Monday, March 26, 2018

Play Style: Gary Gygax - The Weekly Update (3) - Monday, March 26th, 2018

Still a classic RPG movie, I think.

We've come full circle in my gaming life, to Gary Gygax. This is actually the hardest post to write, as I have a lot less gaming 'face time' with Gary then I had with Dave and Phil; I really on saw him at conventions and after TSR stockholders' meetings, where I had been sent by Dave to annoy the Blume brothers with questions they they didn't really want to answer.

For Gary, I used to suggest an animated short film, "The Duel", as an example of Gary's skill at taking a premise and running with it. He was very, very good at this, and you were careful as a result. He was, I think, the 'middle ground' between Dave and Phil, with a little of Dave's 'improv' style and some of Phil's 'grand historical epic' school. He was very good, very quick, and very literate - the much-discussed 'Appendix N' was a list of the books and films that had inspired him, and it's still one of the best introductions to the genre that I can think of.

Which leads us to the two 1980s "Conan" movies. Yes, they both do have issues, but I think they do serve as example of what playing with Gary was like. A straight-foward tale of adventure and derring-do, with a dash of romance thrown in every now then to remind you why you were out having an adventure and why there were other things in an adventurer's life then loot.

If you have the time, get a bucket of popcorn, and sit down in front of the biggest screen you can find and watch "Conan the Barbarian: and "Conan the Destroyer". It's all about a couple of parties of adventurers off on quests, which is the heart and soul of this RPG thing we do.

Questions? Thoughts? How can I describe this better?

Play Style: M. A. R. Barker - The Weekly Update (2) - Monday, March 26th, 2018

Even more epic, 'cause it's historical...

Continuing in our EPIC! vein, gaming with Prof, Barker in his Tekumel. Again, I used to suggest a video, this one about the siege of Jotapata:

Being in the legions, back in the day, we did a lot of this kind of thing. But, as Phil's campaign matured, we spent more and more time in the culture and in society. Enter the historical epic of the Maratha soldier, Bajirao:

Phil loved this kind of thing, and regularly borrowed from 'real' history to fill out his 'created' history of Tekumel. As this story is a little more complicated, I'd suggest this review of the movie:

And again, a little taste; The Queen, Our Hero's wife, is not delighted by her husband's falling in love with another woman (even thought she's a princess from the next kingdom over from her own) but when the court exiles the new girl to the courtesans' quarters - which is an insult, frankly - the queen steps in and invites the princess to join her, thereby making the princess her friend, ally, and co-wife:

(Please note: you don't need subtitles; the acting is that good.)

This movie is Phil, at his best: Action! Adventure! Romance! His creation of Tekumel has been described by some gamers as "weird and inaccessible", but I disagree; this is all Phil, all the time, with all the life, love, excitement, and detail of something he'd been working on since 1948.

Sharpen your tulwar, get into your armor, and let's have an adventure! There's treasure to be found, battles to be fought, friends to help, mysteries to be solved, kingdoms to be won, and dreams to be dreamed!

Play Style: Dave Arneson - The Weekly Update (1) - Monday, March 26th, 2018

Not just 'epic', but EPIC!

The article about the game room over on Multiverse has resulted in more then a few questions coming my way, and chief amongst them is "What was it like to play with Dave/Gary/Phil?"

I'll try to answer that; I used to suggest a video clip on YouTube, the short film "The Duel At Blood Creek", as an eample of a typical Dave Arneson game, as it's got all sorts of detail, swordplay, great dialog, and a surprise ending that I won't spoil for you if you watch it. Eveything I'd expect from a game with Dave, and full of laughter and excitement with great dollops of sheer fun.

I have, I think, finally found something that really does give that true 'Arneson flavor'. May I commend to you the series of epic (and I do mean EPIC!) "Baahubali" films. For information on them, please see:

The series is all about the adventures of The Hero, and all of the Heroines and Sidekicks you'd ever want to see. I will not give you any spoilers; I will give you a taste of the world of "Baahubali", because it's just like what playing in Blackmoor was with Dave:

1) The Heroine is in Dire Peril; being a Heroine, she gets right down to slaughtering the bad guys, but can't get enough arrows into the air to stop them. Just as it looks grimmest, The Hero arrives...

2) The Villain, who really is a villain what with repressing the people and keeping The Hero's beloved mother in prison and tormenting her with stories about what he's going to do to her son if he shows up to rescue her, suddenly finds The Hero and his army outside the city; as the walls are impregnable, he feels safe, but, The Hero will rescue his beloved mother, no matter what...

When I say 'epic' gaming, I mean EPIC! gaming, which is what I learned from Dave.

If you can do flying shield walls in your adventures, you are playing in an 'Arnesonian' EPIC! style...


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Appearing On "Multiverse"...

The folks over at the new version of TSR have a blog, "Multiverse", where they talk about all sorts of things related to games and gaming - comics, and movies, too.

They have kind of a regular feature called "What's On Your Shelf?", and having heard about what's in our basement, made some noises about doing an article on the game room and lounge. I dug out some photos for them, shot some more, and this neat little article is the result:

Regular readers will have seen the game room being rebuilt into it's current form, but I'd thought I'd share... :)

And have a look at Multiverse, too! They have all sorts of fun stuff going on.

[Edit: Sorry about the lack of title, originally; that'll teach me to post while tired!]

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Weekly Update (3) - Sunday, March 18th, 2018 - Two Polycoms, No Waiting...

The one...

and the other...

So, I can hear you ask, "What's with all the technology?"

"It's remote access gaming," sez I in my best Peter Gunn pirate voice.

Back in my career as a audio-video technician, I built a lot of conference rooms for businesses, and got pretty good at it. So, The Missus thought, why not use our connections in the surplus market to get some of this technology, and use it to make our game room more accessible to people. So, we have.

The idea, at this point, is that if you and your game group want to visit our house and our game room you'd have to get to Minneapolis. Our thought is to take our house to you - electronically, of course. What's been our concern is the relatively poor technical quality of the audio and video that we've seen on the Internet, and we've been working on how to improve on that.

One aspect of this has been the new computer for the game room; it has it's own camera, but we're going to be interfacing our multi-camera system to it as well as our own audio feed; we're looking at providing the best possible feeds that we can. You'll be able to look at the game room on your computer, as well as look at the game session later on youTube after we upload the video - providing, of course, that everyone who's on the screen agrees; if you are having a bad hair day, we'll keep the recording in the archives.

What the Polycoms give us is much better and more reliable audio quality on your side of the connection; We have two of these units, and all they need from you is a wall plug and an analog phone line. We can also go through a cell phone, too. The idea is that you fire up the phone, after we send it to you, call up the game room, and we're off with up to ten or fifteen people at your game table. After the session, you put the phone back in the box, and end it back to us. (Shipping prepaid, most likely; we're working out the details.)

And with the possibility of adding in more lines for conference calls, you can see why we're so excited by all of this.

Surplus is a wonderful thing... :)

The Weekly Update (2) - Sunday, March 18th, 2018 - A Tale Of Two Cameras...

From this...

To this...

A very big part of the changes about to engulf us is the way we communicate with people. Back in the day, you either were published in the magazines or out at conventions; these days, we have the Internet will all sorts of amazing possibilities. We had one of these amazing possibilities come up on Thursday evening, and we jumped on it. Hard. Very hard.

Long-time followers of this blog will remember when we got the little pocket video camera, the 'Bloggie', and how we did some podcasts with it which are up on our YouTube channel. The 'Bloggie' is a nice little camera, but it does have some very real limitations when it comes to the kind of 'field production' that we'd like to be doing. The new Sony digital camera puts our production capacity right back where we're used to having it; we're breaking down our inventory of video production gear into the component parts, and recombining it all into two broad areas: field production, where we can shoot both 'A-roll' and 'B-roll' footage for later editing and uploading to our YouTube channel, and studio production, which will be a switched three-camera shoot from the game room.

I'll be you were kind of wondering what this had to do with gaming, didn't you? :)

Back when we were shooting the YouTube videos, we felt more then a little limited by the hardware involved; I could not cut to close-ups of the miniatures I was talking about, for example. Audio quality also wasn't all that great, and certainly not up to the standards that I would have expected from somebody with our level of production experience. We're going to divide up the microphones we have amongst the studio and the field kit, and we think that this will really add some 'production value' to what we want to do.

A by-product of all this is that we also have enough spare cameras, switcher capacity, and microphones to also wire up the workbench itself as well as the workshop proper so that we can bring you 'how to' videos sharing with you how I do things - you can learn from my disasters, The Missus says.

The digital still camera fleet is also being reorganized, with a primary and a secondary camera being set up for both archival and game documentation work. It's been amazing to see how much gear we've accumulated through our surplus market connections over the past year, and it's time to get it all sorted out and packed for use. And, because this is our house, we can leave everything set up and functional between shoots - no time and energy lost in set-up and tear-down, which will be a big help to us.

So, I have a lot of work to do, this year, but it's all starting to happen this weekend. We're off!!! :)

The Weekly Update (1) - Sunday, March 18th, 2018 - First, A Little Housekeeping...

Fifth Daughter, in her native habitat

This is the first part of what may be a longish set, bringing everyone up to speed with developments here at The Workbench; please bear with us, as there's a lot going on...

Fifth Daughter will be moving ou of the house in a couple of weeks, to move in with her fiance in their new townhouse. This will mean that for the first time in over a decade, The Missus and I will be 'empty nesters', with the house entirely our own. This will being some really major changes to our lives, as we move all of our boxes of stuff back into what used to be 'the spare room' and getting more then half of our house's square footage back. We're in for a month's worth of very intensive work, but once it's done it's done; I spent most of the past two days digging out and de-icing the garage door, so I could bring all of Fifth Daughter's boxes in, but this is now done. I can access the sheds, too, and with the arrival of the warmer weather hereabouts I can get cracking on projects and repairs that have had to go into hibernation, over our cold and snowy winter.

The move will also drastically lower our household expenses, as we'll no longer have to provide a lot of services at our expense. We'll also see a drastic lowering of our stress levels, as the 'constant pandemonium' of having a resident college student will no longer apply. We'll have a lot more time, energy, and resources to put into things, and The Missus and I are looking forward to our new lives. Coupled with Der Bug's reliability and my new job, we're going to be in really good shape, going forward from here.

Friday, March 16, 2018

A Look Back At An Old Post, This Morning...

From the blog "Chirine's Workbench", March 16th-17th, 2012:


 This is going to be a very personal post, told from a very personal point of view, and with some very personal feelings.

 This post wasn't originally going to be what you're about to read; I had wanted to talk about going out to see "John Carter". I had a day off, the first one in several months, and I wanted to take my very own Dejah Thoris out for a day's excursion. As Prof. Barker's archivist, I especially wanted to see this movie because I'd just found his childhood copy of "A Princess of Mars", and I thought it would be fun to see a movie that Phil would (I thought) enjoy; he'd loved the various "Conan" movies, as he'd read the Howard stories as they'd come out, back in the day when I taken him out to see them, and he was like a kid again watching them.

 I didn't get to see the movie.

 Instead, I buried an old friend.

 I got the call from the house at 11:15 this morning, and I'm just now back home at about 00:15 local time. Phil had been in slowly declining health over the past six months, and he'd taken a very marked turn for the worse over the past 36 hours. He passed away about 10:30 this morning, and the news passed like the flames of a chain of signal beacons along a Sakbe road.

 In Islam, the departed are to be buried within twenty-four hours; they have gone on their final journey and it is the responsibility of the family, the friends, and the faithful to take care of what Allah the Most Merciful and Compassionate has left behind.

 We did. We prepared the empty husk of the brilliant, eccentric, funny, cranky, and unique man I knew for so many years, and then we carried him down his stairs in his home for the last time. Like so many Praetorians, we did what we'd promised we did for him so many years ago; we took care of him, and we took care of Ambereen.

 I rode with him for the last time on the way to the mosque, and when I was asked by the brothers who were to prepare him for the prayers of the faithful why I was there, all I could respond with was something that Phil had said about me to some of his players back when I was twenty-five and he had come with Ambereen to my birthday party: "This is the son I never had."

 I stayed with him for the last time as they washed and anointed him, and I was asked about this man who had departed from us. I told them of his gifts as a linguist and as a scholar, of his writing, and of his life. I told them of his conversion to Islam, and his abiding faith. I told him of how he'd taught so many of us so many things, and I told them of his astonishing creation of an entire world.

 I stayed with him while he was given the robes he would wear for his final trip in this world, and I stayed with him while the faithful offered their prayers for him. Together, we took him to the cemetery, and we returned him to the earth that he had sprung from. We took Ambereen home, and stayed with her telling stories of our times with him; there will be, I am told, an official memorial in the near future. Tonight was, though, just for us.

 We'll be back there tomorrow, as the family members fly in from all points, and we'll do what we can to help. That's what we came to do, all those years ago, and what we'll do for him and for Ambereen in the future; be there for them, and to serve the Petal Throne.

 And now, if it's all right, I'll be off to try and get some sleep. I'll have more later, when I have the chance.

 Thank you all, once again...

yours, chirine

[Edit. I thought it had been five years, I guess it's been six. It's always been a difficult day for me, ever since, and I hope you'll excuse me for the confusion. Thanks. - the Management]

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Has It Really Been Ten Years? Seems Like Just Yesterday...

It's been brought home to me today - yet again - that we here at The Workbench seem to measure time in different ways then most people do. It seems like just yesterday that I first heard this news, and it's still fresh in my memory.

Gary was always unfailingly kind, polite, and respectful to me, despite knowing full well that I worked for Dave Arneson and M. A. R. Barker. We'd bump into each other at Gen Cons and TSR stockholders' meetings, and he'd always have something nice to say to me; I got to play in his Greyhawk, after the latter, and at one of the former - the first Gen Con at the University of Wisconsin Parkside - he walked up to me and said "You do the miniatures for Prof. Barker, right? Then this is from me to you." And then he handed me this:

I have a lot of artifacts in my game room from across the decades, but this gift from Gary is one of the most special things in my archives, simply because from whom it came and the spirit in which it was given. I carried this case, full of the miniatures you've seen on this blog in previous posts, out to Phil's Tekumel game sessions for the next decade.

Three years ago, it carried the same miniatures out to Gary Con for my Tekumel RPG session. After I put the figures out on the table, I took the case upstairs to the Gary Con charity auction. If you looked under the foam - which is still in great shape, after four decades! - you'd find some signatures. Gary's kids Luke, Ernie, their three sisters, and his grandson Alex were all kind enough to sign the inner side of the case. The case will stay in the archives, doing what Gary gave it to me to do - carry figures to my games - and then it'll go to my grandkids. (If they don't want it, it'll go to his kids.)

We miss you, Gary. Have a good time looking over everyone's shoulders, this coming weekend.

Kyrie eleison...

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Packages And Load-ins - The Weekly Update - Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

Just arrived today! Hurrah!

I'm happy to report that my envelope from Wizkids arrived in today's mail, and that the "Adventurers' Campsite" set is now complete. The two horses will go to the new 'Blackmoor' miniatures tray, and the various accessories to the little sorting boxes - formerly fishing tackle boxes, I think - that I use for stuff like this. Organization is key when using 'props' / 'set dressing' like this in games; one should be able to get the stuff out and on the table quickly, so as not to slow down the flow of the game play.

As you can probably see from the various photos I've taken of my games that are here and on my Photobucket page, I love 'clutter' like this for games. It always seems more satisfying for players to be able to say "I duck behind the barrels!" and I find the setting-up and setting-out to surprise the players to be just as satisfying. It's a particular play-style, I freely admit, and not for everyone or to everyone's taste in gaming. So, I'm very happy to have this set - it's like getting a package from John McEwan, back in the day, who made a huge range of stuff like this that we all used in out games.

The "Ezmerelda's Wagon" did kind of stump me for a little bit, as it doesn't look all that much like a historical wagon - what with The Missus being such a horse fan, we have a lot of books on horse-drawn vehicles, so off I went to do a little research in the stacks and on the Internet. Luckily for me, I have a nice selection of books and brochures from various British museums on living wagons, like the vardo, living van, and the showmen's wagon, so I have a lot of good references from which to work up a decent paint scheme. I can't tow it around with a steam traction engine in 'Blackmoor', but I'll see about a draft horse or two - the two horses in the set are riding horses, and would not have been used as the motive power for the wagon. (And yes, I do have several nice traction engines on the model railway.) I also picked up the titling cart and a pair of oxen, so one of those can pull this wagon and the other the cart.

(I was also led to the D&D module that the wagon was originally introduced in, "The Curse of Strahd". I read through that, in search of model information, and didn't particularly like it for several reasons. As I seem to have cause a bit of a ruckus on Google+ with my earlier observations, I'll save my thoughts on the subject for another time.)

Two other projects got done today; I was asked for some photos of the game room for a possible magazine article, and I had to bring a 52" LCD screen in from The Bug. It measures 49" across, and The Bug had 52" of width, so it just fit. This is another surplus buy, and I'm hoping to use it as a table-top display for games. The Missus is a whiz at electronic stuff - she updated the OS on this computer, Friday - and has suggested doing digital maps like the one she adapted from Phil's huge map of the Jakallan Underworld. This 52" is heavy, but very 'over-built' for what I want. It'll also act as a back-up to the 52" plasma screen in the game lounge, like the Sony 42" LCD does for the plasma screen in the game room. Wiring up the video systems has started, and we're off on a wonderful new phase in our gaming.

Oh, and I got the laundry done, too.

Tomorrow, it's groceries and painting miniatures! Hooray!!!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due, or, It's Not All Doom And Gloom Around Here...

As the title says, it's not all doom and gloom in these parts. As mentioned, Con of the North came around a while back, and my brother and my nephew stopped by for dinner. There's a game shop next door to our favorite food place, and The Missus got the giggles after seeing this set on the shelf.

It was kind of point of honor between Phil and I, back in the day, that if we ran into it in our games we'd have it on the table for the gamers to boggle over. A lot of what could be described as 'accessories' got made, and I still like to have these sorts of things around for games - if only for the comic possibilities, like the time the Glorious General ran through a campfire yelling his head off; everybody thought he was being particularly heroic, but he said it was to get the vicious biting ants out of his kilt.


So I got this set, along with a figure for the new Rogue in our 5e campaign, and I was pretty delighted to be able to have this for players to marvel at. I did run into an issue, though; the box printing was in error, with the contents list for the painted version of the set instead of this unpainted version. I contacted Wizkids about this, and they directed me to their product support site, as they were aware of the problem with the discrepancy of the contents. I was very pleasantly informed that they were standing behind their product, and they had sets of miniatures to make up the differences in the sets all ready to go and one such set is now on the way to me.

I am very, very happy to be dealing with a company that owns up to mistakes and supports their products. That's good business, and I support that. The figures are good, they come already in primer, and they paint up well. I got some more of their line this past week, as I believe in supporting a company that does business this way.

So, lots of fun here, and I'll have photos after I get some paint on these...