in amazingly quick time, and we were off and running.

I need to explain that I've been running the Jakalla Underworld for years; and it often kind of dull and boring for me as the players very often can't make up their individual and collective minds and I sit there waiting for them to do something - it's why I asked for and got a four-hour time slot. This lot, however, just clicked, and had themselves set and running smoothly as a group in no time flat.

I knew I was in deep, deep trouble in the first five minutes of play. Normally, I am able to stay ahead of the party by about one to two hours in the game session, and deal with whatever they do with no problems. This lot, on the other had, didn't ask any of the usual stupid questions, but looked in the copies of "Empire of the Petal Throne" I had on the table or asked the Designated Experts; all I got was a series of very clever, very intelligent questions that made me realize that I was dealing with a bunch of seasoned professionals. What made it even more scary was that I knew for a fact that none of them had met each other prior to this game, that while some of them had heard of Tekumel they didn't know a thing about the rules, and were there to learn about Tekumel from me. In the event, I was able to stay maybe thirty to sixty seconds ahead of them; they were that good, that focused, and that skilled.

I was in for the fight of my career as a game master, and I knew it. I loved it; this was shaping up to be the very best convention game ever.

I would like to be able to say that I laughed a casual laugh, picked up my dice with a casual sneer, and started the game with confidence and aplomb.

Yeah, right; if you believe that, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. I mouthed a prayer to The Great Gods of Gaming:

"Guys, if you aren't too busy right now, I could really use a bit of help, here..."

And behold! The skies opened, the clouds parted, and a ray of golden sunlight reached down and touched me and cast a halo of golden radiance around my furrowed brow; The Great Gods touched me with their wisdom, and spoke unto me:

And Phil spake, said unto me: "Get in there and die like a man, Chirine."
And Gary spake, and said unto me: "Show them what you're made of, young man." 
And Dave spake, and said unto me: "Pass the popcorn, please."

 "Gee, thanks, guys."

And off we went. For the next two hours, these people role-played! They had it down, and played their characters perfectly. They were quite literally the very best group I'd ever had at a convention, and they gave me nothing. Nothing at all. No slip-ups, no arguments, none of the usual things that a clever GM can use. These people had a march order that flowed and shifted to meet anything I could throw at them; front ranks peeled off to cover intersections and then swung back in as the back ranks; and all with next to no table talk! They communicated across the table with looks, glances, and hand signals; the ambient noise in the room was pretty high, and they used it as cover to conceal their next moves from me - normally, I can eavesdrop on the table talk to get a grip on the party's thinking, but I got nothing. They'd lean over to talk into each others ears, then a runner would move to the other end of the table to let the rest of the party know what was being plotted.

They evaded, they lurked, they sneaked, and they got right across the best I had to offer. it was a classic infiltration attack, and they did it brilliantly. The one encounter with some guards where I finally had them cornered was a disaster; they had sent out their priest with 'invisibility' as a scout, so I had no surprise and they simply exterminated my minions. Then, having frozen the guards with an Eye of Frigid Breath, one of the guys went about shattering the frozen bodies with his mace to make sure they didn't get up again. The second wave of guards got nailed by the ambush the players had set, and they simply blew the cell door open and rescued the hostage that they were suppose to save.

I had the time of my life; it was like being back with the old Thursday Night players all over again, as we did our best to out-fox Phil at his own game. I loved it.

Sunday, we rested, and had another Q & A session. I packed up, loaded out, and did the long drive home.

I have been to my very best convention ever, in all my forty years of doing this.

Thank you, Luke and Dale and all the Gary Con volunteers, for such a wonderful time; all of the great people at the Sky Lodge and the Geneva Ridge resort for taking such good care of all of us; to Bill, Katie, Mark, Kevin, and The Missus for all your help - I could not have done it without all of you! - and you players, who made it all so wonderful and worthwhile for me!

Thank you!!!

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Pause For A Moment Of Reflection...

No, it didn't end well.

If you'll all permit me, I'd like to pause for a moment and note that this week, our British friends are observing the final journey of King Richard III. BBC has the best coverage, as usual, including some footage of the medieval procession at Bosworth Field and the cortege back into Leicester. The actual reburial is on Thursday, later this week.

When they first showed pictures of the King's skull, back when they found him, my first reaction was that he'd been hit in the head with a pole-ax; then I saw the base of his skull, and the massive and fatal wound from a halberd. It does make one think, doesn't it? I've fought in melees, in my younger days, and to me it was pretty obvious what had happened - he gets unhorsed, loses his helmet in the fall, and gets swarmed by a bunch of footmen; while he's dealing with the enemies to the front, a couple / three more footmen come up on his blind back and let him have it with blows to his unprotected head. A fully-armored man-at-arms, even a dismounted one, is a serious threat on the battlefield; the tactics used, while brutal, are what's effective.

In the end, we should also take a moment to consider that this battered skull is also the face of power politics in the royal succession; in order to stay in power, one has to eventually face the "wager of battle". Think of that, and the possible consequences of that wager, next time you play that wonderful game "Kingmaker"...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Weekly Update For Sunday, March 22, 2015 - Staging An Invasion, And "To Serve The Petal Throne" News

The classic military transport of the 1800's...

Well, I am getting everything packed and loaded for my trip to Gary Con; I got some new information on the venue Friday, and I had to download a batch of the loaded supplies and equipment to get it repacked. The situation is a logiscit one; my Friday and Sunday question-and-answer sessions are in the Lakeview Bar, on the top level of the two-story hotel. My Saturday EPT game is in the lower level, along with the vast majority of games and events. Normally, this isn't an issue; I own a vast fleet of carts just to deal with this kind of thing.

The Chri-fly in the salve is that there isn't really an elevator between the various levels; while I can simply load in through the hotel's front door for the Q & A sessions, I'm going to have to go in over the lower-level loading dock to get to the Saturday event area. The net result is that my usual load-bearing system has had to be reconfigured to allow me to move everything by hand up and out of the van and onto the loading dock; once it's up in the air, I can move everything onto the carts - using a slightly different set of carts then usual - and get into the venue.

What is all comes down to is that I normally have to do the load-in/set/show/strike/load-out cycle by myself; I consider myself very fortunate when and if there is help available and people are willing to pitch in. This particular event is going to be one with a very, very minimal footprint; the venue is very 'tight', and there just isn't going to be the room for the kind of expansive shows that I usually do. I would not even think of doing one of my large Braunsteins at this hotel - unless I had a tent out on the patio, which would be a lot of fun!

This will, I think, be a fun trip, and a good way to mark forty years of EPT...

In other news, I have finished some revisions to the layout and organization of "To Serve The Petal Throne". You'll see these on the dedicated page I've set up for the book on this blog, and I hope you'll be amused by the thing...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

An Apology For Virche hiDune

My leaden alter ego...
Here in the cold grey light of dawn - I'm just back home from work - my reply to Virche hiDune
comes across as the nasty reaction of a very bitter and very grumpy old man.

I freely admit that I am that - it's been a very long thirty-five years in some respects, and the crap just keeps coming down the pipes - but that's not what I want this blog to be about. we had a lot of fun, playing our games, and I'd like to keep remembering that - and not dwell on all the politics, backstabbing, treachery, lies, gossip, and outright fraud and theft that marked a lot of the middle and late 1980s in local gaming and local fandom.

So, Virche, here's my reaction this morning - I've had all night to think about you:

If your intention was to get me to write about how miniatures are made, about the sculpting and casting process and the madcap adventures possible while doing it - the infamous 'lead-belted radial' or the panic that occurs when the top plate comes spinning out of the machine at over 700 rpm and ricochets around the room like a deadly Frisbee - then I think that's a great idea. I'll see what I can do for you, and I'd like to offer my apology to you for being a cranky old fart. (I don't think I'll have anything for you before Gary Con, but I'll try.)


I will not discuss the sordid politics around the Petal Throne that went on in those days; I simply do not want to have too much more salt rubbed into old wounds. I'm very sad to say that all too many of the people I respected, liked, and trusted proved not to be what they said that they were, and I just don't want to revisit that kind of thing.

Let's move on; let's enjoy Tekumel.

yours, chirine

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Weekly Update for Sunday, March 15th, 2015 - Life At The Gallop!

It's a living...

Today's update is going to be pretty short and sweet; there's a lot going on, and I'm pretty frantically busy. The dual build cycles are well underway, and I'm pretty please with my progress. The Missus is loading toner cartridges as fast as she can, and the printers are smoking hot.

"To Serve The Petal Throne" is undergoing a massive revision; not to the text, but to the Tables of Contents. I've been writing pretty consistently, and I needed to update all of the contents pages to reflect this. The manuscript is now up to 260 pages, in six 'volumes'; otherwise, as Middle Daughter put it, readers would be dealing with something the size and heft of the Zurich phone book. One thing I did was divide the text of what was the old volume Five into two books, Five and Six, in order to do justice to our adventures while governing Hekellu. I peeled off the later adventures, some 39 pages' worth, into Six and kept some 94 pages worth in Five. I'll update the Page over in the left-hand column as soon as I can.

I had a very nice break in all the build work yesterday; Bill Hoyt, his lovely wife, and one of his daughters dropped by for a visit. The ladies wanted to see the game room, so I gave them The Tour. Mr. and Mrs. Hoyt played Tekumel with Phil back in 1974-75, before the game was published, and shared a lot of fun stories of those days - Bill was the guy who introduced Prof. Barker to Gary Gygax, by the way, and is mentioned in the rules booklet for "War of Wizards".

Great expectations, here; the shipment of figures from Mike Burns' latest Indiegogo are expected any day now! These are the 'Ancient Egyptian' figures that I find so useful when doing adventures, and I am really looking forward to seeing them.

Ted Lyng's new blog on Tekumel collecting is going great guns; he's even dug up one of the prototype packs we did for Lou Zocchi, of all things! A very good blog, and I'm learning things from it myself - wonderful stuff!!!


[EDIT: I have now updated the "To Serve The Petal Throne" page in the left-hand column. I am now up to 108,000 words; I have a sneaking suspicion that each book will wind up being about 50,000 words long, for a probable total of some 600,000 words.

If I may, I'd like to point out that the original Thursday Night Group met out at Phil's *every* Thursday night for the better part of fifteen years; that's 52 game sessions per year, times fifteen years (or 375 game sessions) at an average of four hours per game session - and sometimes they went six! - for a total of roughly 1,500 hours of game time with Phil. I have a lot of stories to tell...

yours, chirine]

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Weekly Update For Sunday, March 8th, 2015 - Warm Weather Is Finally Here!!!

I'm looking forward to this!

Warm weather is finally here, and I'm delighted! My productivity is way, way up - and I am very happy with that. The basement, where the actual Workbench is located, hovers around +45F when we have below-zero temperatures and it gets pretty hard to work. I do have a battery of electric radiators, but they have to be activated in advance of any work or game sessions and this tends to limit my working time.

My writing is also going very well; "To Serve The Petal Throne" has been reorganized into six volumes, and I have been turning out something like 2,000 words a day for the past couple of weekends. I'm very pleased with the progress, and the next step is going to be an overhaul of the tables of contents and indexes to reflect the new organization.

The Missus has reached another milestone in her work getting all of our archives set up; she's now gotten most of our collection of Tekumel-related photos organized - there's over 15 gigabytes of them. Her next goal is to finish scanning all of our hard-copy holdings of all the Tekumel materials that I've been collecting for the past forty years, and once this is done she'll be finished. I stil have to sort and title all of the files, but hey - it's something I like to do.

Speaking of collecting, there's a new blog in town about Tekumel and collecting. Ted Lyng, a very long-time Tekumel fan and collector, has set up a new blog / website on the subject, and is posting articles on various topics that are worth reading - he's very good, an I'm enjoying his approach. The URL is:

Have a look; I think you might enjoy it!

I am currently very busy; I am in two 'build cycles' at once, one for Gary Con VII at the end of this month and one for the upcoming play-by-e-mail miniatures campaign which I want to start up in very early April. Lots of things happening, and I think we'll have some fun with them!

And  very nice note from Dr. Mike Burns in the UK; he's in the process of shipping more figures, this time from the latest IndieGoGo campaign. I expect to see these later this week, and I'm really looking forward to seeing them! Hurrah!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Weekly Update For Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - Pushing Lead With The Guys! WHEE!

Yes. Kashi and Gayel do light up.
Yesterday was one of those days that remind me of why I have been doing this for the past forty years. I had the some of the members of the younger guys' high school D & D group in for a skirmish game; they had never played 'big miniatures' before, and wanted to see what it was like. I put on a 'Braunstien', with everyone out for themselves, and it was hysterical. Like all 'Braunstiens', utter chaos erupted in no time flat; I had to provide colored chits to the players so they could figure out who was allied to who at any given moment - it changed from turn to turn, with predictable results.

(I will put all of the photos from the game up on my Photobucket page; link at the bottom of the left-hand column. EDIT: Photos are now up!)

I had a wonderful time! The idea was to get the new players used to the tactical game mechanics in order for them to play in the up-coming campaign, as the 'home team' for all of you to command as your eyes and ears on the table. They had a great time, I had a great time, and it was in the classic style of Twin Cities gaming from the 1970s.

I am also, if I may modestly cackle a bit, very pleased with the way that the new game table and modular scenery all worked out to make this game happened. I had an appointment with a guest at eleven, which ran long - not an issue! - and so I didn't start setting the table until twelve-thirty. The normal schedule for game days is for the doors to be open at noon, and the game to start at one, so I was a bit behind.

I simply pulled boxes D, W4, and W5 from the shelves,  and I was literally set up and ready to play at twelve thirty-five. I am very, very pleased; it took some work to organize everything up, and some investment in plastic tubs, but it all works - and in actual use, too!!!

I can now be set and ready on fifteen minute's warning, which is my 'convention standard' for doing games at shows. I am not likely to be doing many of those, due to health and logistics issues, but at least I now have the proven capability to do them as needed.