Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Third Option - The Weekly Update - February 25th, 2018


One of the people commenting on the recent posts I've been making had a very, very good comment tonight that really does a much better job of articulating what's been going on in my life - both real world and gaming world - for the past few years, and I'd like to share it with you; it's also in the comments section of the post on Watching The World Go By:

From Scott Anderson:

+Chirine ba Kal What it matters is people are demanding that other people play differently;

-to include some hypothetical group of people who don't actually exist in the form these agitators imagine

-without examining how you or I actually play now
-presuming we are bad because of our age, sex, and other demographics
-and attempting to change the hobby to exclude the people they imagine us to be in favor of the imaginary people they wish existed.

On each of these points, I am deeply offended, and especially so on the very first: how dare anyone not at my table tell me how to play?

You may believe you are inoculated against these attacks, but you aren't. At some point you will have to make a choice between standing by the principle of true inclusiveness, which you exhibit, and playing the game this Inquisition demands. And speaking from experience, that's a game you cannot win.

It's good that for most of us, this is hypothetical; no one is able to force their game on us. But it's deeply offensive that they would try it, and that WotC would actively participate and applaud.

These are points that I agree with; I try very hard not to judge people by any preconceived notions I might have, and I would have expected to get the same consideration in return. I've had all too many incidents over the decades where I have not, and it's finally come to a head.

I am very fully aware that I am not inoculated against attacks from people; this is the age of the Internet, after all. I do think that, over the past year, I have made my choice about what I want to do in my gaming and in my 'public appearances', both in person and on line; I choose to stay with my principles and my beliefs, and if that bothers people, then so be it.

I've had the Inquisition in a few times, and we've beaten them off; we'll still be doing that. Would-be 'Game Police' should be warned that while The Missus and I try not to start 'em, we do tend to finish 'em; I've outlived a lot of my detractors, and I expect to outlive a few more.

I'm also choosing to exercise the third option open to me. "No gaming is better then bad gaming", as my old friend Mike Mornard likes to say,  so from this point on I will not be doing any gaming that I do not find personally enjoyable. This is both for the games I play and run, and for the various places that I go on the Internet. I am continually surprised by the people who insist that I have to game the way that they want me to, say the things they want me to say, and do the things that they want me to do for them.

So, while I've done an awful lot of things for an awful lot of people for free over the years, that's over and done with. I choose to put our resources into what The Missus and I enjoy and like, and if people want to come along for the fun, they are certainly welcome to. I have my writing and my model-building, and she has her writing and her crafts; we'll be happy to share, as long as people are interested and remember to say 'thank you' once in a while.

I'll continue the RPGsite thread for as long as people want to ask me questions, and when interest dies off we'll say goodbye with no regrets. This blog and my musings will continue, as I start a new and wonderful chapter in my gaming story with everyone having remote access to my game table. I'm looking forward to it, and I hope to have it all up and running soon.

Thank you all again, and I'll look forward to meeting all of you electronically...

A Pause For The Weather...

The view out the front door...

The flock, in winter

Things are going slowly today; I had another eight inches of snow to deal with, as well as the usual weekend housework. The Bug is off the street - we get plowed tonight - and I have to move it back at 0800 tomorrow morning.

I hope to be back later on today; we shall have to see. In the meantime, thank you all once again for your comments - I find them fascinating!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Ahhh, What's 'thaco'? - Some Notes, For Reference...

First off, tonight, thank you all for your comments! I've been working an odd combination of shifts as well as dealing with our local back-to-back snowstorms - four inches Friday, possibly four to eight inches today - so I suspect I'll be back with more sentient comments and replies tomorrow and then we'll get back to the usual course of things hereabouts.

I'm still thinking about getting into the comments and observations my recent 'open letter' has elicited. I'm seeing an issue - not with the commentators, but with me - that I may not have the vocabulary or gaming experience to be able to offer any useful observations on the larger world of the modern gaming hobby.

This introspection was brought on by one commentator who observed that they felt my having played "something called Blackmoor, something called Greyhawk, and something called Tekumel" was a form of boasting. Perhaps; I meant it as a statement of fact. I have never played any of the various editions of D&D that have been around, from the 'white box' set on. When I played with The Dynamic Duo, there weren't copies of The Rules at the game table; they ran whatever they were doing off the top of their heads, and if they ever looked at The Rules it was very unusual. They 'winged it', and our assumption as players was that the GM ran the game, and we provided the adventure. (And a lot of low comedy, usually.) I have not played Gamma World, Traveller, GURPS, or any of the other games that the folks commenting have mentioned. I've been playing the same few published games (Chainmail and EPT, are examples) for decades, a) because they work just fine for me and my players, and b) I play world-settings, not rules systems. (Braunsteins, on the other hand, I learned by oral tradition from The Tribal Elders.)

When I say "something called Blackmoor, something called Greyhawk, and something called Tekumel" I am using Dave Arneson's own phrase:

Me: "Dave, what are we playing?"
Dave: "Something I came up with called Blackmoor."
Me: "Oh. Okay."

Remember the player at that Gen Con who showed up with every book from every edition of D&D?

Player: "So, Mr. Arneson, what edition are we using?"
Dave, proffering a hand to shake: "Hi! I'm Dave Arneson, nice to meet you!"

Yes, I do understand the importance of game mechanics - I've written a few, over the years - but I don't worry too much about them as I play as can be seen in my YouTube videos. So, I am not sure that I have much to add to the quite fascinating discussion that's taken place, or if any observations by Yours Truly would be of any help.

And I do love a good discussion. Over on the RPG forum that I'm still on, I've been lucky enough to have the site owners and the members let me have a 'corner booth' for an on-going dialog:

These are basically me be ing propped up in a corner, and answering all of the questions people put to me. Part One went to 600 pages, 5,999 posts, and 254,857 views; Part Two is currently at 235 pages, 2,344 posts, and 79,354 views. (The thread had to be cut into two sections, as it was slowing down the web site's server.) I am, quite genuinely, utterly astonished that the discussion has been going on now for over a year. I have no real idea why; I just hope that I'm not boring people to tears with my ruminations.

I also don't have the same kind of game-play experience that most people these days seem to. I don't like 'one-off' games that come and go in the blink of a convention or game day, and I prefer long-term campaign gaming where the GM gets the chance to develop his world-setting and we players get to develop our characters in that setting. We never paid much attention to 'experience points', as we played with some very tough and very clever GMs who rated us on simple survival more then anything else.

So, again, I don;t know if I'll wade into the discussion; we'll see, tomorrow.

In the meantime, it's back to the paintbrushes and the snow shovel...

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Watching The World Go By; Thoughts And Observations

My miniature alter ego and his deck chair, circa 1978

A couple of regular readers have asked what prompted yesterday's 'Open Letter'; It's the result of the proverbial 'straw that broke the camel's back', after some years - decades, really - of getting grief for what I believe in and what I've done over time. As a certain sailor that I grew up with used to say, "I've had all I can stands, and I can't stands no more!"

I've been watching the discussion that's been going on, over on Google+, and I'd like to suggest that anyone interested in gaming scroll through the comments to the one from Chgowiz about not really looking at blogs any more; I agree with him, but what I really want people to read - and absorb! - is his philosophy of gaming. It's the very best description of what people did back in the dawn of the hobby, and what I treasure in gaming.

So, 'on getting grief from people', and why I'm such a cranky old codger; let's look at a few of the straws that the poor old camel has accumulated, over the years...

Back before I married The Missus, I had a girlfriend. We had a pretty good relationship, but one of the biggest reasons why it foundered was the very negative reaction to our skin colors. We were what used to be called a 'salt-and-pepper couple', and quite a few of the people we met in the course of our lives had quite negative things to say about the two of us because of that. Later on, quite a few people - some of the same ones, too - objected to The Missus, as they felt she wasn't a suitable match for Yours Truly. (We've been together now for some thirty years.) So much for the vaunted 'Minnesota Nice'.

Regular readers will recall that I have five daughters, all of whom were adopted and each under their individual terms and conditions; we chose to be a family, and my kids are from all across every possible range of every possible spectrum. The Missus and I accepted them for who they are, not what they are, and we got a lot of grief from people we knew for doing so. My least favorite quote from a now-former friend: "Why do you spend so much time with them? They aren't your real kids, you know!"

I use miniatures in RPG games. This is, I gather, some sort of Dire Heresy. And, to make it worse, I still play the games that I played back in the day, and don't play the hottest newest thing in the business. I am, I am told, Not A Serious Gamer both for this and for using plastic figures in games that are Not Serious Games Played By Serious Gamers As Part Of A Serious Game Group.

I'm told that I oppress gays in my games, and that Prof. Barker oppressed gays in his games because he was a devout Muslim. This is news to both myself and many of Phil's gamers, as we never saw anything of the sort. I did go back and check the notes, transcripts, and audio tapes of both his and my game sessions, and I can't find anything of the sort.

I'm told that I oppress pagans, by making them game with evangelical Christians. Again, this is news to me; I don't ask what beliefs people hold when they game with me.

I'm told that I hate women and that I repress them. Back when I ran a production crew, I hired the best people I could find. It turned out that over half of them were women, and they were some of the very best technicians I ever worked with. I got a lot of grief from (male) people for doing this, which still baffles me.

I'm told that my blog is "A detriment to our business interests", and that "You need to be silenced"; one OSR publisher who told me that did so in an e-mail, following it up with a bribe; if I would submit any blog or forum posts to them for them to edit, they'd gave me trips to Gary Con and North Texas RPG Con. I declined to submit to their censorship, as I prefer to stay independent; if you look at my reviews of stuff, you'll note that I pay for what I get - no freebies. I am beholden to nobody, and I like it that way.

When I started doing this blog, years ago, all I intended was having a small corner of the Internet where I could tell you about the fun we had out at Phil's, and show you my miniatures. That's what it will continue to be, and if you can take away anything to use in your games from it, then I am happy. If you don't, that's just as fine with me, and I hope that you have fun with whatever games you play.

I haven't been enjoying the 5th Edition game I've been in until recently, when I got do have some of my kind of fun by doing miniature figures for all my fellow PCs. I really enjoyed their reactions; it made getting reamed a new one by a 5e Expert for dragging the party down by not being an expert in the rules of having a laptop / tablet / smart phone with the right apps on it for managing my own PC and being told that I should not be playing in the game because of this. "Okay," I said, "If I'm ruining the game for you, I'm out." I handed my character sheet to the GM, and that - I thought - was that. Later, the GM apologized, and the group asked me back; I thought that pretty decent of them, and so I'm enjoying some fun with some new friends.

And that, for me, is what gaming is all about. And what this blog with continue to be all about, if I have anything to say about it.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy this little effort.

An Open Letter To Mike Mearls at Wizards of the Coast...

Dear Mr. Mearls:

I am writing in response to a number of Twitter posts I've seen go by on the Internet from you, and in response to the whooping and hollering on the Internet that seems to have resulted from them.

I doubt that you know me, or know of this little blog. By way of an introduction, until very recently I'd never played any of your firm's products - "Dungeons and Dragons", to be specific. My role-playing experience, over the last forty years, was something called 'Blackmoor' with Dave Arneson, something called 'Tekumel' with Prof. M. A. R. Barker, and something called 'Greyhawk' with Gary Gygax; I have recently been playing your D&D Fifth Edition rules with a local game-master at the local game store.

Based on my gaming experience, I found your comment that men who use complex and 'lore-heavy' rules to keep women out of the tabletop RPG hobby rather odd - I find your D&D Fifth Edition so complex and 'lore heavy' that I am not enjoying the game mechanics or the material in the books. The GM works very hard to keep things moving, but my personal feeling is that when the players have to keep laptops, tablets, and smart phones with specialized applications open at the table in the course of the game just to keep track of the game mechanics, there may just be an issue. In light of that, you may want to rethink your recent statements.

Likewise, regarding your concerns about inclusiveness, especially regarding women in gaming, I think you may be a little late to the party. Speaking as one of the 'elderly white males' you've referred to, you may want to have a look at the photo at the top of this blog post. That was my gaming group, for more then a decade; before that, our gaming group out at Prof. Barker's looked much the same. Five women, three men, two 'people of color'; 'inclusiveness', here at my game table, means that anyone can play. That's the way I've always had game groups running, and the way I always will.

I think you mean well, Mr. Mearls; I just think you need to think before you Twitter...


Jeff Berry, aka Chirine ba Kal.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Bad News, Middling News, and Good News - The Weekly Update - Monday, February 19th, 2018

Last week was not what I'd call a good one, and so this update is more housekeeping then anything else. I'll be back later this week with more entertaining posts, but this one is going to be a little introspective.

Got the news that mid-week an old friend died suddenly; we'd managed to reconnect recently, and it was a shock for all of us in the old gaming group to hear of his passing. He'd complained of chest pains that he'd thought were heartburn; it seems it was a massive coronary.

On the other hand, another old friend got through his heart surgery, to fix a valve. He's tired, and lethargic, but he's still with us.

My co-worker who's been sick with the flu for the past two weeks and out of work is back, and we're doing our best to look after him as best we can.

The van failed to start tonight, so we're in the lifeboat / bug for now. Which is why we bought it, after all.

No, I did not go to the local game convention, Con of the North. Instead, I had a lovely Saturday with old friends, who also didn't go to the convention, and a just as lovely Sunday with my brother and nephew who did.

By the by, I do recommend both Con of the North, here locally, and U-Con in Michigan; both are good, solid, well-run conventions, and both feature wonderful tracks of programming and gaming devoted to Tekumel run by long-time fans of Phil's creation.

"So," I hear you ask, "why don't you go?" Pretty simply, the logistics. My style of gaming uses up a lot of room and time at the convention, and is a lot of energy and stamina to put on. Neither really fits into the way modern gaming works, and both sets of organizers do a wonderful job of presenting Tekumel in a gaming context that works for modern gamers. So, I suggest going to them; they are worth it.

I will be back the end of the week wth more photos of my miniatures; real-life is getting in the way, and I hope to get back in the groove shortly...

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Lifeboat, The Ship, And Some Stuff Got Done - The Weekly Update - Sunday, February 11th, 2018

The Lifeboat

The Ship

It's been a long week, with people being sick at work and me having to cover, but we're starting off a new week pretty nicely; the VW is here, and will go off to the garage to be checked out and a tire fixed. The poor old van is finally back, after a two-week stay at the garage to finally get the issues with it starting resolved. One new radiator, one new ignition coil,  one new distributor cap and rotor, and what may have been the root cause of the problem a new 'crank sensor'. The van now starts first time, every time, which is not bad for a vehicle with 338,100 miles on the clock. I'm also $1,200 poorer, but at least the problem is fixed. (I hope.)

In other news, I've been able to get some time to slap some paint on the new Dark Fable 'Anubis' figures, and I'll have photos up shortly; I've just run out of time, this weekend. I think they look better then the photos on the campaign might indicate, but that may be just my old-fashioned tastes in figures.

I had a very bad scare with the 'standing genie' figure. While gluing her separate left forearm to the figure, her tiny (2mm, maybe) wrist broke and I had a very bad fifteen minutes looking for the very tiny part. I did, and already had rescued her hand, and after a little work with an emery board to get a good, flat, and polished joint managed to get her all back together. Quite the scare, though!

I'll have more photos of my old figures for you this week, if people are interested...

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Custom Of The House - Some NPCs

Harchar, his officers, and a pair of wizards;

People we know;

The Tlakotani;
Some people from the Garden of the Weeping Snows.

We met a lot of people in our adventures with Phil in his world, and we liked to have them on the table with us. So...

1a: Dave Arneson and his crew - Staffswinger, Swordswinger, Harchar, Fishface, and Hardtack the purser. (The first two got their names from the figures I used for them; Dave gave the latter two their names, based on their stats and occupations.)

1b: Two of the Undying Wizards, Thomar and Turshanmu.

2. The extended family: Ah Ti Ko, Si N'te, Nyssa, Tsahul, Mridan Vishetru.

3a. Deq Dimani, and the Tlakotani - Eselne, Mridobu, Ma'in.

3b. A friend and wonderful author: Kyrinn Eis Ebbridda, which I include to show that The Custom of the House is still in good health. (This figure is one of a matched pair; this is the Tekumelyani version, and Kyrinn has the Urutsk version.)

4. Some of the folks we met while visiting the Garden of the Weeping Snows. I also have a squad of the Pale Legion, too.

Lots of conversions, done from the figures I could get. Lots of Ral Partha figures, of course; can you spot the one from Superior Miniatures? Or what line that dear old rascal Harchar is from?

As you might guess, we used a lot of miniatures in Phil's games, and I enjoyed the look on his face when I'd pass the box of new ones up the table to him. If I may immodestly quote him...

"Chirine makes the most clever little miniatures!"

Thank you, Phil. I'll take that one, coming as it did from a master himself... :)

Next up? I don't know; maybe the priests and priestesses of the Twenty that I did for our games?

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Custom Of The House Continued - The Weekly Update - Monday, February 5th, 2018

Nothing like a bit of zombie-bashing to start with...
Entering the maze and mapping it out...
And, of course, things go sour...
Ever tried running to somebody's rescue in a maze?

If I may be permitted a short pause in the historical account, my 5e group (I am the GM when they visit Tekumel, and a player when we go back home to Blackmoor; my co-GM does the reverse as we share the duties) met yesterday and the new figures for the player-characters went over a treat. Everybody liked them - one player specified a different hair color, but that's no problem - and we used them in what's for me the 'traditional' way; as a tactical display on the table. My co-GM has a huge collection of really big battlemats that puts my collection of flip-chart graph paper to shame, and we played on that. I like to have the maps already made up, as it does save time in the game, but his approach worked out very well in this game session as we were going into a maze that had to be mapped out as we went along.

Things did go rather pear-shaped, as Alan Tichmarsh would say, and we then spent a bit of time running around in the maze trying to rescue our endangered party members. It all ended well, if you don't mind starting the next game session in a maze; I took lots of photos to accurately document where we all were, on the small Sony CyberShot I keep in my briefcase for game sessions.

Which, if I may enthuse for a moment, is the wonder and joy of digital cameras. Quite a while back, The Missus got me a Sony Mavica (MVC-FD97, to be exact) and this has been my workhorse camera for years. The 20x lens package is taken from Sony's line of video lenses, and is really useful for my photo-documentation. Back in the day, getting a camera - let along getting it to a game session! - was both difficult and expensive. These days, it's very easy, and very practical. The FD-97 has been joined by both a vintage FD-95 (A surplus purchase, new in the box; it's a spare and back-up unit) and a really neat pocket camera, a Sony CyberShot DSC-V1; this latter has a lens package that's not as good as the Mavicashave, but the incredible size of the storage media and the high quality of the images makes this my preferred game session camera with the Mavicas becoming my preferred 'studio' cameras.

I had a very good time; I am not what I'd call an 'active' player, as I tend to spend a lot of the time thinking tactically and looking to our flanks and rear to make sure that nobody dry-gulches us. The other players seem to like this, as I'm always ready to let them take the lead but am always ready to lumber to the rescue in all my steel-armored might. The next game session is at the end of March, after my co-GM finishes up with his convention commitments, and I'll have more then.

In the meantime, I'll get out some NPC figures and get some photos shot for you, shall I?