Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Making My Dreams Come True (II) - Turning The Tables

30" by 60", 30" tall. Four of, as they say in the army.

One of the age-old issues I've run into as a gamer has been getting the right tables for games. Most convention and event venues have round tables, intended for banquets and other food functions, and miniatures gaming usually needs square or rectangular tables. I ran into this problem as recently as this past spring at the local game convention, where the game's runner had asked for four tables like the one above, and got a five-foot round by the time the hotel set-up people had set the room. I was able to help with that, as I 'speak hotel' and 'convention committee', and so we got the tables we needed.

For over a decade, I've had three of my own 30" x 60" tables - again, like the one above - and I've more or less standardized on them as gaming tables for my larger games. I'd been wanting to get a fourth for some time - like, right after the recent local convention, but prices have gone from $25 to $50 each for these tables over the past decade and that's a bit steep for my wallet. Enter surplus sales: I was able to get my fourth table last week, in very good shape and for $25. I am, as you might imagine, pretty pleased!

So, yet another of my dreams has come true. I can now run any of my games any time, any place, just the way I want them. I have already built and run Phil's two miniatures games that he published in "The Dragon", Chanis and Ry, and I also have our fights at Castle Tilketl and Anch'ke built as well. (Not to mention the fight with the Hlutrgu, too!) I'm going to build our epic fight at Third Mar, which really does need the bigger table, and perhaps some of the other battles we fought out at Phil's on his tables.

So, lots more to come, and lots more fights to win! Hurrah!!!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Making My Dreams Come True - The Weekly Update for Monday, October 30th, 2017

The stuff that dreams are made of...

It was a sort of unhappy week last week here at the Workbench, with some bad news about people we know coming across the wires, but things perked up considerably over the weekend; one daughter helped another move, and after several trips with  four ferrets,  one bunny, and Skipper the Three-Legged Cat, everything got moved and only the cleaning remains. It's her first real house, and it was a lot of fun to get her installed. I also got more figures painted while I sat by Fifth Daughter's game group getting into trouble, which is always relaxing and a tonic.

As I've mentioned once in a while, I've put in the past forty years making other peoples' dreams happen - like in gaming with Dave Arneson at Adventure Games - and I've learned a few lessons along the way. Who can be trusted, who can be relied on when the chips are down, how to manage events, and how to make things both organized and easier to deal with.

Back in earlier years of my working life, I built some of the first teleconferencing and distance learning systems that were being installed here in the Twin Cities. One of my dreams has always been a desire to combine that kind of technology with my gaming, so that people need not travel all the way up here to the Northwoods to game with me.

That dream came true, this past weekend. A friend, who is another one of us surplus bargain hunters, needed some help with a couple of projects; he traded me one of his surplus finds, a video production rack full of equipment, for my time and effort. This rack is one of those stand-alone room systems, and has all of the gear to integrate all of my existing equipment into a complete video production facility; I can wire the game room once,  and then record game sessions and upload them to the Internet - or run live on the Internet, and have people call in on the phone and 'appear' remotely as players. And I can do things like the DVD I've been planning for the new edition of my miniatures rules - a reader noted that I would need to write the rules in such a way as to teach them to players, as I could not be there to teach them. My response was to provide a DVD (or YouTube video, for that matter) in which I run a game to show how the game works 'on the table'. He thought it was an amazingly good idea, so that's what we'll do.

So, that's the first dream come true. Others are as well, and I'll keep all of you posted as they happen - and I get photos shot... :)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Please Consider Helping, If You Can...


No, I don't know Stacy. No, I don't think she knows me, either. We found out about this earlier this week and The Missus, who is a breast cancer survivor, thought I should say something and I agree with her. An RPGer needs our help, and if you can , here's the link to the cancer fund - as we know, copays are pretty expensive.

Thanks for your time in reading this, and if you can help, thank you from both me and The Missus.

Friday, October 27, 2017

For Tim Knight - An Answer To Your Questions

That's me. Jeff Berry. Himself.

One of the oddities of my computer is that it's too old to run a browser that Google+ recognizes socially. (This too shall change, in the fullness of time.) One of the long-time readers of this blog sent me a message via Google+, which messages I can read but not directly reply to. So, here's a reply to Tim, with my answers interleaved with his text...

From: Tim Knight  Oct 27, 8:43 AM

Dear Chirine (apologies, after all these years of 'knowing' you, I don't know your non-Tekumel name!),

Jeff Berry. An odd part of my relationship with Phil (Prof, Barker) was that he always called me 'Chirine', never - with one exception - 'Jeff'.

I've published my HeroPress blog for 10 years. The other year I ran a series of 'profiles' of bloggers, under the banner of SIX OF THE BEST (as everyone answers the same six simple questions about their blog and blogging in general).

I'm about to launch a second wave of profiles and was wondering if you would be willing to participate? (You can find links to the first wave here: http://heropresstwo.blogspot.co.uk/p/six-of-best-interviews_15.html)

Sure; be happy to!

If you are, please answer the questions below and send them back to me in your own time. If you have any images you'd like me to use (I usually run three or four with the interviews), please feel free to send them as attachments - otherwise I'm more than happy to source my own.

Feel free to use anything from this blog or my Photobucket page. Otherwise, let me know what you'd like to see, and I'll dig something up for you.

The questions are:
(1) How long have been blogging, and how’d you get into it in the first place?

Heck, I don't really know. The original version of this little effort got started some eight years ago, I  think. I started this as a way to talk about gaming with Phil in his creation, and it went on from there. There was a lot of blogging going n back then, and I thought it might be fun.

(2) What do you blog about, and how frequently do you post?

My gaming, my miniatures, my adventures, and life in general.

(3) How does your blog stand out from all the rest?

No idea. Seriously. I think about the only really 'unique' feature of this blog is that it's the on-going story of Phil's original Thursday night gaming group, with ran from 1976 to 1988.

(4) What’s the best (and worst) thing about blogging?

Being able to talk with people about our adventures. Trying to say something intellegnt on a regular basis.

(5) Do you have any self-imposed rules (or guidelines) for your blog?

Yes, very much so. See the 'Pages' section for this, where I have 'The Rules Of Engagement'.

(6) Name one blog everyone should be reading (other than your own).

Tenkar's Tavern, for gamers; yours, for fans in general.

I cannot stress enough that this isn't a financial deal, there's no pressure, no advertising, no obligation. It is primarily a bit of fun to spread the love of blogging and our geeky hobbies.

Sounds good to me!

I look forward to hearing from you, whether you're participating, want to know more, or just telling me to sling my hook.

Well, here you go. Does this help?

- Chirine / Jeff

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Weekly Update - The Van Is Back, and Why I'm Not *Playing* Games Anymore

The Book of Job, Chapter 39, Verse 24 seems appropriate.

Saying 'Thank You" to a great player...

The good news, for people who follow our misadventures, is that the van is back. The Missus, bless her, found a place that could get it up and running for what we and our insurance company could afford. So, the old warhorse is back in action, holding the line for a year while we work on getting a new car to get around in. I am pretty happy; it's been a miserable week.

Bob Meyer, 'Robert the Bald' to you Blackmoor fans, ran a Blackmoor game today at The Source; Bob inherited The Original Blackmoor Campaign from Dave Arneson after the latter passed away, by the express wish of same. Bob occasionally runs games, and maintains that original tone and color that made our gaming with Dave in his creation so fun and memorable.

I didn't play in the game; my daughter had her usual Sunday game group, and I had my 'alternate Workbench' off to one side where I had a great afternoon painting miniatures and listening to the mayhem going on off to my flank. I also organized cake and ice cream for one of the players / GMs who had a birthday today; this was one of the wonderfully gifted players who made my game sessions at The Source's 'Free RPG Day' so much fun and so memorable. The cake and ice cream went over very well, and the cast chocolate "Star Wars" candies provided by the Missus were particularly welcomed by the ravening hordes.

And, in a wonderful moment, Bob and the Blackmoor players came over and sang "Happy Birthday" to the Guest of Honor. Couldn't ask for better, really!!!

Today's not playing marks the first time I've declined a game in quite a while. I've made the decision, after my recent experiences in playing D&D 5e and having been bombarded by a number of gaming-related unpleasant incidents both on-line and in recent months, to not play in games any more. I will still run games, and still continue to write about them, but I just seem to have lost all interest in playing in them. I will still continue to build my models and paint my miniature figures, but the emphasis is no longer on being able to have cool stuff for game sessions but instead to have cool stuff for inclusion in "To Serve The Petal Throne".

I think a big part of this decision is due to the legal hassles I've faced and the annoyance I've had to deal with over my gaming. It's gotten old, and I'm tired of it. I don't need to run games to have fun, and I suspect some folks have not been able to understand that. Too bad for them. I am delighted that people have so much fun in their games, and I'll be delighted to support them as we move along; my participation in gaming is going to be on my terms, and for my enjoyment from now on.

And no, I don't think I'm throwing the baby out with the bath water; I'll still run games for people who ask me too, as this seems to be a successful thing for everyone involved; I just am not  playing in other people's games, at this point. We go on; lots of fun stuff going on, and I'll keep everyone updated!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

An Essay, of Sorts: An Answer For Jeff B. Regarding 5e...

From Sunday's game session
I got a comment on the Sept. 18th post that I thought deserved a longer and better reply:

If you could modify 5e to your tastes, what would you change?

In a nutshell, simplify and add lightness. The stack of books that seem to be the game boggled me, for starters, and then reading through them got me wondering how I'd be able to keep it all straight in my head during a game.  It came to me that some of the players can do this, and others use apps to do it for them; what I found annoying was the plethora of races, classes, sub-classes, factions, and all of the special rules that went along with each. Now, some of the player do have all this down cold; one, in particular, kept reminding the GM of some special rule or calculation throughout the course of the game and I thought that it really slowed down the pace of the game to have to hit the 'pause' button while the smart phones and tables came out to run the numbers.

I'm sorry, but I don't regard this as much fun; I came to play in an RPG, not take a course in higher algebra. I have very limited amounts of free time and energy, and I found all the special rules just too much to keep my interest and energy going in the game.

I do want to be fair to the GM; he was trying very hard to keep the game going while playing the rules as published. I found this admirable; I also find that I much prefer the way that they GMs in Fifth Daughter's game group routinely leave the rules in the book and rune 'rules lite' in their games. They use the rules as a tool, not as an objective.

I genuinely don't know if one could have a version of 5e that appeals to me; I'm used to the way that some old guys used to play, which was very 'rules lite' and very heavy on role-playing and not roll-playing. I guess I'm saying 'Less rules, more adventure.'

Again, in fairness to the GM and the players in this group, I want to be clear that I had no issues with their play style or anything; I just had no idea what they were talking about, most of the time, or hat all the calculations were all about.

I should also mention that the GM and players have invited me to be part of their next game session, in November, as a sort of 'associate GM'; they want to visit the world of the Petal Throne, and they want me to run it for them. The campaign's regular GM will handle the rules; I will handle the world setting for them. 

I have hopes, and I will report back on what happens.

The Weekly Update - Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 - Losing The Old Warhorse

The Scene Of The Crime

First, the bad news, then the good news:

I came out of work last night, and found that some thoughtful person or persons unknown had stolen the catalytic converter off the van while it was parked in the street next to my building. I called the police, as I would need to have a report for my insurance company, and it got to be a very late night out. The police were very helpful, though, if a little deafened by the thunder of six cylinders all roaring away. The Missus in Not Amused, as she shelled out some $2,000 for repairs after our trip to CinncyCon to keep the old warhorse running.

The van has now been seen by our insurance company, and has been declared a total loss as the 'book value' of a ten-year-old cargo van with 335,000 miles on it is less then the cost of getting the converter replaced. We've been offered $425 if we keep it, $825 if they scrap it, so The Missus is running the numbers to see if we can get a cheap ($1,000 or less) fix to keep us going or if we can find a used car for cheap. One complication is that the used dishwasher that Second Daughter was going to take for her new house is still in the back of the van, so we may have to 'borrow' it long enough to deliver the goods - unless we can find somebody with a pickup or something.

Net result, we're probably going to lose our 'heavy lift capability' that we've had for over a decade, as I don't think we'll be able to get anything larger then a regular type of car with our current budget. We're not particularly worried by this, as our need for this capability lapsed with the cancellation of the proposed Tekumel Room at Gary Con a while back; we needed cheap - read 'in-house' - lift to make that event really happen, and with it being highly unlikely that we'll ever need to do it again we really don't need to keep nursing the old warhorse along. I had a feeling, after the CinncyCon trip, that that excursion was going to be ours and the van's swan song; it took us a month to recover from the journey, and we had to put almost $2,000 into repairs to keep the van running afterwards.

While we had been hoping to get one more year out of the van, we have been preparing for it's eventual demise for over a year. All of the 'trade show booth' gear we've been building up will fit in a standard car, and if we we're being booked for a really splashy show - we can put on a show very much like the one done this past year for Gen Con about the history of RPG gaming, but specifically for Tekumel - there'll be a budget for renting a full-sized van to carry all the goodies to the show. Our plans for what we're doing in the future and how we do it are really focusing on "To Serve The Petal Throne" and we're more or less reconfiguring our in-house assets towards that end. Losing the van and the 'heavy lift' is not really a loss for us; we really haven't used it in years, except to help our friends out at CinncyCon, and we really don't want to keep putting money into a vehicle with all that mileage on it.

So, while I'm annoyed at the timing of all this - during my work week, and about a year earlier then we really wanted - we'll deal.

On the other hand, I had a really great time at The Source this past weekend. Fifth Daughter's game group was a hoot to listen to, as always, and then Dear Old Dad got called in to provide Sage Counsel And Advice on how to assemble and paint plastic figures. After that, it was off to dinner with old friends, which was a delight as always.

I also encountered one of my old players from my campaign, who wants to start their own game group and wants my help with that. Specifically, how to play in Ye Olde Style, and so I will have an Apprentice around the turn of the year. I'm looking forward to that - but I had better get the game room cleaned up!

So, some good news, some bad news. We've survived worse, and kept on going... :)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Another Update - Saturday, October 7th, 2017 - The Day The World Changed

Today's program book...

Today will, I suspect, be listed in my future Unauthorized Autobiography as The Day The World Changed. Eh? I can hear you say; that's a pretty dramatic statement, even for this blog. So, here's the deal...

The Daughter-in-Residence is, as has been noted, a big comics fan. She's never been to a comics convention here in the US (having loved abroad for many years) and she wanted to go to the local one that happened today. However, she wanted her dad to go with her, officially for moral support but actually to carry the heaps of comic books that she was sure to add to her collection. I will freely admit that I am not a comics fan, but when the daughter asks, the father does as best as he can. So, off we went; she had a great time, I nearly lost some fingers from the circulation being cut off, but everything went fine.

I had a most amazing and wonderful time. I was wandering around, doing a little browsing of the various sales tables, when I got into conversation with some very nice people about RPG gaming. They were astonished that I'd been there Back In The Day, and had played with Dave, Phil, and Gary. I had a lot of fun telling stories about them and their games, and what amazed me was just how many people really enjoyed hearing about how they ran their games. People actually took notes, which amazed me; I felt that the day was quite a success on all sorts of levels.

We also got to talking about the joys of being in  the digital publishing era, and that's when my world changed. As I've noted before, I am working on this little tome about our adventures in Phil's world where we had so many years of sheer terror and rollicking fun. One thing I had wanted to do was illustrate the book with photos of all our miniatures in action; I still have all of the figures I did for our games, and I thought it would be fun to be able to show my readers what we saw on Phil's game table - we used miniatures for 'tactical displays' as well as for the larger battles we fought out in his campaign.

A big part of the game sessions back in those far-off days was the row of artists along the north side of Phil's game table; Ken Fletcher, Kathy Marshall, Chris Huddle, Jim Garrison, to name a few. Every now and then, you'd hear some noise from over there, and shortly after a drawing would get passed around for people to admire. Phil added to these with his own drawings, and we published most of all of them in our 'zines, the Imperial Military Journal, The Journal Of Tekumel Affairs, and The Imperial Courier. Just like my frantically painting up the latest Dire Peril, these artists made gaming out at Phil's something truly special.

I want very much to convey to people the sense of sheer fun we had gaming with Phil, back in the late 1970s and through the 1980s - using the same miniatures we had will help, as will my accounts of our antics - er, adventures. I had been thinking about illustrations, and talking to my old gaming colleagues, when it hit me today - standing in the middle of this huge room, it suddenly hit me that besides being full of comic book, the room was full of the people who create them: artists.

So, in order to give all of you some feel for what those thursday nights were like for us in the original game group, I collected lots and lots of names, and took a lot of notes. I also got some prints, which I'll try to share here, and had a great time talking about Phil and his creation.

It was, in short, a marvelous day.

(Note: I am updating the "To Serve The Petal Throne" page to reflect today's developments.)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Weekly Update - Thursday, October 5th, 2017 - Dave Arneson Day, and Out With the New And In With The Old!

Well, I had fun...

There have been a few changes to the scene...

There didn't seem to be any local events going on for Dave Arneson Day, but my daughter's RPG group invited me to talk about the man himself - I told 'Dave Stories' for about two hours, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

The game room has been assuming what I suspect will be the final form for the place; I've added a lot of new shelving under the game table proper and removed the former 'accessories' drawers, replacing them with more shelving for my expanding Barsoom and Aegyptian miniatures. I'm returning to the kind of thing in gaming that I enjoy, and now that my energies are returning I'm able to act on this both in terms of the miniatures I love and in the 'physical plant' that we have in the game room.

I've also been able to get back to writing; I'm cranking out something like 1,000 to 2,000 words a night. Once again, the words are just seeming to flow - our adventures almost seem to write themselves!

We have a comics convention this weekend, followed by some more furniture moves; Sunday will see my daughter back in the thick of things with her game group, using Dad's dice collection. So, w're busy, but it's a good kind of busy!

More to come - and with photos, too!