Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Weekly Update For Sunday, May 31st, 2015 - In A Holding Pattern

Hlyss. Did I mention how much I hate Hlyss?

This is going to be a very short update, today; I am in a holding pattern, awaiting the release of a bunch of projects that I am involved with. I also didn't get a lot of sleep today, which is not optimal. I'll try to have more for everyone tomorrow, but right now I'm going to have to be brief and sign off...

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memories On A Memorial Day - 2015

The Long-term Guest

It's a soggy Memorial Day, here at The Workbench; no grilling out back for us, today. I am enjoying the holiday, though; lots of sleep and staying off my afflicted foot. As I mentioned briefly, in yesterday's post, there are a lot of things happening around here...

One of the things that's going on, and one that means a lot to me personally, is that a long-term guest here at The Workbench is finally going home. You can see what this little guy looks like; he's about two and half inches tall, made of soft plastic, and has a pretty basic paint job. Doesn't look like much, does he?

But yet, he's one of the very coolest artifacts that have been living in my basement for all these years. He's been lurking in the miniatures boxes, and I found him earlier this spring when I did the Annual Inventory of all the miniatures collection. He's unique; I have nothing else like him in all my collection.

"So," I can hear you ask, "what's the big deal, here?"

He's one of Dave Arneson's very first 'miniatures' for his Blackmoor games.

Back a number of years ago, the November before Dave passed away, I had found three more of these little toy creatures that had gotten mixed in with my miniatures when Adventure Games closed. As Dave was appearing at The Source's 'D & D Day' event, I was able to get back to him the Pteridactyl, the 'Blink Monster', and the now famous 'Rust Monster'. I don't know what happened to them, after Dave passed away, like the wonderful carved wooden AGI logo plaque, nobody seems to know what happened to them.

Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I'll be taking a trip out to see Malia, Dave's daughter, to get this little guy back home. He was never 'mine'; he was always Dave's, as I think of these things, and now he's hers.


Now, I have been told that this little fellow is A Really Valuable Collectable Object From the Early Days Of D&D, and worth heaps and heaps of money. That may very well be true. And it's not my problem, if I may be rude; if you think there's money in this, please talk to the owner; I've just been the innkeeper, for a while. I am not a 'collector'; my collections are working ones, and are to be used in games - that's what they were designed to be and to do.

A little while after I got back home from Gary Con, I was told that there was a rumor out on the Intenet that I had sold my original figure of Captain Harchar (Dave's player character in Prof. Barker's games) to Jon Peterson (author of "Playing At The World") for the princely sum of $1,000 at the convention.

Ah, no; Harchar and the rest of his miniature crew of sea-going rascals are not for sale. The guy who was telling me all this had gotten his facts mixed up, and was incorrect in his assumptions. I will freely admit that I was, and still am, very upset over this kind of thing. I keep my collections for the future, and not for their supposed value; I keep them for their fun in our games, and for their memories of all the fun people I've had the wonderfully good fortune to meet and game with over all these years.

This particular little guy has a lot of memories for me, but even more for Dave's family; that's why I'm taking him home...

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Weekly Update For Sunday, May 24th, 2015 - Not Dead Yet! I'm Feeling Better! WHACK!

Why, yes, the lawyers are involved...

I'm going to try very hard to say nice things, this evening. It has, to be frank, a pretty crummy couple of weeks here at The Workbench with not a lot of useful game-related stuff getting done. Let's get the health news out of the way first, and move on to happier things...

I have 'the gout'. Which annoys me greatly, as this is a medical problem that I associate with portly English squires consuming vast quantities of Ye Olde Roast Beef and Ye Olde Ale in Ye Olde Pub whilst ogling Ye Buxom Serving Wench. To my vast annoyance, I'm getting the pain and not getting the fun; The Missus has very firmly vetoed my idea of getting her one of those low-cut blouses for her, as seen in all good pirate movies. She did note that we do have a nice collection of pewter mugs, and she's allowing me to have my doses of water and juice in them.

(It's just not the same. Not the same at all. Ye Olde Sigh.)

So, anyway, we managed to treat the pain in the right foot with lots of water and keeping off the foot. This worked fine, but now the left foot is giving trouble again and is all swollen up. At least nothing has turned black and fallen off. Yet.

Since I rally can't take pain killers due to the medications I'm on to control my blood pressure, we've changed my diet and really pushed fluids to help the gout; the downside to this is that I am supposed to be on a limited ration of fluids in order to control the blood pressure, so we've been doing a pretty tight balancing act to keep me going. The cold didn't help, not at all. That seems to be on the downside at the moment - having the holiday to recover has really helped.

So, the good news is that I'm on the mend. I'm just tired of being sick, especially right now when I have a whole lot I want to be doing...

Moving on, there is a whole lot of really wonderful and really cool stuff going on in my life at the moment. I can't talk a lot about most of it, at least until some folks make some announcements, but Let me just say that I have some really, really neat stuff in the pipeline. Much more on this, as soon as I can comment...

The Ral Partha Kickstarter has funded very nicely, and you can see how well it went over on the website; links in previous posts.

My friend Dave Wesely, inventor of the 'Braunstein' game and play style, had to have words with a couple of people who have been selling a game that supposedly allows one to play this kind of game. From the description that had been up on RPGNow, it was nothing of the kind. The authors had not contacted Dave at all, and he had to have words with them. I e-mailed him about this, and he tells me that he's got the situation in hand.

The Missus, in addition to being a modern Florence Nightengale, has solved my problem with the hex maps for the miniatures campaign. Being the smart one in the family, she simply took the digital image she had of one of the existing hexes and 'erased' the terrain; she then printed me up a big pile of 'blank' hexes with the small hex grid, and I will now finish the big map for the campaign - I have tomorrow off, for the holiday, so i can get all this stuff for the campaign done. Finally!!!

So, lots of good news, and we're getting up and out of the recent slump. Onward!!!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Weekly Update For Sunday, May 17th, 2015 - No Update For Now, As I am Ill...

I am very sorry to have to say that there will be no update this morning. I am suffering from both a fresh attack of gout, this time in my right foot, and a nasty head cold; I hope to have something later today, but I need to get to bed.

In the meantime, keep in mind that we're in the last couple of days of the Ral Partha Kickstarter; have look, if you would, and I'll be back later on.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Partha, Photos, and Passion!

 Well, I did promise you photos:

Sample weapons pack - lighting turned up for detail
Weapons - US penny for size comparison

The sample elves - a 1978 casting on the right for comparison
The elves - this is the raw metal.
Very crisp, and very clean!

Orcs, goblins, imps, and others
I love the detail on these!
These do look the business, I think!

(These photos are all shot with my Sony Mavica, which I had set to the 'Macro' focus. No flash, just the photo tent. I need to get out a tripod and a different lighting rig for extreme closeups, and I'll try to get that done this weekend.)

Well, we're in the last days of the Ral Partha Kickstarter:

And I will say that I am pretty excited by the whole thing. The Missus is working out what level she wants to support the thing at - I leave all these decisions to her - and I am sure that I'll be very happy when the package shows up on the doorstep.

These figures are really good; the alloy is a modern one, not the soft high-lead one of the 1970s, but it really pops up the detail on these sculpts. I didn't give any of these figures a black wash to bring up the detail - this is the raw metal, right out of the box. I also left the mold vents on, so you can see what you'll be getting. I am very, very happy with these figures - they are very clean and very crisp, and these classic sculpts stand up very well against more modern miniatures. (Keep in mind that these sculpts are thirty to forty years old; my girls are are only half that age, the bulk of them.) I'd think that they'll look very good on the table!

And the folks at Iron Wind do listen to you - they changed the Kickstarter so that you can get all the same figure in your units, if you want your miniatures that way. You can get entire units of the same SKU, for that very 'vintage' and very 'classic' look to your game table if that's something you'd like; you can also get assortments of figures, as per the Kickstarter, so you can have your personalities on the table for RPGs. That's what we did at Phil's, in our games; I'd get packs of figures to get a particular one for a specific purpose, and then I'd hold the rest for future use. I'd bring them to the game sessions when we had a new player, and they'd select what they liked for their figure. I'd get to work with the paint brush, and we'd be off on another adventure.

(That's what Dave Arneson did for his rascally crew of "honest seafaring merchants", by the way; his officers, the Mates 'Staffswinger', 'Swordswinger', and 'Fishface' - as well as the Purser, 'Hardtack' - were all selected by Dave from the 'pool' of unpainted miniatures, and the First and Second Mates got their names from the weapons they were carrying. I still have them, too, and hold on to my money pouch when I put them on the table - no disrespect intended, just sayin'...)

I would also like to credit someone who I don't know. The "Sea Elf With Pike" on the far right of the elven line-up is not a figure I painted; I found this miniature at a booth at Gary Con, an as I wanted a little keepsake from the convention I bought him for my Yan Koryani forces - the Gurek of N'gaku, where his cousins have been soldiering on for Baron Ald for almost forty years: the Ral Partha "Sea Elf Advancing With Pike", as well as the standing figure. I have both the original release with a plain helm, and the later release with a feather on the front of the helm. This figure will get a base to match his fellow troopers, but I'll keep the paint job as a reminder of a really great weekend.

So, please do have a look at the Ral Partha web page and the Kickstarter, and take a trip back in time to us when we played in Phil's basement; Phil loved miniatures, and I think he'd be all over this Kickstarter!


Friday, May 15, 2015

Other Voices, Other Lives

We didn't care, back then...
We didn't care more recently, either...
This is not the post I planned on making today; I'll be back later with some photos of the new Ral Partha figures for you.

No, this post is about a trend that I've been watching on the Internet in various gaming circles. back in my salad days, we called it "political correctness". This is in reaction to an e-mail that one of my regular readers got; you can see it at; there's a link over in the left-hand column, too.

Back in my day, and frankly to this day, I didn't care what people were; I cared about them wanting to play, and to have fun. I made sure that I provided a friendly place for them to come and play and dream, and I didn't worry about being 'politically correct' in the process. I worried about making sure that my friends had a fun time, as guests in my home.

Have a look at the photos, if you wouldn't mind. These were taken about thirty years apart. Can you tell me who the gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and straight people are? Well, neither can I; I never really asked, as it just didn't seem to be any of my business. Heck, I had to stop and think and remember that Mr. Lander is A Person Of Color; I will always think of him as the courtly and dignified gentleman who played so well and for so long.

I have o problem with people who want to highlight 'alternate views'; if you look down the list in the left-hand column of People I Think Are Worth Listening To, you'll see a lot of folks who have very different viewpoints and outlooks then I do. This is deliberate - one of my goals with this little confection of a blog is to bring to you what I consider important and worth saying. Have a look at what they are posting about, and you'll get a feel for my mindset and the world that I inhabit. Please, just don't jump to conclusions when you label me as a 'straight white male'; I'm a little more complex then that, I think.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Weekly Update For Sunday, May 10th, 2015 - The Ground For The Boots To Be On...

The campaign map, in copies to save the originals

The new hexes, in non-repro blue pencil

The campaign map again, with the new hexes being added

"Those pesky players! Always fighting at the edge of the map!"

Lots and lots of very exciting things going on in my life at the moment, so this will be a kinda short update today. I am in the final throes of getting the basic campaign information done and ready to go out to everyone; I've had to do a lot of writing, and that always takes time due to my dyslexia. (I'm also ambidextrous; it does make things a little more complicated.) I've been reminded of one of Phil's pet peeves, this week; he was always a little put out that the players, those pesky kids, had a habit of always fighting at the edges of the map.

In getting ready for this campaign, I had originally thought of cutting up one of my sets of the Northwest Frontier map set, but The Missus pointed out that as she'd digitized the the maps why not cut up a set of copies - after all, she reasoned, we have a perfectly good printer. So, a lot of rubber cement and snipping later, we now have a large map on which to march around and explore; I mounted it to one of my spare cork boards, because I like to use map flags - I freely admit to being quite old-fashioned, and set in my ways. I also use clear acrylic sheet and grease pencils, just like you see in the movies, and one of these days I'll dig out the big sheet of steel so I can use my sets of magnetic counters.

However, all is not analog; The Missus noticed that we have a little problem, in that the western edge of the map set come just where you'd expect the players to be trying something. I was standing in the game room regarding the vast expanses of blank white paper that I had under the map set, when The Missus remarked that while I should lay out the rough hex grid to the west to get the campaign started, she could very easily take one of her digital images of the maps and remove everything except the hex grid itself; I could then use these matching blank hexes to record the discoveries and misadventures of the players, and keep track of the campaign both on the computer and on the map board.

"Well," says I, "if you insist, dear..."

So, I've inked in the rough hexes, and I'll be noting any interesting features. I am working from the original EPT maps, as these are what the artist who did the Northwest Frontier maps had to hand, with additional items from the later S&G maps as needed. As the players move into an area, I'll use Phil's 'hex generator' from the unpublished S&G III to find out what they are marching through. The information will get noted down on the hex grid, and kept for future reference.

I should note that we really don't know what's off the west of the NW Frontier maps; most of our adventures, back in the day, were off to the west of the Atkolel Heights, out on the edge of the desert, and farther south near Craig's old fief of Tu'umnra. Phil also really didn't leave much in the way of notes, either; there's a little information in S&G I, and in "Deeds", but really about all we have is the two sets of continental maps.

And a lot of boot leather; Phil used to leave large area of the maps 'blank', until he could get us to have a look in them. "Here Be Dragons", the sign posts used to say...

I'd also like to note that I am really enjoying doing all of this - it's like the old days at Coffman Union, all over again... :)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Weekly Update For May 3rd, 2015 - Lurching Unsteadily Forward

The invaluable reference. Get it.

I am back on my foot, sort of, and lurching forward - and around the house. I still can't get a shoe on the left foot, but the orthopedic boot does allow me to get things done. Slowly, but at least I'm not on pain-killers and can think without having to stop and consider what I'm thinking about.

The good news is that this week will see the first notes going out to everyone who asked about the play-by-email campaign, and we'll get the thing started next week. I'm sorry for the delay -  wanted to be into the game by now - but unpacking from Gary Con has taken a lot longer then I anticipated, and losing the use of a foot for the better part of two weeks just hasn't helped.

The most-asked question about the campaign I'm getting from just about all the players is "Do I need to have any experience with miniatures to play?" The immediate answer is a resounding "No!"; all you need is what they used to call 'pluck' and a good dose of enthusiasm. Keep in mind that back in the day, we had no idea what we were doing, or how we were supposed to do it. We also had no idea that there was any difference between what's referred to these days as 'role playing games' and 'miniatures games / wargames". For us, these genres lay on a spectrum of play that went from individual adventures to large mass actions; we used little lead people, coins, dice, and cardboard game counters to represent what we were doing on the table. Jon Peterson quotes Dave Arneson: "We made stuff up, and we had fun!" That's what this campaign will be - my telling stories to you, and you reacting and adding to the narrative with your actions.

One thing we did do, back in the day, was read as much as we could about what we were doing. The single best reference book we had was "The Defence Of Duffer's Drift", by E. D. Swinton. (I still have my copy, and I still read it.) My advice to people is that, instead of worrying about rules on movement rates and arcs of fire, get a copy of this book and settle down for a pleasant afternoon of reading.

The book is still available, and even available for free. Check the Web, of course, but here are two URLs for you:

Take a moment, and look at that second URL, if you would. "benning" is Fort Benning, Georgia, the home of the U. S. Army's Infantry Branch. (The Armor School is there too, having been moved from Ft. Knox; somebody thought that it might be a good idea for the treadheads and footsloggers to get to know each other.) This little book is still in use today, over a century after it was first published as a magazine article, to teach new officers their trade.

Yes, this book was written after the Boer War in South Africa; substitute 'crossbows' for 'rifles', if you wouldn't mind, and 'ballista' for 'gun'. I think you'll find you can get a lot of very useful information on what to expect from my campaign in this book, and you'll find it well worth your reading time.

I know I did.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Campaign Notes: A Speedbump On The Sakbe Road

The scene of the campaign, more or less...

So, I'm getting the final stuff for the campaign done, and I bestirs myself to run up to The Source to get me that vital component of campaign mapping, a pad of blank hex sheets. The 'custom of the house', back in Ye Olden Dayes, was that as the players explored the terrain, the referee mapped the world as they uncovered the secrets therein. This then became the basis for the further adventures in the campaign, with players some years down the road going off to explore something that the first campaign players had reported but not explored.

The Fortress Chalukolumel Campaign was basically this; Phil left plot hooks all over the maps for us to explore, and sometimes we did - the attack on Castle Tilketl was one such adventure. This campaign will be based on a plot line we never really did follow up on; this will be new territory for a lot of people, I think.

So, the guys at The Source tell me that they don't have blank hex sheets; from what I gather, nobody uses any such arcane and outmoded things any more, and they can't get any for me - nobody makes the things. So, The Missus springs into action, and now I have blank hex sheets all I want. Just hit 'print', and bob's your uncle.

The reason why I wanted my own hex sheets is for the detailed record-keeping that a campaign like this needs to have happen. I keep track of the players on the maps, and use more detailed versions of the maps to create the terrain and scenery on the game table. Since the large hexes are about 133 Km across, and the small ones about 9.5 Km; I needed to be able to plot out players' moves a little more tightly. So, I now have 'micro-hexes', about 3 Km across, which divides nicely into the sixe of my game tables.

To aid in plotting everything else, I also have a system for accurately locating spots on the map. Each large hex is gridded with letters, north to south, and numbers west to east. The micro-hexes are done the same way, but with a little refinement to make sure that everything has a unique location. Thus, the little town of Liu Mna, on the Sakbe road east of the Fortress, has a locator (TPS? Tekumel Positioning System?) that has first the large hex number, then the small hex, then the micro-hex: 4604Q19V1. Time hacks for navigation will come at noon, local time; I have a magnetic whiteboard for that...


Boring Housekeeping Note - Closure of my Facebook page

Living fossil, one each.

Due to a considerable lack of interest - and, frankly, a rising tide of 'friend requests' purporting to come from nubile young ladies who are seemingly desperate to meet this ancient fossil of a miniatures player - I have closed off my Facebook account. I very rarely ever used or looked at the thing, and it's had just gotten to be an annoyance.

And my work schedule really doesn't allow for may of the invitations that I had been getting; I am simply unavailable foe much of anything between noon on Sundays and noon on Fridays. I do get to look at and hopefully process e-mails during the ninety-minute period I have Monday through Friday between the time I get home from work and the time I take my medications, but that's it.

If you need to get a hold of me, please e-mail - the address is at the top of the left-hand column - or comment; for the foreseeable future, this will be my 'public interface node'. Thanks!