Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Weekly Update for March 27th, 2016 - I'm able to walk, again!

The 'day' boot; the 'night' boot lacks the ironmongery.

It has not been the best of weeks, here at the workbench. I'm suffering from a very bad flare-up of the gout that I had after I got so dehydrated at Gary Con, last March, and it has been pretty miserable. I have to keep a very delicate balance of fluid intake/output to keep my blood pressure under control, and that got badly out of whack early in the week. I couldn't walk at all on Thursday; I am now wearing what are called "CAM braces", which restrict my foot to a pretty fixed position. I have two; one, with added metal braces for day wear, and the second with no metal for night wear. I am finally getting some sleep, as a result, and I'm pretty happy with that.

So, lots more fluids, lots more Vitamin C, and lots of rest as I can get it...

A number of questions have come up, and I'll try to answer these as best I can:

Why are your 'Rules of Engagement' so restrictive?

Because I found that I was spending a lot more of my time and energy playing 'social secretary' then I was building and running games. I will be happy to run games for people, but they have to be on my terms - see the above. If you get up a party to come and visit, I'll be happy to run something for you. If you want something bigger, then you'll have to organize it and help transport it.

Why won't you post material from your archives in a forum or on this blog?

Because I do not have publication rights for a lot of the materials in my archives. John Tiehen, for example, does not want any of his Tekumel work republished; I respect people's IP rights, and I would hope that they respect mine. Having said that, I freely grant my permission to use any of the photos on my Photobucket page; I posted them for people to see and be inspired by, and if they get used on other websites I'm fine with that.

Why aren't you publishing stuff? You should write an RPG or an adventure!

Because I'm not a 'gamer'. I regard myself as, first and foremost, as a model builder; my games are, to be honest, a way to show off my work. I also spent decades in the game industry as a 'producer of stuff', and I won't go back there; there are lots and lots of other people who are doing that, these days, and more power to them - have a look at what they do, if you would.

I am writing my chronicle of our adventures with Phil, of course, and it's already been panned by 'real gamers' because it doesn't have any "useful game information" in it. Different people have different tastes, and if they can get anything out of the thing then more power to them. I'm writing if for the sheer fun of it; we had some great times, and some rousing adventures.

Can I visit you?

Yes. E-mail first; I don't accept 'walk-ins'. This is my home, not a public facility; The Missus has final say on whatever we do here at the house, and I respect that.

Will you sell me miniatures - or paint them for me?

No. Been there, done that. And you probably can't afford my free-lance rates, sorry to say. When I paint figures for other people, I do it because they are very old and very dear friends of mine; I am not into 'commercial' activity.

I hope that this little excursion into the inner workings of the Workbench helps explain a few things. Back to the miniatures - it's something I can do and not be on my painful foot!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, March 20th, 2016 - 1 Hasanpor, 2,395 A. S. - Happy New Year!!!

It's the vernal equinox, and the starts of the Tsolyani new year. According to Phil's Long Count, it's now 2,395 A. S.; campaign times will vary, depending on the individual campaign, of course.

It's been a very satisfying holiday weekend; we're in Spring Break at the moment, and I have been pottering around getting all sorts of little projects done. Nothing too hot or heavy, but I've had lots and lots of sleep and good times, and I'm just about recovered from my nasty cold.

So, a short post for today, with lots more to come...

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Weekly Update - Sunday, March 13, 2016 - Colds, Chairs, and Philosophy

'Period' chairs, from TRE Games.
Yes, they really are that tiny and that detailed.

The title for this post may be misleading; I am suffering through what is most likely a nasty sinus infection (right orbital, to be precise) or an even nastier head cold. I feel rotten, I am just now getting the use of my right eye bak, and I think that this particular post may have more then the usual number of typos that my dyslexia causes. Bear with me, if you would, and thank you for your patience!

The Missus, despite her not feeling well either this weekend, has been dosing me with lots of orange juice and a new set of 25mm / 28mm furniture from TRE Games. This is set 28H022, of three 'tall' and three 'goblet' chairs. These are, I will freely admit, quite the thing to assemble - you are going to want the tweezers from the medicine cabinet, for these. I was, and am still, simply amazed by these, as I grew up with the cast metal RPG furniture made by such firms as Grenadier and Citadel; in order for the molten metal to flow into the mold cavities, the parts have to be of a certain minimum thickness - which is why, up till now, most miniature furniture looks as if it could be used as siege equipment. (And usually is, given the tendencies of players to use anything within reach as an improvised weapon or shield.)

These laser-cut wooden kits, on the other hand, look like scaled-down versions of the furniture you'd expect to see in any well-appointed stronghold or wizard's tower; they look very delicate, but are actually pretty strong and durable. (Don't ask me how I know this.) I really like the look of the kits, the assortment of furniture available, the satisfaction I get from their assembly, and the really nice price point of the kits. I am, as they say, a happy customer.

Now, having said all that, I can hear you asking "But, they don't have chairs on Tekumel, do they?"

Well, no, not in the Five Empires; the chieftains of the Nylss, in their mountain strongholds, do have pretty big and elaborate seating things - okay, chairs - that look and are used as their thrones; everybody else sits on the usual seating stuff you find all over, or stands. (They have beds, too, but that's another post.) I have some of these myself, as one never does know when one might be visiting these local dignitaries and one might need to do their throne rooms. Reaper is a good source for these - they have one that looks for all the world like Conan on the throne of Aquilonia - and other companies have made these over the years as well. In general, though, we don't really see some of the expected types of furniture on Tekumel that we'd normally expect we'd see.

Now, in Blackmoor, though...

One of the hazards of sailing around with Captain Harchar was Dave Arneson's complete and total lack of self-control in regards to the 'dimension hopper' device that he found in the wreck of the Hlyss nest ship - and that little notion, by the way, gave us nightmares for years afterwards - and his casual habit of pushing the buttons on the thing to see where it would take us. Which eventually - no surprise, really - saw us floating in Blackmoor Bay, dealing with Gertie the Great Golden Dragon, and eventually docking in the town itself.

Which takes us back to the chairs. We amble over to the Comeback Inn, and we're faced with these odd things that the locals invite us to sit down on. "Chairs", they call them; Vrisa, who was raised right, coos "How quaint!" in her best 'Princess slumming it with the peasants' voice and makes herself at home. It's odd, but we manage to adapt to the local customs when we're there. Mats and cushions, that's for me...

So, that's why I have chairs and beds in my stock of scenic accessories. I like to have whatever might be needed to 'dress the set', as they say in theater, so having the best on offer these days from TRE Games is right along what I've been doing for all these years. One of these days, I'll get my idea for working torches and lanterns done, and we're back into the Underworld...

The list I have for the sets, which is not at all 'official', runs like this:

28H000   Coffins
28H001   Bookshelf 01
28H002   Bookshelf 02
28H003   Round tables and stools
28H004   Long benches
28H005   Long tables
28H006   Cabinet
28H007   ???
28H008   Bunk beds 001 - triples
28H009   Bunk beds 002 - doubles
28H010   Low beds?
28H011   Circular staircase (Three dimensional!!!)
28H012   Spiral stair (flat double-sided tile)
28H021 01   Crates 01
28H021 02   Crates 02
28H022   Chairs

I'll update this as I get new information.

And with that, I'm off for more orange juice...

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Weekly Update - Monday, March 7th, 2016 - Gamesmanship, Dave Arneson, M. A. R. Barker, & The Astrolabe Story (By Popular Demand!)

Chirine's personal astrolabe
(It was a gift from my kids, bless them!)

So, all right, we're all sitting around the ping-pong table out at Phil's, working out what our baggage is going to be for this marathon voyage to the Southern Continent with Harchar, and Arneson is sitting at Phil's right hand and describing in nauseating detail the effects of scurvy, weevils in the biscuits, seasickness and it's effects, and something called "Portable Soup". Dave was truly an expert on the Age of Sail, and knew way too much about the period. If there was a maritime adventure book out there, he'd read it, and probably owned a copy. Pirate movies; too; Dave was a real fan of those '50s and '60s 'Swashbuckler' Technicolor epics, and it showed in the way he and his crew swaggered around the deck speaking in authentic Mummerset accents, spouting all sorts of quite incomprehensible nautical jargon that had us all baffled. Dave was going full throttle, doing all of his officers as well as Harchar, and Phil let him run with it for as long as he could stand it...

Eventually, Arneson pauses for breath, and Phil leaps right in with the GM question, "Do you have the Astronomer-Navigator skill, Dave?" Arneson shows him Harchar's index card, with an innocent "Why, of course, Professor..." and Barker lunges in for the kill. He pulls his latest 'prop', a very nice Arabic astrolabe from his favorite antiques dealer in Britain, Stanley Fish; he hands it to Dave, and asks him if he can use it...

Arneson didn't even bat an eye. He delivered a very nice and concise lecture on the instrument, took it apart and put it back together again for Phil - this, despite having never seen this item before - and showed us all the various functions of the artifact. (It's really an analog computer, and can do all sorts of things besides tell you where you are.) Phil did not sit there with his mouth hanging open - he was too good a poker player for that - and simply sat there and smiled as Dave took sightings off of Origo's nose, Vrisa's left hip (it was the closest one to Dave), and the Professor's glowing cigar tip and then did some calculations on a note pad. He then indicated where we were on the map, and sat back.

Phil simply smiled and gave his cigar a thoughtful puff; he was simply too good a player and GM to do anything else, and we cast off for several months of nautical adventure. It was a lot of fun, even with Dave running our ship into the Southern Continent. (Well, there was a storm, at the time...)

And that, my gentle readers, is what the games out at Phil were like.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

On The Art Of Gracious Living In Jakalla...

Phil's idea of what 'real furniture' should look like.
Folds up for travel, too.

I have two of these, in different sizes; 'bedside' tables -
mat-side, really - when staying somewhere.

Folds up for travel! Phil had two of these in the living room,
and used them as 'models' for drawings.

The classic chest; got two of these when Target closed
their 'World Market' department. Very Tekumelyani!

One of these was one of the very first Tekumel 'artifacts'
I got, back in 1976; I have two now.

Baron Greystone's comment about furniture in Jakalla really got me to thinking. Back in 1976, when I first met Phil, we got to talking about personal belongings and furniture. So when I happened to be in one of the "Arts of India" gift stores here in Minneapolis, I picked up some of the accessories that I thought that I would have been carrying around on our adventures. Having scribal skills, I got a very handy wooden pen case that unfolded to reveal sliding drawers for a cake of ink and reed pens, a book rest, and a little folding table that was just right to have a lamp next to my sleeping mat at night.

Phil had a house fill of stuff like this, from all over South Asia that he'd collected on his travels, and over the years we managed to find very similar items to complete my set of 'Chirine baggage'. we even found a pair of very nice chests to store the bulk of it in, so I could simply pack everything up and load it onto the Cheln-cart or Captain Harchar's ship for our next adventure. It went with the costumes we were building at the time, and being exposed to Dave Arneson and his ACW re-creation buddies in the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry was a huge influence on us. We had a lot of fun finding and making everything, and we'd use it all in games as 'props' for the sheer fun of it.

My kids even got me an astrolabe, so I could work out where we were now...

Furniture in Jakalla is, as we mentioned in the previous post, pretty basic. Lots of mats and rugs, some chests for storage, and a little table or two for lamps and such. A sleeping room would have lots of mats and rugs, and maybe a carpet if the resident was wealthy enough; small tables for lamps, and maybe a wardobe / chest for clothes. Wealthier people would have a 'sitting room', usually next to the 'bedroom', where there would be shelves, chests, more small tables, and lots of mats and cushions for people to use. Really high-class folks would have low risers, about a hand-span high, to get them up off the floor; these would have more rugs, carpets, and mats on them. This is all 'domestic' furniture, of course; temples and offices have different suites of furniture.

Over the years, we picked up a lot of this kind of thing, so that I can now outfit a pretty luxurious and very posh 'high-status' room; it's been find having a sort of 'scavenger hunt', looking for things Phil would approve of. We had a great 'find', from Target of all places, when they tired to have a "World Market" department; this had a lot of great items from India, as well as some really unusual 'Tiki' style stuff that fit right in. Lanterns, too, of all kinds. IKEA also occasionally has items like this - we got a nice set of dishes, perfect for back-packs - and if you look in the odder corners of the store there are lots of other goodies that I'd like to have had on our adventures. All great fun, and adds to that 'Tekumel look' in the game room... :)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A 'Collections Management' Follow-up: Captain Harchar And His Merry Buccaneers

Plain 25mm rounds, my standard RPG base
Detailed 25mm rounds from TRE Games

I've pointed out a number of times, to a number of people, that my collection of miniatures is not a 'static one'; it was, from the very first, to be used in games. Over time, I've had to replace bases and such, mostly because the cheap card stock that I was prone to us back in the day just didn't hold up well in the rough and tumble of gaming. I also started using round bases to indicate individual people, as opposed to units of troops, and this has worked out very well in my RPG games for the past decade. Back in the day, the idea of round bases was laughable; cutting them out was next to impossible, given the technology available to us at the time.

Laser-cutting has changed all that, and when I saw the TRE etched bases, I instantly thought of this little group of five figures. Yes, indeed, that is Captain Harchar and his officers: 1st Mate Staffswinger, 2nd Mate Swordswinger, 3rd Mate Fishface, and Purser Hardtack.

So, we're about to head off to help the Livyani - see the last chapter of "Man of Gold" - and I tell Phil that we're going to need a ship as we have no intention of walking to Tsamra. Phil allows that a sea voyage would be fun, and I get told - as usual - to come up with a drawing of the ship we're hiring so we can use it for gaming; this was the days of "Bireme and Galley" and"Sea Steeds and Wave Riders", which had deck plans of ships in 25mm for use in games. (I still have all of mine; I mounted them on foam-core to make them easier to move around with figures on them.) I also pointed out that we're going to need a captain and crew, and Phil tells me to deal with it - not his problem, he says.

My usual refrain at these moments was: "Gee, thanks, Phil."

So I go into work at AGI the next day, and ask Dave Arneson about ship types, and explain the problems. He loans me a couple of books from his library, and I drew up the ship that weekend. Next Thursday rolls around, and we get to Phil's and he's acting all mysterious. We finally get down to the basement, and there's Dave Arneson with his dice and a copy of EPT, rolling up his new PC and his officers.

Yes, that's right; Dave and Phil have conspired, and we're going to have Dave in our gaming group.

Wow. Just wow.

And, as usual, I get told to come up with figures for all of them by next week. Harchar is from the old Garrison 'Swords and Sorcery' line - I think; it's been a while - and the officers are all Ral Partha spares that I had in the lead pile; I used to buy their blister pack sets to get the one or two figures that I really needed, and so I had - and still have! - heaps of spare figures in the hopper waiting for them to find a role.

Staffswinger and Swordswinger got their names from their figures; Hardtack from his job of swindling the players with the food supply, and poor Fishface got her name from Dave rolling an '01' for her Charisma.

When I saw the planking bases from TRE Games, I wanted them for these figures; it just seemed more appropriate for them then the blanks that they were on, or better then the cardboard squares painted green that they'd had originally - Green? Green bases? On a ship? What was I thinking???

So, there we are. I think that they look a lot better on the planking, and I'll touch up their bases to match the wood when I have the chance. And then we're off, on yet another voyage... :)


There is, I am sorry to have to say, a very sad little postscript to this story; it's one of the reasons why I'm keeping the modern gaming scene at arm's length, these days.

I took these figures down to Gary Con, this past March, to show to people who might want to see the good captain in all his original glory. he was duly show off, and people had a lot of fun - as I did. However, after I got back home, I was accused of 'selling out to the big money', by selling the Captain and his officers to a wealthy collector at the convention; as this was all news to me, I asked what the origins of this story was, and was told that it was on the Internet on a Facebook page, posted by somebody who had been at the convention. I supposedly had gotten a $1,000 check for the miniatures.

Um, no, sorry; didn't happen, and the notion really upset both me and The Missus; we'd scrimped and saved so that we could do the trip, last year, and this rumor really hurt us in a number of ways. yes, we could have really used the money to pay for the trip, but not at the cost of losing these original figures that mean so much to the both of us. We knew and like Dave, and what little we have left of his sense of fun and adventure means a lot to us.

No. Harchar and his merry minions are not for sale. Please try elsewhere.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Weekly Update - March 2nd, 2016 - Part Three: Scales and Furniture

The TRE Games furniture line -
TRE Games, the IKEA of gaming?
And a second comment:

Michael S February 25, 2016 at 10:11 AM
I couldn't find their furniture on the website... it looks like that is true 25mm compatible!

I couldn't, either, and I'll mention it to Tim next time I e-mail him. I suspect he's so busy making new products that he simply hasn't updated his website yet.

He e-mailed to let me know that he'd restocked his line at The Source - I have my spiral staircases! - and he mentioned that he has a tavern furniture set and a graveyard set coming; there's a set of very nice coffins available, as well. I'll see if I can't get catalog numbers and descriptions for you.

Size-wise, yes, I think that all of the line looks good next to my 25mm Ral Parthas and other figures from Ye Olden Dayes. I also - following up on your comment - compared them to some of the newer 28mm figures I have, and while some of the furniture looks small - the stools, specifically - the rest of the line seems to look fine with them as well.

Personally, I prefer 'scenery' items to be a little 'scaled down', as they take up less room on the game table that way. My buildings and such are a little 'under scale' for my 28s, but just fine for the smaller 'true 25' figures; I prefer to have more buildings and their contents on the table, as the variety provides for more fun and chances for misadventure for the players. I find that the stools, as well as the tables and benches, look to be just the right size to be used in a melee - they look good in the miniature's hand, and seem to be, in my eyes, just the right size to throw across a crowded room to help a comrade who's being menaced by the bad guys.

(One thing I might do is put some of my tiny rare-earth magnets in the bottoms of the stools, as they are very light and easy to move, and hide steel plates under all of my carpets...)

I really, really like this line! I get a lot of satisfaction from assembling the kits; they go together in no time flat, and look really good 'as is'. I did get a second set of both kits of crates - you never, ever, have enough crates, boxes, barrels, huge jars, etc., etc. for the players to explore! - and built them with the lids in the open position. More possibilities, that way!

Widening the scope a bit, I free mix 25mm and 28mm figures on my game table. I tend not to mix them in units, mostly because I tend to order unit-sized lots, but they look all right when you have them milling around on the table - and when the game really gets going hot and heavy, nobody seems to notice the difference at all; we're just too much into the action!

The Weekly Update - March 2nd, 2016 - Part Two: Video Production

The game lounge and room, looking north to south;
new track lights in place
The game room itself;
more new track lights

The game lounge - overview
The game lounge - more new lighting

And now, a comment:

Evan Darrow - February 23, 2016 at 8:05 PM
Are there any plans to do more of the gameplay videos like the four-part series you posted on youtube? It was awesome to watch and they dont seem like they'd be all that much more work beyond the game itself (and rendering the videos).

Yes, I would certainly like to do more of these! I enjoy doing them, and people seem to have fun playing in my games - something about the old style of play that I use seems to amuse people.

Production on these is pretty straightforward; we use a Sony 'Bloggie' camera in a one-camera shoot, and let the camera do as much of the work as possible. We don't edit or modify any of the videos; the Bloggie records to digital, and we simply upload the half-hour segments - the Bloggie only records in half-hour chunks - to the YouTube channel. We think that the half-hour segments make the programs a little more 'digestible' for viewers. Audio seems fine, too.

The problem is staffing; I really can't run both the camera and the game at the same time, so I'm planning on having a dedicated technician to the latter to let me focus on the former.

It also makes a huge difference that I've had some twenty years of video production work under my belt; one of the big things that make these little videos work well is that I've put a lot of effort and resources into making the game room both the very best game room that I can provide for my players, and to make it the most efficient video production studio possible so that I can forget about the technical details and get on with the game.

I've put a lot of work into the new(ish) track lights; I formerly had two IKEA three-lamp fixtures in the game room, and this did work - but was very inflexible. So, I did some swapping of gear from all around our little house; I moved two set of track lights down from our second floor library and bed- / sitting-room, and moved the IKEA fixtures upstairs to replace them. All of the track lights are individually switchable, individually moveable, and on dimmers - two for the room, one for the game table. I usually spend some time setting the lighting before the game, looking through the camera ( the camera 'sees' differently then the human eye does) and getting all the lighting levels set up for the best possible video.

Once that's done, then it's more or less a normal game day.

So, all I need to do is get some players in, and we'll be off! :)

(Historical footnote: The track lights over the game table were from my days at Adventure Games, working for Dave Arneson; they are from the old AGI trade show booth, and were a way to have a little bit of Dave in the game room... )

The Weekly Update - March 2, 2016 - Part One: There's A Lot Going On, Here!

Something from Dave Wesely;
A good solid little set of medieval rules

Bases, beds, and beyond;
more from TRE Games

There is a lot going on, here at the Workbench, and I've got three posts for you; two comments came in on the last update that really need longer answers, so these will follow in a bit.

First off, I bumped into Dave Wesley, the creator of Braunstein, and he had copies of the set of rules that some fans had put out a while back. I got a copy, and he was kind enough to autograph it for me. It's the first one he sold, of the first print run of this edition, and I'm delighted to have a copy for my library.

I also got the new 'low beds' kit from TRE Games; more on that in a moment. I really like these kits; they are easy to assemble, look really nice, and are very, very staisfying to make and use. I really like them, and I'll have more on the line. I also saw his new 28mm windmill kit, and it's simply spectacular!

Also from TRE Games are some bases with details etched into them. He offers these in a variety of sizes and shapes; I use 25mm rounds for my RPG / personality humans, so these re very welcome. Two varieties of stone flooring, and one of planking; I'll be using these for the very special figures in the collection - photos to follow!

Right! Onward!