Monday, July 30, 2018

A Trip To The Library And Back - A Short Update - Monday, July 30, 2018

I went to the Library...
...and talked with a lot of really cool people!

First off, I'd like to welcome all of the people who are taking a look at this little effort for the first time; I'll have a lot more to say about this past weekend over the next few days, but I'm just getting back to normal after an amazing and wonderful - but exhausting! - weekend.

If I may beg the indulgence of 'the regulars' here in this quiet corner of the internet, who already know all about the kind of tomfoolery and antics we get up to here, this is where I talk about and comment on the gaming hobby and industry that I've been involved with for the past four decades. If you look on the right-hand column, you'll see links to some of the things I've done; the search labels at the top of the column will also help you find things. Worst comes to worst, drop me an e-mail; it's also at the top of the right-hand column.

As often happens, a fan of Tekumel and gaming e-mailed me; he's the owner of a game store in Alabama, and we go to talking about what we both love in our shared hobby. The upshot of that conversation was that he and some friends would like to come and visit me and my game room

(Which has been seen on the "Multiverse" blog:

And we thought that it might be fun for me to come down and visit them so that they could get a little hint of who I am and what I do - and have been doing for a while. So, this past weekend, I found myself in Alabama, talking to a whole lot of very kind and gracious people about Dave and Gary and Phil and their worlds of Blackmoor, Greyhawk, and Tekumel; I ran many hours of games, too, and had one of the very best weekends in gaming that I've had in a very long time. It was every bit as much fun as supplying game tables for the Shieldmaidens, I tell you, but with a very nice hotel room and great food attached.

I did take some pictures, and I'll have a longer report started tomorrow; I need to catch up on my sleep (and laundry) to there will be more to come. The basic thing I'd like to say is that I've been to a really fun event, run by some really skilled and capable people, and enjoyed by a lot of folks interested in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Gaming, and Books!!!

I think I've been to heaven, and it's in Hoover, Alabama... :)

[Housekeeping Note:

I found myself talking alot about the Shieldmaidens group, a 'meet-up' space that was started by The Source Comics & Games here in the Twin Cities for women who want to game and have fun. The formal title is 'Shieldmaidens Sundays', and I will try to get a link for you - I do know that they are on Facebook, so you'll probably be able to find it faster then I can. Anyway, I've added a search label to my posts about them and their continuing saga - 'Shieldmaidens' - in my capacity as their "stagehand", "enabler", and "mascot".]

[Edit: Another Housekeeping Note:

The link to my Photobucket page seems to have been broken; I think I've fixed it. The link to my YouTube channel seems to have been working all this time, and so we're good there. If you try them, and they don;t qwork, drop me a line at my email address and we'll get them fixed. Thanks!]

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Campaign Prospectus - Questions Being Discussed - 1

Let's dream, shall we?
A number of questions about the forthcoming campaign have come up in the discussions we've been having, and I thought that it might be useful to have a look at them...

When will this campaign be run? I have a pretty full schedule!

This is still under serious discussion. The current favorite is the suggestion of Sunday evenings, with the game session running from five to nine and probably once a month; this time frame would allow people to get to their usual game sessions, and allow time to get some dinner before gaming. The Missus thought that having refreshments ready, like she did for the marathon twelve-hour 5e session we had, would be a big help to people.

I don't have a car; how do I get there?

Several suggestions have been discussed; since a number of the players I've invited rely on public transportation, we thought that in the time before the game proper I can give rides to people who might need them. Likewise, rides home are possible, as I don't work until the afternoon during the week.

I can't be at every game session; is this a problem?

No. I am very specifically setting things up to allow for people to be able to drop in and out of the campaign as they need to. All I ask is that I get an e-mail telling me that you'll be out, for that session; I'll ask what you'd like your character to be doing, and that will be what the other players hear about - "So-and-so is at the academy, learning a new spell."

What rules do I need to know?

Whatever set of rules - any rules - that you are comfortable with. One player is already working on a 5e PC; it's my problem to crunch the numbers, not yours.

I've never played any wargames; will this be a problem?

No. You'll be role-playing, and any military troops will take care of themselves. You will be asked to give orders, which you'll get plenty of coaching on as we play.

You have a lot of emphasis on making me feel comfortable. Why?

Because I have forty years of horror stories about bad GMs and players. I want everybody to have a good time, not a bad one. An example of this was a player I had who was a severe arachnophobe; because of this, no giant spiders ever appeared in the games I did for her. Yes, giant spiders are a 'D&D trope', but I didn't want her discomfort to get in the way of the game. Other giant insects were fine, so I stocked up on them...

Is this a LARP? You've mentioned costumes.

No. We just liked making costumes, and so we have a number of them on display in the game room.

What happens if I'm the only one who shows up for a game session?

You get your choice; a one-on-one game session, or we fire up the 52" screen and run a movie related to the game for the evening. Refreshments provided, either way; this is all about friends having fun.

I've seen your YouTube videos; will you be recording our games?

No. As I get the game room wired for video-teleconferences, I am planning on having game sessions open to 'distant' players. Unless you want to be part of one of these, you will not be on camera or on microphone. I don't put people 'on the air' unless they agree to it in advance; it's the same reason why I don't post game photos with people's faces in them, unless they've agreed to it.

Will you be doing other games, like at conventions?

Yes, but only if the group wants to be part of anything like this. I will be doing The Annual Birthday Party game at The Source's 'Free RPG Day' for as they want me too, but any other events are going to be with the group's permission and help.

Are you going to be opening up this campaign to just anyone?

No. I am inviting people that I think might enjoy a campaign like this, and not advertising for players; this campaign is all about the fun we had at the 'Free RPG Day' session, and having people of like mind in for games and fun. As we get further into the campaign, I will be happy to talk to people about being part of the group, but the group will always have the final say on who games with them. Likewise for guests; anyone in the campaign can bring a guest, but I'd like to know about it in advance so that I can talk to them first to see what they are looking for in a game session.

Again, this is a work in progress; the 'Prospectus' page is off in the right hand-column, and please feel free to ask any questions you might have.

Another Anniversary, By The Way...

We'll be back.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Anniversaries - The Weekly Update - July 21, 2018

The White Horse; or Epona, if you will

Some benchmarks here at the Workbench, this weekend. This little confection of a blog is about a decade old; this particular edition is about half that, the first time around having fallen by the wayside due to external issues. We're still here, though, and planning on being so for a while yet if there's interest.

It's also the 28th anniversary of The Missus and I getting married; we'd been 'an item' since 1988, so it's - by our reckoning, anyway - thirty years we've been together. We've gone through a lot in that time, and literally saved each other's lives on a few occasions. We've seen lots of changes in the world go by, some of them good, some of them bad. We've managed to weather them all, despite her declining health, and we're still here in the same little house on the same quiet street that we set up our lives in all those years ago.

We've had to let go of a lot of our dreams, and adapt to the realities of what Fate has dealt us, but by and large I think we're pretty satisfied with how it all turned out. We never expected to become parents, for example, and certainly not for five pretty amazing young ladies; the hair is a little grayer, but it was - if you asked us point-blank - something worth doing.

The past five years has seen a lot of turmoil and change in our lives, but that's now smoothing out; we're withdrawing from the various Internet forums that we used to be active on, as the content-to-drama ratio has gotten pretty skewed away from the former towards the latter. The recent fracas that saw me getting chewed on by Rob Kuntz over something Gary Gygax told me back in the day was pretty much the last nail in that particular coffin. I like having less stress and more time to write, as I steam away on "To Serve The Petal Throne".

The game room is also coming back into service, with the players in my 'Free RPG Day" game asking if they could continue their adventures in Phil's creation; I've sent out a 'campaign prospectus', setting out what they can expect from me and what I'd like to be able to expect from them. That seems to have gone over very well, and I will try to keep you all posted on the adventures that happen around here.

I don't have a lot else to say, tonight. It's been a nice quiet day, with a nice day out in the offing for tomorrow, and next weekend I'm flying off to a speaking engagement and a 'personal appearance'. Mayhem will ensue, I expect... :)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Release The Kraken!!!" - "Oops." - The Sunken City Adventure Continues - July 15, 2018 - Two

Luckily, the FLGS had a Kraken in stock.

Unfortunately, the Kraken also brought a Maelstrom along...

... and most of the players got sucked right in...

... so, as seems to be usual, they blew it up.

The guards having become a trifle suspicious, they summoned the Kraken to help them out, and things got more then a little out of hand (tentacle?) as the Kraken had thoughtfully brought a Maelstrom along with it, occasioned by the use of a little too much sorcery near to the Mysterious Glowing Orb that the party had managed to find and 'aquire'.

Things did not go well; the GM was rolling really hot, and the party really poorly. Things turned into such a confused mess of a melee that the poker chips that indicated depth went to the players, as it was assumed that everyone in the maelstrom was swirling about; the GM then went around the table by depth / poker chip color, and things became very manageable.

Not that this helped the players; there were several rounds where people were reduced to zero or negative HP, and the party's healer had her hands full keeping everybody alive in the mess. The Kraken didn't help matters by grabbing players as they swirled by and trying to dip them in shrimp cocktail sauce;  the party's best magic-user put a damper on this by hitting the Kraken on the noggin with a fireball, which seemed to dampen  any appetite for player-character appetizers.

The party ran out of time, due to schedule issues, so this game will be back on the table in three weeks after people get back from Comic Con in San Diego and other events. Nothing like a cliff-hanger, I always say, so tune in again for the next installment of the Saga of the Shieldmaidens as the attempt to stay off the menu...

Back To The Sunken City, With The Shieldmaidens - July 15, 2018 - One

Not five minutes in, and this happens.

A passing Bronze Dragon stops by.

What was supposed to be the climactic game of this particular adventure turned into a 'mid-game' session, with the party ending this game on a pretty dire cliff-hanger.

The basic plot, as regular readers will know from previous posts, is that the party has been hired while on their vacation to find a Mysterious Glowing Orb that's supposed to be hidden in the Sunken City. The previous session to this saw them find the thing, and they managed to talk their way past the guards to grab the thing. Some unplanned sorcery ensued, as they attempted to get away with their prize. The mer-guards and their eight-armed allies got suspicious, and sounded the alarm.

However, one of the players was a little faster on the initiative then the guards were, and summoned a passing Bronze Dragon to get some sage advice and counsel. The dragon was also feeling a bit peckish, so the swarm of sharks that were after the players disappeared in a swash of drawn butter and tartar sauce.

The dragon then dispensed the Sage Counsel and Useful Advice, and vanished back up to the surface with a contented burp. However, the guards were made of stern stuff, and called reinforcements. Which resulted in our cliffhanger of a battle, and the subject of our next post.

As is my function, I set up the table and stood back to watch the mayhem. I had left the game all packed up from the last session, so it was a simple matter of loading the car and getting into the venue. I had been asked for a Bronze Dragon, so the plush 'Asian Lung' that normally graces the game lounge was pressed into service. (Went over very well, I am happy to say.)

The group has really taken off, with this party being of ten, and the other campaign that they run having six today. They did a 'demo game' and a panel last week at Convergence, the huge F/SF convention that happens here in the Twin Cities every summer, and got a lot of interest and media attention from that.

And, if I may modestly say so, the recent series of games using my scenery and terrain seems to have helped. It is showy, I will freely admit, but the attention that is gets the group is certainly worth all the loading and unloading that has to be done to make all this happen. I enjoy doing it, and they say 'Thank you, Chirine!" so I'm a very happy camper.

Right! On to the melee!!!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

An Interlude, and An Excursion - July 7th, 2018 - The Weekly Update

 A product of the Ford Motor Company that you may not have heard of

And some properly dressed passengers, as well!
The Missus and I went out on a little excursion to Holman Field in St. Paul this afternoon, and took a few photos of a visitor to the Twin Cities and her passengers. Here's a news story about her:

We had a lot of fun, I got to talk to a lot of people, and a very nice couple who were flying as passengers - and who had dressed properly for the occasion, complete with their luggage - let us take their pictures.

As regular readers of this little confection are aware, I love older forms of technology, so today's excursion was a real treat. She'll be here in town today and tomorrow, and is well worth a visit. The food in the terminal building is very good, too! :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Blood In The Water, or, We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat...

The party came prepared and fully equipped...

... ready to face the Giant Octopus...

,,, but the GM had her own laptop ready...

... and mayhem ensued.
Yes, I know it's blurry, but that's because I was laughing so hard.

So, as related in our last installment of the Saga of the Shieldmaidens, they'd gone for a swim to find and 'collect' a Mysterious Object, which was supposedly an Orb of Great Power. Being canny players, they had their Druid shape-change into one of the local sea creatures, and inquiries were made of the denizens of the deep as to the possible whereabouts of any magical objects that might be secreted in the Sunken City.

Their first lead, from a passing Giant Gulper Eel, resulted in some sort of magical object being detected in one of the large stone heads on the north side of the temple plaza. In order to investigate this, the party's Halfling was stuffed up the stone head's nose - it was the largest opening that the Halfling would fit into - and she passed the magical orb that she'd found out to the rest of the party. However, it wasn't the orb that they were looking for, so further searches were made as the players had realized that the temple pyramids were hollow and contained all sorts of useful goodies what their GM had thoughtfully rolled up and left scattered around as diversions away from the main prize; they were, as was pointed out, 'red herrings' - from which comment you might be able to determine the tone of this game session.

After much fooling around and sundry bits of looting, the party finally Got The Hint and looked into the one and only sand-colored temple pyramid guarded by the Giant Octopus. Said guardian objected to the perusal of the temple's contents, whereupon the Rogue in the party whipped up a set of fake IDs for the party to display which claimed that the party was on Official Business and had every right to have a look around the place.

(Fake IDs, by the way, also played a major part in the previous game session when the party arrived at the Tiki Bar and went to work. The party's Rogue has, I gather, a special kit for the making of these things; in this case, one of the magic users created an air bubble to house the little printing press while the Rogue worked.)

The Giant Octopus was not particularly convinced of the veracity of the party and their credentials, and trouble loomed.

(At this point, seeing how the current flowed, I went over to the next door fast food joint and got a fish sandwich for lunch; I wanted to beat the school of sharks to the buffet that was about to open, as it were.)

As could have been predicted by just about anyone, the party was attacked by the Giant Octopus and defended themselves. The GM was particularly delighted by this turn of events, as she'd been up all night lovingly crafting said Enormous Cephalopod out of various portions of the Monster Manual. Things looked grim for the party, as they were really kinda out-classed and out-armed by the thing.

I found the melee really fascinating, from a game design standpoint, and really gross, from the cleaning-up-the-mess standpoint. The players just waded in on the creature and - this is the important part to remember - used the three-dimensional nature of their surroundings to 'stack' their attacks, both for doing lots and lots of damage and for mutual support. The Octopus was surrounded by the poker-chip depth markers, indicating that all of the party was attacking on every melee round - the defending octopod was limited to one action per round, while the party could get in six to eight actions.

The party turned into hyper-active sushi chefs, and there was a lot of stuff for the surrounding sharks to snack on by the end of round two. Since the party were all in close contact, they could support each other, and things got very messy very quickly.

(It was at this point that one of the players noticed my lunch, and pointed it out to the rest of the party. there was a chorus of "EEEEeeeeuuuwww!" and they went back to slaughtering the Octopus. I tried to get photos, but I was laughing too hard.)

Eventually, the hapless cephalopod was no more, and the party proceeded to get into the Secret Chamber in the heart of the temple to collect the Orb that they were looking for. All in all, they thought it was quite the successful operation, and I thought that it was a very good game. We're back again next week for a little clean-up and detail looting - the party wants to make sure that they've gotten everything worth getting - and then they'll be back to dry land for more adventures.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Sunken City, One Each, For The Use Of Gamers - Sunday, July 1st, 2008 - The Weekly Update

The table, looking north. GM table in the back. Time to set was forty minutes.

The table, looking southwest. The Giant Octopus stands in for the Kraken.

You never have enough sharks. Plastic sharks on GW flight stands.

The GM table, with poker chips, dice, and Giant Sea Life ready to hand..

Before I get into the game report proper, a few comments on the game itself. I got a short 'specification' for the table, which was "A sunken city; giant sea creatures would be nice." So, that's what the GM got. The wonderful Stonehouse pyramids got interior details, which the players figured out pretty quickly and took the time to explore. (And loot.) The Giant Jellyfish went over the proverbial treat, with one player opting to use one of them for her PC figure.

I took a litlte time to drill the plastic - vinyl, really - sharks for fitting with GW clear plastic flight stands, and this seemed to please everybody and be well worth the time. I thought it made for a much better-looking school of sharks, especially when the huge melee got started.

Speaking of which, I was quite fascinated by the way that the players understood the poker-chip depth system, and how they used it to great effect. They 'got' the three-dimensionality of the game instantly, and then used it to 'stack' themselves to get more attacks on their targets when they had melees. Very effective, and I started to feel a bit peckish and went to the fast-food outlet next door for a fish sandwich.

This group plays a very fast game; the pace is very, very quick, and the combat rounds incisive and tight. All of the new players - we had several - were coached and helped by the more experienced ones, and everybody had a very good time.

Next up: blood in the water - we're gonna need a bigger boat...