So I built a Maori war canoe in less than an hour…


Last night, I dusted off the first of my HISTORICON 2016 purchases, a lovely MAORI WAR CANOE I bought from the Eureka USA booth at H’con.  The canoe is a representation of a giant ocean-going war canoe designed to convey a large war party from island to island in New Zealand.  This is a laser cut kit vended by Eureka.  I’m not sure if the kit originates with them or was created by someone else and Eureka just sells it, as the kit came in a plastic bag with almost no instructions.   None were needed, really– just a picture of the final model:


Eureka Picture

If that picture looks familiar, it ought to. Check out On the Seas of Tekumel, played last Saturday night at Historicon.

The kit wasn’t cheap, but not overly expensive either.  Just under 40 bucks.  Like the Viking Ship from Laser Dreamworks I built a while back, it is built in layers that stack on top of each other, building a hull with flat keel and high gunnels.  In addition there are scrollworked sidewalls, tail and prow to add on.  Glue might not be necessary but I added it anyway.  This kit is built for 28mm figures but I’m guessing 15mms will do just fine– my plan is to use it as a new ship for Big Danged Boats.

The kit assembled in about 30 minutes max.  I’m doubtful that it even needed glue, but I added some PVA glue (sparingly) here and there where it was needed, especially around the scrollwork.  The result was very attractive, and surprisingly sturdy.  My plan is to paint the hull portion a brick red and the scrollwork a bright yellow.


For armament, I’m going to install some 28mm scaled portable siege weapons, and have the two large ballista stand in as Harpoon throwers, and the two smaller ones as straight up ballistas. I might even mount a few swivel guns on the gunnels.

I’m not sure which BDB faction will get this, but one things for certain, this model is a beauty, and will look great on the table. I’m glad I bought it.

 

A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight: HISTORICON 2016 AAR


HISTORICON 2016: Fredericksburg Convention Center, 13-17 July 2016

Before we begin: Well, I didn’t think I’d have to write a disclaimer since back in the days of a, erm, certain potentially litigious former board member, but it might be a good idea to state this up front. The author of this blog is Walt O’Hara. I am not on the board of HMGS and never have been. I have served HMGS as an unpaid volunteer for several years — from the mid 90s, in point of fact. During that time, I have done most jobs you can possibly do on staff, some indifferently well, some I wouldn’t touch again with a ten foot pole. I have known “the HMGS skinny” in the past, from time to time, maybe, but now is not that time. I generally have a high opinion of the board, they are working in an underappreciated position with high expectations for no pay– which is was true “back in the day” and is true now. I know both Pauls, Mike, Kevin, and Scott  by working on the same shows with them, several times (mostly– Mike and Paul D are locals and I see them now and again at Eagle and Empire). I don’t know John and Dave that well, but I have played in games they have run in the past (in Dave’s case, it was a Russian Civil War game, and it kicked butt. In John’s I think it was some Trench warfare thing with Belgians!). I do not, however, really ‘hang out’ with anyone on the BoD and I am not “in the know” by any sane definition of the term. I do take a very dim view of people who castigate a Board of Directors for being “corrupt”, “venal”, “lazy” or “criminal” simply because they chose to perform a thankless job most of us (including ME) won’t take the time or bother to do, though we all seem to have the time to complain about them.  I also take a dim view of people that condemn BOD members that make decisions that are marginally inconvenient for them, personally.  That’s just stupid, lazy logic. So with that said, I am going to warn you up front. I’m going to voice an opinion about HMGS business in this post. It’s just an opinion. Everyone has one and mine is as good or as bad as anybody’s.  So if reading opinions bores you, skip over the yellow part.  Fair warning.  There, we’re done with that. On to the fun stuff.

Convention Director Delaney addresses the troops and introducing “Will Call”

Gar and I drove down to Fredericksburg in a vehicle we affectionately call “Granny’s Sh*tbox”- an old Ford minivan she bought used back in the 90s.  It’s dull blue oxidized paint, but her previous “honest” mechanic conned her into buying a new engine and we feel honor bound to drive this revitalized crapwagon into the ground. On the plus side, it has that snazzy early era Air Conditioning, which is bonus for July in VA.  I was actually shivering.  It also has a unique automobile superpower– it’s got to be the most anonymous looking vehicle ever created.  I couldn’t remember where I parked it, constantly.

Everyone has to show for the staff meeting but that leaves the convention way overstaffed the first night, with volunteers stumbling over each other in an attempt to be helpful. I’ve worked events these last few years, but will do whatever. I like the event desk– you really are helping people do exactly what they came to the convention to do, that is play games. Seeing that we were underemployed, Brenda suggested we set up the events board that evening, and so we did.


The events desk– crazy and non stop until about 11 AM most days, then again when they put out the evening tickets.

Events is good gig, sure, it looks like all we do is hand out tickets, but we’re empowered to help people do a lot of things.. like move tables, run new events, cancel events, finding new tables, etc.  Essentially it’s the old “GM Help desk” concept folded into the events board.  I like the job because it’s really the last step to getting people into the reason they came to a convention: playing games.  Don’t ask me to comment on the registration system.  I haven’t used it yet, I can’t compare it to the last one (which I had used and  I didn’t hold in high regard).  If it has a high learning curve, I can’t comment on it.  If one person uses it slower than another, try not to complain too much.  Some people learn things faster than others.  Besides, it relies on wireless, and every venue we’re in these days has problems catching up to the 21st century in that regard.


You never know who’ll show up to these things.

Gar and I closed the events table for the night, and there not being a lot of games going on, eventually hit the sack.

Thursday was the first “public” day of the convention.  Many of the tickets for Thursday had gone out the night before and it was slim pickings that morning.  I felt pretty bad for not getting my act together in time to run an event for this convention.   For one thing, it would have sold out, easily.  For another, it feels like there just isn’t enough events being run for the space.. we could easily add 100 more to the schedule, though I wince a the noise problem that might cause.  It’s not like we didn’t start the con with a low number of events– we had 506 by my count, and that’s from the data that the events coordinator sent me for guidebook so it’s fairly accurate.  We only had about 7 cancellations and none for any shady reasons that I could detect, like getting a free GM badge.  Speaking of events, and as this is one of those topics that everyone weighs in on with their opinion, here are the ACTUAL NUMBERS OF EVENTS IN THE SCHEDULE BY CATEGORY.  As you can see here clearly, historical events outnumber non-historical events far and away, again.

(quick note on methodology, I used the database from events, sorted by category in Excel, did a COUNTA function on the categories, then totaled the resulting subtotals.  These are the categories HMGS uses in our program books and to schedule games, not mine.  I counted borderline subjects such as “Pulp” as non-historical, but Westerns and Pirates as historical, so you can juggle numbers if that doesn’t fit your particular prejudices) (edit: yeah, I  know.  I screwed up the count above and “Colonial” is in twice, but it only a matter of maybe 10 events total, if that.  I’ll fix)

A lot of people get a lot of mileage out of saying the Society is going to the dogs for running non-historical games at our conventions– that we are somehow “losing our brand” for doing so.  The actual numbers tell a very different story.

Wednesday night sightings:

Setup, not running

 Setup, not running

Thursday was incredibly busy.  This is the morning most of the weekend visitors arrive and the parking lot out front jammed up pretty fast.  Most people want registration over and done with as smoothly and painlessly as possible.  This year, to whittle down the lines, HMGS introduced “Will Call”.. essentially using your smart phone to bring up the website in line and printing badge labels directly- so you could enter with a credit card while standing at the back of the line and then cut over to Pre-Reg and find your badge made, just like a pre-reg person.  I’d like to get feedback on if it worked or how it worked, but that’s how it was described it would work.  If we go full bore on Will Call ticketing.. my only question is, why do we shut down per-registration so early, then?  This is essentially the same thing, but the day of the show, isn’t it?

Thursday Sightings

Hey, if working registration was EASY, anyone could do it!

Dinner was with Gar at BONCHON chicken Fredericksburg, and it is quite a meal.  Bonchon is a Korean style of cooking chicken with amazing results.  See below:

Portions are HUGE. We had to bring back leftovers.

Meanwhile, back at the convention, I was getting into my first official game of the convention:

Jutland – Day of the Dreadnaughts; GM: Brian Dewitt; World War I; When Dreadnaughts Ruled the Seas. The British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet showdown fought in misty North Seas conditions on May 31, 1916. The battle opened with the six British Battlecruisers chasing five German Battlecruisers. The German Dreadnoughts are out numbered but the battle is very even with both sides claiming victory.

I took many pictures of this game which took some time to unfold.  Posting them to this post would be tedious, but you can go HERE to see the slideshow.

Brian DeWitt is a local boy from Northern VA, and I’ve played his naval games many times, including these rules, When Dreadnoughts Ruled the Seas.  They are reasonably comprehensive, not “Fear God and Dread Nought” (Clash of Arms) by any means, but they play fast for all of that.  Instead of measuring THIS armor thickness versus THAT gun caliber, the rules generalize a certain threshold of firepower into categories (about 14″ or higher if I’m remembering it right).  This makes figuring out the firing sequence fast and simple.  For the JUTLAND scenario we were under some constraints that really changed the rules substantially, making the game more about hidden movement and random initial placement.  Essentially both the Germans and the English have ships on the map at start, but they are all represented as tokens with arrows on them, indicating what direction it is moving.  Both sides have many dummy counters.  As the tokens move and come within spotting distance of each other, the ships appear on the water, sometimes (as happened to us) extremely close to the Grand Fleet!    I was an honorary Briton for this game and led two squadrons led by the Iron Duke and the Benbow.

Things didn’t go swimmingly for the British from the first moment. There were six flying squadrons coming in from the Northwest (including mine) that only fired an odd angry shot at the end of the game. British gunfire was just okay, we piled on the drubbing but it wasn’t good enough to sink much of the German capital ships, though we did nail some destroyers and lighter cruisers. In return, the Germans plastered the Germans into next week. Every roll, it seemed, got a critical hit somewhere on the deck near the ammo bunkers of an English ship, and then Bang, Zing! another dead modern ship killed by an aging German tub. Life seemed stacked against the Grand fleet that day.

I took a lot of pano pictures as well, they are also in the SLIDESHOW. Click on the picture below to see the dispositions when Brian called the game. It’s a large (wide) picture and you’ll have to scroll to see all the enemy..

Click to see larger button, enemy distribution.  It will blow up to original size (and it’s a large picture).

Thursday ended with a resounding defeat for the Royal Navy, which I blame on our inability to get our line in decent shape fast enough to pound the Germans, and also terrible dice rolling.  The Germans must have rolled the “Deck Critical Hit” result 4 times.  Maybe 5.  The game ended.. even though we lost, I greatly enjoyed the chaotic nature of the Jutland game, especially the hidden/semi-hidden setup, which made for some real surprises.

Did I mention I got the historical Admiral Jellicoe killed?  Yeah, he was on the Iron Duke… sigh.

Ruefully, I had the first beer offered, which as “My Imaginary Girlfriend IPA”.. and it was tastier than the ashes of defeat.

Thursday was a busy day and night for gaming.  There was a lot of action in the side rooms, which hosted discrete gaming groups that submitted blocks of gaming events– there were games from NOVAG, HAWKS, a group of individuals that play Battletech (which my son is somewhat addicted to), a group of people who play Colonial era games, and some local gaming groups I couldn’t identify.  I like the side rooms, you can hear better and they really put on a show.

I found a HUGE Roman gaming on in one of the side rooms during Jutland:


I’m really enjoying the Panning option in digital photography. I wouldn’t recommend it for every setup of course, but it’s a handy method of capturing those really huge setups like this one. (Click on picture above to see Pano).


Garrett’s current fixation, Battletech.

So Thursday ended with Garrett and I in defeat, him in Battletech, me at Jutland. So it goes. Friday, a new day dawns and this is where we have our greatest influx of walkins, by my estimation. We reported to our shift early and were in a steady state of demand until 1 PMish. Not to polish my own apple any, but I found that the Guidebook app I built for Historicon is incredibly handy for solving problems at the events desk.

“I don’t know where this event is”
“okay, tell me something about it”
“It had Rommel in the title” (Walt brings up SEARCH, types in Rommel…)
“Starts when?”
“3 PM”
“FOUND IT! that’s table EA09. Starts in 20 minutes.”
“Great! Um, where’s that?” (Walt brings up room layout maps, finds EA, points out table)
“THERE.. right through those doors, about 30 feet up on the left.”
“Wow, great! Thanks! How did you do that, are you in league with Satan?”
“No Worries, mate.. I use… GUIDEBOOK!

Okay, maybe a little embellished but you get the point. It was faster than taking the guy there and faster than looking it up in paper books.

After my Friday shift, I went directly into:
Reds vs Whites: Retreat to the Crimea!; GM: Jared Fishman; Inter-War; FOB2 Modified. Deniken’s 1919 push on Moscow has failed. With Baron von Wrangel in charge now, the White forces are in full blown retreat towards the Crimea. In this battle, a desperate White rearguard, entrenched along a rail line, attempts to hold off combat ready Red troops who are beginning to shine on the battlefield. 15mm, lots of variety (tachankas, armored cars, White officer battalions), using modified Field of Battle 2 Rules. Can the Whites hold back the Red tide? Experience with FOB is helpful!

This was a great game. I have zero experience with Piquet, which I am assuming this “FoB system” is built upon. However, once I got the hang of it, it was pretty great. The card system isn’t just a “Sword and the Flame” like means of activation, it has a larger role– creating and managing the chaos factor on a battlefield. I really enjoyed the cerebral aspect of planning how to advance my forces using the card system. Mr. Fishman, the GM, was both patient and enthusiastic, and knew his period well.


My left flank command, mostly cavalry, veteran to crack troops, two armored cars and two tachankas. I lost the use of both fairly early.

I took a lot of risks in that game.. you never know what your opponent might draw, and most assuredly it won’t be good for you. Since I was cavalry I knew I had to react aggressively for the left flank to accomplish anything. I lost my tachankas early and my A/Cs were “silenced”.. I never drew the card combination to get them from being in a buttoned down state again. Still had men with horses, though, and I drove up the left side, supporting an infantry attack to my right. The cavalry were the glory boys that day, routing the enemy’s entire right flank thoroughly, and taking out most of his artillery. The game ended when it did, and it was kind of a draw.. we had done some damage to the enemy’s line that he had to react to, but he wasn’t dislodged in the center and our right flank didn’t accomplish much of anything. So it goes. We might have accomplished more in a few more turns, sweeping right and driving in from the enemy right flank, trying to roll him up his line, but we ran out of time. Great game!

There were a lot of rumors flying around the convention about the convention moving.. Many, many people came up to me for an opinion or comment on the issue, and I admitted I knew nothing about it.  Read the disclaimer above.   I don’t travel with the hip crowd.  I was told that tonight’s membership meeting would be important, so after going and discovering the tasty treat that was COOKOUT FREDERICKSBURG (I could write a whole post on how great that place is), we sat in the meeting.  Not that there were many seats, it was well attended.  Scott Landis presented the convention relocation reports, and he did a good job with the analysis.  The familiar scattershot diagram was presented.  Cost of tables, and Room rates were discussed.  The conclusion was that Historicon operates close to the margin.  Okay, we got that.  Then we went over some of the other options and his (Scott’s) Stoplight chart for ranking them.  Some options were brought up in the Pocanos and New Jersey.  I didn’t care for either one of them, but the undercurrent of the conversation was that they seemed to want to move Historicon for the reasons that “it was too much like the other conventions, nothing stands out any more” “it costs too much to run H’con in Fredericksburg”.

Okay, back to the opinion part, and it’s JUST MY OPINION, not that of the BOD, HMGS or any other body.  I think the hue and cry to move Historicon (of all conventions you could move) is ridiculous.  Sure there are many issues with the Fredericksburg site, there will always be issues with sites– this place is Nirvana compared to the Host.  Is there something wrong with the idea that we could have a geographic spacing of conventions in a North, Middle and South arrangement?  Who CARES about the concept of “Flagship” conventions, anyway.. if that’s your issue, make Fall-IN! the Flagship, it’s doing relatively well these days.  I personally believe this move is a response to people who find Fredericksburg inconvenient for them personally, because they got used to driving 45 minutes from PA or NJ to get to the cons when ALL of them were in one state.  As was emphasized time and time again, when you move a convention, attendance drops off.  So why move H’con? Doesn’t that sound stupid to anyone?  Buehler? Buehler?    Yes, I admit that the margins are tighter on the Fredericksburg location, but isn’t the proper response to that to GROW THE CONVENTION IN PLACE, instead of retreating all the time?  Everywhere I looked at the convention, there were signs we had a lot of people.  I couldn’t get a parking spot to save my life on Saturday.  The games were great, people had a good time– but almost all games were full up.  We’ve had conventions that were tight on the budget before– Fall IN! at Gettysburg comes to mind, immediately.  Yet, we kept them in place in the hopes they would grow, as Fall IN! DID grow.  I find the analysis competent (good job, Scott, I’m serious), but I disagree that the conclusion is “We must move a convention now”.  I found the room rates discussion of the Jersey location alarming.. it appears we’re getting into another Baltimore situation,with very very expensive hotels, and middle aged or older attendees with fixed incomes who chose not to bother to show up.  I know I’d have to put a lot of thought into a convention that cost me a thousand bucks in hotel before I stepped one foot into the dealer area.  Only, unlike Baltimore, I couldn’t manage a day trip visit to New Jersey.  I’m not that unique– I think tons of potential Southern guests that attend can manage the same kind of math.  Frankly we’re looking at the wrong problem here.. aren’t Fall-IN! and Cold Wars the big risks here?  It truly remains to be seen whether or not the Host can be rebuilt to code or not.  So I have to ask, isn’t that where the Relocation committee should be focusing right now?  We have two very fragile eggs in that basket, and all it could take is one more burst pipe to break them.  I’ve spoken with the FI convention manager, who is up next, and he remains confident that the new owners will spend the necessary monies to get the place fixed up.  I’d give him the benefit of the doubt, but one thing’s for certain, the Host will go up in price as well.   Betting future convention success on the well being of the Lancaster Host hotel is starting to sound like a fool’s bet… and I used to be a big proponent of the place back in the MOVE HISTORICON NOW era.  Remember that?  It took a lot of fail for me to get here. Moving Historicon also seems like a bad move.  We’re ensuring a large attendance drop (according to Scott Landis, about 200 attendees, more or less).  To cut the throat of convention that might not be doing spectacularly, but at least is doing steady state (and perhaps improving) just seems .. stupid to me.  In one stroke of the pen we will lose ground we’ve made with attendees from farther South.  I was speaking with two rather pleasant gentlemen from Tennessee volunteering with me (walk in volunteers btw), and I asked them if they would go to the convention if it moved up to New Jersey or Northern PA.  “Nope, can’t afford it”, was the honest answer.  Rather than try to serve the center mass of the attendance diagram so a smaller PA-NJ-VA-MD set of people can got to three conventions in PA, why not forge ahead with the locating one in the North (NJ/NY), one in the Middle (PA) and one in the South (VA)?  We’ll at least pick up outlyers from other regions that way as well as a lot of (but not ALL of) our core attendees.  We have to understand that not all dealers will be happy with that idea and some stalwarts will not be at every convention– which is pretty much where we are at today.

Well, that’s my .02, worth what you paid for it.  I rarely speak about HMGS policies on this blog any more, because it’s not worth the effort– I’d rather spend my time commenting on the positive.  This will be an exception.  To sum up: 1) Moving Historicon bad (losing 200 attendees immediately and attendees from South and Southwest of VA), 2) Moving Cold Wars and/or Fall IN! farther North good (don’t put our eggs in one basket).  3) Geographic Attendee spread farther North and South good4) Astronomical room night rates bad.                               Rant OFF.

So our good friend Ed Watts was also experiencing his birthday at the convention and both Gar and I were invited to the tiny con-within-a-con that was his birthday party.  There was cake and candles and soda and Sword in the Flame and Western Skirmish gaming.

This was such a good time.. old friends (I despair to say how old) coming together for nosh and good times.  I was sort of the British commander for Ed’s Sword and the Flame game, which appeared a little hopeless at first but things were changing up by the time we had to end (early).  For more pictures, go HERE for the slideshow.

Saturday dragged a bit in the morning at events but was brisk at reception.  The parking lot was jammed to the gills.  We were on until 5 oclock but really didn’t have to work too hard after 1PM.  We broke down events at the end and just laid out the tickets.  Saturday night was fantastic.. I got a ticket for Steve Braun’s Tekumel game:

On the Seas of Tekumel; GM: Steve Braun; Fantasy; Homebrew/Savage Tales. Tekumel is home to many non-human races and the high seas are a great place for them to meet up a settle their differences! See what happens when  the insect-like Hluss bring their ancient Lightning Bringers to fight ships made of wood and iron. Join in the fun as the frog-like Hlutgru storm aboard your vessel. This is one of the five gamaes on the HAWKS Tekumel track.

I didn’t realize the HAWKS even had a “Tekumel track” but that certainly is intriguing.  For those of you not in the know, Tekumel is a reference to an ancient, dense roleplaying & combat system called “Empire of the Petal Throne”, set in a fantastic setting 60, 000 years in the future when mankind has colonized other worlds, in particular the setting for this game, Tekumel, a somewhat tropical planet that is host to not only human colonists but several intelligent and bellicose alien species vying for control.  Steve Braun’s game imagined that the races of Tekumel would carry their conflicts onto the ocean with them, and he spent a lot of time building up boats and weird watercraft fitted to the alien races.  I got to play the Hluss, which are kind of insect like, kind of reptilian. Best of all, my faction had an organic submersible of sorts.  This led to all kinds of hilarity when we surfaced underneath the frog-like Hlutgru’s spiffy new war canoe!


Now that’s non-stop hilarity. The Hlutgru player had another opinion, of course.

I loved the game, loved the rules.. and if they are going to be running this at Barrage I need to make a point to come to that event. I love naval games and remember having a lot of fun with this material when I was all of 17 years old. It’s heartening to see that the Petal Throne is staying alive through the volunteer efforts of lots of dedicated people. For more pictures of this event, see the slide show HERE.

I was in no more events for the weekend, I reckon I had my fill. Let’s see, lots of historicals (see the analysis up top). I only played in one “fantasy” game and I could hardly resist. There were no standout extravaganza games anywhere at this convention that I could see, but plenty of excellent work by dedicated gamemasters. I loved the games I played in. Shopping wise I didn’t get a ton of stuff but I did put down some serious support for vendors (first) and flea market (second). Got some frostgrave stuff for camp, got a new maori war canoe, go some bulk pewter for Iron Wind Metal (mostly treasure chest tokens). I did not start a new period “just because”. We discovered two new eating places down there (BonChon and Cookout), and slept well at the Homewood Suites, which is becoming my favorite of the three adjoining spots. I saw a lot of old friends, got to jaw with them endlessly and even went to a party. I’d say this convention was a bucket of win for me and my son.

Observations: There were plenty of games, numerically, but it was a seller’s market.. competition for tickets was fierce.  Lines at registration were long, but seemed to move– I didn’t hear about any WIFI disasters.  The parking lots were full all the time.  The Vendor Hall was light, but we are just going to have to accept that that is the new reality now.  The Call Ahead ticketing idea seems like it’s way overdue, but I haven’t tried it yet.  Guidebook, yet again, has proven its value.  Many people approached me to tell me how valuable the “paperless approach” is to them.

So that is that.  As the sun sets slowly in the West, we will leave our attendees, clustering around one last round of beers, re-fighting old wars..

See you all at Fall-IN!

For every picture from the weekend, and a lot of them weren’t posted, go HERE to see the slideshow…

Guidebook App for HISTORICON 2016 released


First of all, sorry this is so late.  I’ve had some serious commitments in my non-hobby world lately, including a son graduating from high school!

As I have done for almost every HMGS convention since 2011, I have prepared a Guidebook mobile app for the upcoming HISTORICON convention, to be held at the Fredericskburg Convention Center, Fredericksburg, VA next week. Now, normally I have this out about a month in advance, sorry about that.. there’s still plenty of time to download your copy.

Functionality changes: Guidebook has been tinkering with features and services in the last year, and some of the features we used to enjoy, like colored icons for tracks, are gone because they have been elevated to the paid level– and there’s not much chance HMGS will pay for the upgrade. However, I have helped the process somewhat by using the following rule of thumb: GAMES (non-tournament) in the schedule are just listed by their titles. TOURNAMENTS have a single capital T, space, then the Game Rules (example: “T DBA..”) before the event title. SEMINARS have “SEM” in front of their titles, and HOBBY UNIVERSITY events start with a HU (Number).

If you search for the Cold Wars 2016 Guidebook post, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how guidebook will work for HISTORICON 2016. It still has a photo albums, social media hooks, news, and other things. The only new (Free) feature I’m trying this time is the Speakers Module.. this replicates the SEM data I have in the main Schedule track. I wasn’t sure Guidebook was going to call that a pay feature too (groan) so i replicated the data on purpose. I’m glad they broke out Speakers as a new function, that’s a great addition.

HOW TO GET IT

Here’s the DOWNLOAD PAGE:
https://guidebook.com/g/historicon2016/

Here’s the ONLINE PREVIEW:
https://guidebook.com/guide/73277/

And if you have a QR Reader, read this one now:

If you have questions, email me, I’ll be glad to help.

See you at HISTORICON 2016 next week!!

Social Media settings for this Guidebook:

Twitter tags: #HISTORICON2016, #HMGS_Inc, #Historicon, #Miniature_Wargames

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/23036244526/ (HMGS Facebook Group)

Be sure to post your photographs to the photo album, that’s how we share the experience with others!

ARF Supplemental: A Blast From The Past


So to continue with a revisit down memory lane, some background: in 2002 and 2003, Bob Giglio and I put together a game called “Amish Rake Fight” (or ARF) which I modestly can claim was well received. Those games certainly were talked about for a decade or so. In 2014, I wrote a long blog post that sort of recapped the concept, the planning and the execution of the two Amish Rake Fight games, and the discussions that took place about a third one “some day”. I did this because human memory is faulty, and the older we get, the less we are going to remember, and I wanted to get something of the great games of my past down on paper, or more appropriately, electrons. Surprisingly, since he is a very talented historical GM with well deserved reputation for being serious about the history and serious about the details, my Co-GM for ARF, Bob Giglio, was more than happy to pitch in clarifications on minor points here and there, and provide a surprising background of digital evidence. Which brings us to this post, which should be considered supplemental to the 2014 one.

First we have a map, and a danged fine one. This is a 2016 sketch by Bob G, based on a 14 year old game (and some photographic evidence). Not bad at all.


Map Sketch © Bob Giglio 2016

(Click on the map to blow it up a bit).  After giving the special rules for ASF weapons (Amish Science Fiction) a re-read, it became clear how the East battle field events transpired.  As I recall, there was a “Meek” stationed at the Stone Foot bridge (Center North) and at least one more in a fording spot in the river.  Surprisingly they performed excellent service, stopping a rampaging gang of bikers in both spots while their less meek brethren circled around behind the bikers and whooped ass with scythes and rakes!

In addition to the sketch map, Bob provided to me (last night) a compendium of background material we came up with to expand a decent skirmish set (Bootleggers, from RLBPS).  We will not present the core Bootleggers rules because they are copyrighted by RLBPS, but the additional ASF stuff is fair game, and some of it is hilarious.  The ASF stuff was a community effort between Bob Giglio, Chris Johnson and myself.  The Handouts were penned by Bob.

Appendix 1: Amish Science Fiction Weapons, an unauthorized supplement to Bootleggers

Appendix 2: ARF Handout 1 © Bob Giglio 2002

Appendix 3: ARF Handout 2 © Bob Giglio 2002

Appendix 4: A rather nice writeup of our then current convention in the local press.
© Lancaster online 2002.

The ARF game is mentioned in some detail, and both Bob and I are quoted.  It was the reporter who wrote this article that the Board Member who was in charge of promotions took such pains to keep away from us, up to and including begging me to take my Amish hat off while I was running the game, so she “wouldn’t get the wrong idea about historical wargamers being disrespectful”.   I suspected if had had the time, he would have tried to forcibly shave off my somewhat authentic looking Amish chin whiskers while he was at it.

That’s about all I have.. If you are interested you can read the original article in full.  It was a fun time and a celebration of the silly side of historical wargaming.

 

 

Frostgrave Wizards & Warbands added to my collection


My friend John Montrie just came back from a trip to China. He took some of my  figures to paint with him on the trip. As if things weren’t busy enough in China! Anyway, he’s back, I picked them up today, and they look just lovely.

And a bad of Frostgrave generic medieval soldiers, of which this is just a sample.

FUTURE: At this point, I have purchased almost every wizard in the current pantheon from Northstar Figures. I don’t have their Illusionist but I have some Reaper Bones figures that will make excellent replacements (see previous posts). I don’t have their Witch figure because I want to go with a more traditional Witch figure and not the African/Voudron style figure Northstar is using. Not pictured is my Necromancer and Apprentice (FGV105) and Summoner and Apprentice (FGV108). I’m okay for Wizard types for a while, but I will be getting the aforementioned witch and that’s about it– some of the Reaper figs I have been painting lately could make excellent Illusionists. From the semi-official Northstar line, I will probably still pick up specialty hirelings and another box of Frostgrave Soldiers. I have enough skellies, but might want to invest in the Gnolls once they are retailing.

V. Schwab’s A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC, reviewed


A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Man, I really wanted to like this book. It has all the elements that I’m usually game to read from cover to cover instantly– a touch of magical realism, set in vaguely familiar proto-steampunky, parallel universes, evil guys, good guys, cynical guys. A plucky heroine from the bad side of town, with a heart of gold. The setting is this sort of mystical micro-universe where there are four known variants of existence– Grey London, Red London, White London, and a fourth, vanished Black London. Grey London (of course) is the London we all know from THIS world, the one in Britain, at the time of George III. Magic is almost unknown there. Red London, a much funner place where magic flourishes, a good dynasty reigns over a country that is not-England (although London stays London in all of them). White London is a harsh place where two descendants of Vikings(?) rule by murder and coercion. Black London was destroyed in a magical cataclysm that sealed the worlds off from one another– it is apparently the place where magic is sentient, seeking more power by devouring human hosts. I think? There are only two individuals that can transverse the boundaries of the Londons– they are the ‘Antari’, depicted with one solid black eye and one normal eye. The Red London Anatari is Kell, who spends his time as an errand boy for the Red London Royalty, and smuggling artifacts from various Londons. In addition, he is the property of the Royal Family, and adopted brother to the Red London Prince (Rye). Of course, Kell is considered a bit of a rogue but responsible enough to be riding heard on his womanizing brother Rye. Rye is a familiar trope in fantasy, a rogue and a wastrel (they say, we don’t see much of it) who is growing into the role of the future king who will one day have to take life seriously and blah blah blah. The other Antari is Holland, from White London (of whom, more later) Kell, the adopted Red Antari, is on a mission to White London (a nasty place with the Bad People in it) and he gets hoodwinked/set up/made a fall guy to pick up a package that turns out to have a half of a stone token from mythical (destroyed) Black London. He gets ambushed in Red London, flees to Grey London, and runs afoul of the OTHER Antari, the decidedly nastier Holland. Holland is apparently behind a conspiracy(?) to dominate? control? the other Londons, to open them up to conquest by proxy by White London, using the Wild Magic amulet (the Black Stone from Black London, which is a super magic weapon).
While Kell is hiding from Holland in Grey London, he encounters the other POV character, Lila Bard. Lila is yet another fantasy/steampunk trope, the plucky but lovable guttersnipe who dresses like a man and has the heart for adventure. She is a pickpocket, a cutpurse, and a girl makin’ it on the mean streets of almost-victorian London (George III is on the throne, yet they have revolvers in common use? Whaaaaah?) Anyway, she’s tough.. the author reinforces how tough as nails and bitter she is. Page after page. Awkward dialogue after awkward dialogue. We get it. Kell and Lila make an awkward alliance to bring the stone back to Black London where it will be safe, adventures transpire, lots of people get killed willy-nilly, and the vast extent of the betrayal of, well, you know, the bad guys, becomes clear. Except it doesn’t. There were two things that bothered me about this book. I like the basic concept just fine, I love the parallel Londons idea.. but man, the execution was clumsier than a new born chick running a marathon. The dialogue was very hackneyed in places. I think if I had a nickel for how many times I read “Lila.. (dramatic pause)… RUN!” .. well, I’d have a mess o’ nickels. And the motivation! What the heck? WHY do the bad guys do what they do? WHY? Sure, Holland is evil and twisted, but we never know what he thinks, he’s just a creepy ciper. And the mega bad guy.. he’s a monologing psycho from the old school, but what the hell made him so angry at Kell? Wasn’t Kell useful to everyone who wanted to talk or trade between worlds, just a while ago? Aren’t there only TWO of these guys? Why be angry at him? Why try to kill him?  Just because you have an evil plan? So the Big Big Bad is hard to understand, therefore their motivations are murky and the plot and denouement kind are kind of a big muddle.

With that said, A Darker Shade of Magic did have some great, although not exactly original ideas, with the Red-Gray-White-Black London setting, the various flavors of magic, the Antari (all two of them) and how it all kind of lurched to an ending eventually. V.E. Schwab isn’t what I would consider a great literary stylist but I’m sure this series (and it will be a series, I checked) will go down well with the Young Adult crowd. For me, it started out well but became a bit of a chore to get through, so I’ll give it 3 stars.

View all my reviews
reviews

ROGUES: An Anthology by G. Martin and G. Dozois, Reviewed


RoguesROGUES by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the best reasons to read a themed anthology like this is that it gives you a peek at authors that you either already like or haven’t discovered yet. ROGUES delivers on this promise nicely. This is my first anthology of (mostly) SF/F writers edited by George RR Martin, though not my first by Gardner Dozois. The theme is “Rogues”.. those people who aren’t good, aren’t bad, but mostly out for themselves in the most amusing way possible. Martin didn’t just plow the field of fantasy and science fiction for this book– there were some great examples from the mystery and historical fiction genre, too. I was surprised how densely packed this anthology is. I won’t call out every single short story in the book, but I definitely will mention the ones that I thought were standout:

“Tough Times All Over” by Joe Abercrombie
Well, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Joe Abercrombie, I haven’t been stinting on his praises. Tough Times all Over reads like a continuous moving shot in a motion picture– a very important package is robbed from a courier, and exchanges hands multiple times through the story before it culiminates.. clever structure and illustrates the theme nicely with Abercrombie’s trademark dry wit.

“What Do You Do?” by Gillian Flynn
One of my favorites in this anthology was the story of a sex worker turned con-woman and spiritualist encountering what is, possibly, a real haunting. Or maybe not. Her wonderfully blase ending leaves the reader wondering. By the author of Gone Girl, which definitely flavored this piece.

“The Inn of the Seven Blessings” by Matt Hughes
Where has Matt Hughes been in my reading life? I loved this story– all about a very personable and human thief encountering a caper with tiny god, possession, raving cannibal beasts, and a treacherous acolyte. Told in a very endearing, humorous style that echoed Shea or Vance.

“Bent Twig” by Joe R. Lansdale
My favorite shit-kickin’ literary genius from East Texas delivers up a short Hap and Leonard story complete with beat downs, ambushes and ass-kicking. Great fun.

“Tawny Petticoats” by Michael Swanwick
Sure, I had read Swanwick before, but nothing from the universe of Tawny Petticoats, and her odd New Orleans with hired zombie labor, wizards, witches and werewolves. Loved this, want to see more.

“Provenance” by David W. Ball
A fun little art heist with a great twist ending. Not the best, but very readable.

“A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch
One of two stories I read twice… mostly because I just discovered Scott Lynch and the Gentlemen Bastards series. This is a somewhat different setting.. a retired thief in a city run by Super-Wizards gets set an impossible task by one of the ruling council. Fantastic setting, I hope there are more of them in this universe.

“Bad Brass” by Bradley Denton
A contemporary humorous mystery, about a ring of thugs flogging stolen band instruments in a Texas town. The OTHER story I read twice. It was amusing, funny and kept me engaged throughout, and ends on an upbeat note.

“Ill Seen in Tyre” by Steven Saylor
I like Saylor’s Gordianus the Finder series, and the blase mention of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser in this story had me hooked– really funny ending and perfect for the anthology theme. Kind of light.

“The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives” by Lisa Tuttle
A Victorian feminine “Watson” character playing off a decidedly vaguely formed replacement Sherlock. as they investigate a ring of suspicious burials and disappearances. Much of the narrative returns to “a woman making it in a man’s world” themes, but the story passes over this to deliver a very mysterious tale of hypnotism and malice.

“How the Marquis Got His Coat Back” by Neil Gaiman
A shortish visit into the Neverwhere universe with Neil Gaiman. A very amusing narrative of an adventure of The Marquis of Carabas, the smooth talking rogue from Neverwhere, as he searches for his stolen coat in an adventure featuring mushroom people, an Elephant, and his sworn enemy. Quite amusing.

The other stories were certainly worthy, or at least that’s what my short term memory tells me. If I can’t remember much about them two weeks after reading them, draw your own conclusions. As it turns out I have already bought some follow on novels from some of the new discoveries I made in this anthology, so mission accomplished, Mr. Martin. You win this round!

View all my reviews

I’m Using 28mm Reaper Bones figures in Frostgrave


Given that individual pewter figures are getting pretty dear, I thought I’d give Reaper Bones figures a try recently, and although my first results at painting were not to my liking, I did end up developing a method where I arrived at results that I could use.

BONES, if you don’t know, is a line of plastic figures created from REAPER miniature molds.  I have no quibbles with Reaper’s sculpting, it’s almost always top-notch.  However, I don’t much care for the plastic they use– it’s the rubbery kind, not too dissimilar to the plastic used in “Clickie” Collectible figures games.  It wasn’t holding paint very well.  I had heard you could paint them right out the box.  That is incorrect.  Spray priming with Testor’s primer was a bad idea– the figure was tacky/sticky for days afterward.  Don’t do this.   I went back to basics and just soaked the figures overnight in soapy water, and rinsed them off, blotting them and rubbing off and mold release residue.  Then I painted each figure with a thinned coat of some neutral primer color, like base gray.  After drying overnight i mounted them on craft sticks and started painting.  The results were very positive.  There are so many great fantasy personalities in the Bones catalogue that I can add a ton of wizards and fighting men into the mix for a lot cheaper than pewter figures, and they match the Northstar metal ones in scale.

Here are some of the figures I’ve done so far.  Click to enlarge.  I have a man at arms figure (good for specialty infantry types), an Illusionist, a Sigilist (looking very Gandalfian), an Elementalist shooting a fire spell, a very commanding looking Enchanter from the Pathfinder range, a Demonic looking Summoner, and a big Death-dealing looking barbarian.


(Everything)


(L-R Enchanter, Summoner, Barbarian)


(L-R Man at Arms, Illusionist, Sigilist, Elementalist)

That’s about what I have done now.  My painting method seems to be repeatable so I’m going to go with that method for a few more lines.  I also have a small horde of skeletons painted, a couple of demons and other creatures, and now I am getting some mercenaries primed up.

A visit to the Weekend, 2016


The Weekend is Otto Schmidt’s concept about a nearly self sustaining, low impact miniatures convention with almost zero staff (beyond Otto it seems), an emphasis on amiability and sociability, and no politics.  Otto has been running the Weekend as sole alpha male for quite a while now and I’ve been making a point about attending the last couple of years.  The site is the Continental Inn, which is directly across the street from the Lancaster Host.  This is a nice, family owned hotel.. maybe not the most modern hotel in town, but then again few buildings on that Route 30 strip have been built earlier than the last ten years.  One night was under 100 bucks with the convention rate– I defy any Lancaster hotel to charge less than 100 dollars a night these days.

The Mighty Susquehannnnnnaaaa!!!

So Garrett and I showed up much later on Saturday than intended, mostly through our own idiocy. It happens.  My schedule indicated two games I wanted to play in– Pete Frechtling’s Leonardo Plus game, and a big Steampunk game in the evening.  We were to suffer two disappointments along those lines– Pete’s game was already started, and the evening steampunk game started four hours early.

However, Pete was just finishing up when we arrived and we got to see his great setup.

Yep, that’s a spectacle and a half. I like Leonardo Plus.

Sadly, the real lesson is to show up early for this thing, or show up the night before. The Weekend runs Friday and Saturday, and Sunday is just for having breakfast, jabbering and leaving. Much like any miniatures convention. I hope the boardgaming element of the Weekend grows somewhat, the venue is plenty spacious and can handle more people– it’s not big enough for WBC or a HMGS convention, and that’s just fine. I like small conventions like the Weekend and Guns of August.

Some Mustangs and Messerschmidt being run on Saturday

A fun Steam punk “Saurian Safari” style game Saturday night

Fortunately, Eric Turner was there to run a game pitting Italian Colonialists versus the Dervish late in the 19th century. I was surprised to see Garrett wanted to play and he jumped in as one of my Italian co-captains. We tried to play an aggressive game but the game came up a little short as we didn’t achieve victory conditions in time. So it goes, we enjoyed playing the game, and it illustrates it really doesn’t matter WHAT you play as long as you are with the right people.

(that’s not me disparaging the subject matter, it was a lot of fun)

I actually Periscoped this one for a while, not that we had that many viewers, but that’s the kind of thing I want to do more of.

Anyway, yeah, we lost, but we had a great time trash talking with our friends.

As traditionally ends every Weekend, there was MST3K (Military Science Theater 3000). The film was some Soviet era science fiction thing dubbed and redubbed by various countries over the years. Journey to the Prehistoric Planet, I think.

This was an easy film to make fun of, and nod off to.:-)

So that was our weekend. We had a great time, and on the way back we found a cool little Open House event at the York Airport.

https://goo.gl/photos/gQ1jtJJXgxxqpVu88 <– a little video Google made automatically from phone pictures. Nice!

More Photographs HERE <– the rest of my FLICKR set on the Weekend

Phil Gardocki’s blog post on the Weekend

Just another frozen walk in the ruins, Part 1 (Frostgrave Fiction)


And now, a little experiment with a fiction post. I’ll break this up into probably 3 long posts, divided by a few days each
.
Just another frozen walk in the Ruins… PART ONE
by Walter O’Hara

Minty the Apprentice whistled as he poked his little fire, trying to keep it warm enough so the Master’s fingers wouldn’t freeze up on him in the upcoming scavenging expedition. Today they were heading to the interior of the Resident’s section of the old city, a place yet to be mapped by anyone of reputation. For his part, Fleebus, his master (also known as Fleebus the Good, Fleebus the Blessed and Fleebus the Kindly at some point in his past), was nodding tiredly into the soup Minty had prepared and appeared to be in danger of decorating the front of his dull red robes with broth. It had been a long march inland to the little Temple on the fringes of the great City that served as their expedition headquarters, and Fleebus had insisted they pack heavy and be ready to go at first light. Thus, the small party clustered around the fire was still stamping their feet to keep warm and energize themselves for the day’s work. Minty coughed, delicately, and kicked Fleebus’s boots. The Thaumaturgist blinked twice and opened his eyes wider.. “Eh?” Minty nodded knowingly at the small circle of men sitting and standing around their fire. It would not do to see their employer doze off into his breakfast on the first day.


Fleebus and Minty (from Northstar magazine)

Fleebus started, then put his can of soup down, blowing on his fingers. “Right! Men.. and ladies…” nodding at the giant archer to his left, who vaguely looked female- “As you know, we are engaged in an expedition to search for artifacts and treasures from the Ancient Frozen City beyond us there” he said, gesturing in a direction vaguely towards the ruins behind him. “I have worked with some of you last season and some of you are hired on for the first time, so I’ll educate you on our plan of attack for this season.” Fleebus gestured to Minty, who hurriedly unrolled a larger scroll, with a crude map of the city drawn in brown ink, with notes and arrows added later in red by Fleebus. Fleebus gestured with one shaking finger. “As you can see, our base camp here is on the Southern outskirts. I chose this location because it gets some traffic from the outside world and is still reasonably safe from attack from the Undead creatures that infest these ruins, a byproduct of being sacred ground.” The crew nodded and muttered, some of them touching holy symbols they had on hand. “Sadly, most of the Southern outskirts and suburbs have been rather systematically picked over in the last few years, and I fear we will make few discoveries there. Therefore, my plan of attack is to approach along the Canal leading into the City, cross over the Marketplace and approach the Northern Residential area from the Cathedral gallery. This is a relatively pristine area to search and I hope to be in and out in a day, without stirring up any trouble. Questions?
“Sir”, said one of the more articulate hirelings, a sword and shield-man from Karth and rated as pretty intelligent, by and large .. “What about wandering Skeletons and Zombies? The approach you are describing takes us two blocks East of the Catacombs. That area is infested with them” “A very good question,” replied Fleebus. “As you know the ambient temperature has dropped greatly in recent weeks.” This was accompanied by nods, grumbles, and stamping of feet. “According to the scroll Malius Malefractum, second half, governing necromantic or summoned creatures, zombies, skeletons and the lesser undead slow down grievously in low temperatures. During the short window of this cold snap, we will be uncomfortable, that is true, but we will also have our freedom of limbs, freedom of our minds, and speed to carry out action. Why, we’ll run rings around them, Sir! Any other questions?” “Um, sir?” began one of the new hirelings, a short second story man from Trevilian. “I heard from the boys that there may be, erm.. competing expeditions in the ruins this time of year. What should we expect?” Minty stared meaningfully at Fleebus, who chose to ignore the hint. “There are no reports of competing bands anywhere nearby, nor do we expect any” Fleebus, said, somewhat ill at ease. “Now, gentlemen (and ladies)..” (The vaguely female shaped archer rumbled, and nodded) “we are wasting precious daylight and precious time. We need to be past the catacombs by the 11th hour of the morning. Let us depart!” Quickly, the camp sprang into action, dousing the meager fire, strapping on packs full of bags, ropes and other accouterments of treasure hunting. Minty took his place at the front of the marching order, with Fleebus beside him. Minty raised his voice and said, in a level tone, “Arlo the treasure hunter, scout ahead. Archers behind us, Quarg the War Dog runs ahead. Everyone else, behind them. For Fortune and Glory, we march!” “Fortune and Glory!” the crew repeated tiredly, and they almost managed to sound cheerful.

Fleebus grinned as they stepped out at a brisk pace. “No competitor bands, master?” Minty muttered out of the side of his mouth. “I didn’t tell an untruth, exactly– I haven’t detected any… technically“.. Minty sighed, and shrugged, and the band moved out confidently. Ahead, Arlo and Quarg the War Hound scouted a safe path for the party to advance into the ruins.

In another part of the city, a very different band had already started marching, or more accurately, were engaged in halting, as they clustered around an unlucky soldier collapsed at the base of a pillar in the Leather-worker’s district. Ozick, otherwise known as Ozick the Nasty, Ozick the Indifferent, and Ozick the Defiler, glared down at the wounded treasure hunter in his employ. “Can you move?” he said, in his funereal tone. “errrgh… Nossir, GAH, the pain! M’leg was gnawed sumpin terrible when I was ambushed by giant rats come up from the sewers! I got ’em though, sir!” He hawked and spat, and continued to groan, piteously. Ozick stared at him, unblinking, for a solid minute. “Pity“, he said, and turned away. Squeebles, his apprentice, approached nervously. “Er, masssster? What about our treasure hunter?


Ozick the Defiler and Squeebles
(also from Northstar Magazine)

“Dispatch him” said Ozick, quietly, so the rest of the band couldn’t hear. “It would be … a kindness, lest he catch the foaming rot from those creatures” then strode away, stopped, and turned back. “And Squeebles?Yesss, ssssir?” “Don’t waste the body, if you take my meaning“, he said, looking intently from under his bushy dark brows. Behind him, he heard a Schnick! and sickening thud, as the job was done.

Ten Minutes Later, the company of Ozick the Necromancer set out again, this time accompanied by a brand new zombie recruit, which slowed them somewhat– this would become meaningful later.

Two Hours Later, Arlo the Treasure Hunter’s lean, rangy frame could be spotted from the lookouts, heading back toward the party in a frantic run. Minty looked worried. The new route had not gone well. They had lost two men-at-arms to a sudden attack from a swarm of skeletons that had emerged from behind some rubble at a bad moment when they were constrained by an alley they were sneaking through. Skeletons that were not exactly nimble, per se, but there were a lot of them blocking the way out of the alley. With one dead party member and one grievously wounded to the point that they had already expended a healing potion on him and sent him limping back to the Temple base, Minty was hoping for no more unpleasant surprises on this trip. Perhaps Arlo was bringing good news. “Yes, and Owlbears can fly” Minty thought.

Arlo came highly recommended, and he demonstrated his reputation (and extra cost) now, pulling out his treasure-hunters chapbook and laying it out on a collapsed fence so that Minty and Fleebus could follow along. In it was a hurried sketch of a circle, with several boxes noted along its arc, many with a darker black “X” marked on them. “About three blocks over, there’s a traffic circle of some sort. There are many small row houses and single houses with lawns, collapsing into themselves. I scouted about ten possible targets for salvage where you see the X marks. The good news is that this seems to be a very undisturbed neighborhood. There’s little evidence of looters, if any– the buildings are collapsing, but mostly from the elements. There was a fire in this neighborhood at some point, but it was more than a decade ago from the looks of it, and probably started by lightning”. Fleebus nodded approvingly and asked.. “You said good news. People who say “The good news is..” usually have bad news?” Arlo looked serious. “I couldn’t be sure from my position, but I swear I heard people shouting, somewhere. We can’t rule out the presence of one or more parties in the surrounding neighborhood.” Minty was alarmed. “Sir, we’re really not in a good shape to actually fight another party. Our spell collection is not very aggressive. As you have told me many times, a Thaumaturgist isn’t in the business of hurting people”. Fleebus chuckled, but they could see his concern. “Then we shall have to be quiet, good Apprentice. Pass the word, muffle weapons, keep conversation at a bare minimum, and for the God’s sake, touch nothing. If the Gods are with us, the other party, IF there is another party, might just pass us right by.”

About 10 minutes later, and 5 blocks North…

Ozick, pressing his wounded side with one hand, leaned against a post and closed his eyes, concentrating on a spell… he felt the dark energy growing inside him, to the point of release, then touched one of his wounded crew on the head, and said in a murmuring tongue: “Iocanthus Mortem“. The wounded hireling gasped, his eyes leeched color into a milky whiteness, and he pitched over backwards. Ozick looked down. The wound was no longer bleeding. Instead, he felt a rush of vitality that he had stolen from the dead man. It felt great. “Maaaassster?” asked an anxious Squeebles at his elbow. “We are running low on ssstaff, we only have sseven more left!” “Very well, Squeebles, I didn’t want to waste a potion, but I may have to at this rate. We’ve met with unexpected opposition.” That was one word for it. A rogue witch and her band of gnolls had suddenly attacked from the supposedly deserted part of the city to their East. They could only have been traveling underground (somehow) to avoid detection this easily. Unfortunately the witch had a veritable mob in support and Ozick was feeling decidedly over-matched. To begin with, she had a larger crew to start with– sure, they were humanoid (orcs and bugbears), and thus rather stupid, and difficult to reincarnate. Worse than that, though, was the sense that there was a heavy hitter she had in play that he had not seen yet. Not anything definitive.. just a dark mass lurking in the background, and the hint of glowing red eyes. “If she has a real demon up her sleeve, we will retreat as soon as feasible– I don’t have any minions of comparable strength, and nothing to counter that with”, Ozick thought to himself.

Almost simultaneously, 15 minutes later at the Plaza of Light and Shadow:

Arlo was busy pointing out targets to Fleebus in his chapbook, so they didn’t see the much-depleted party of Ozick the Defiler enter into the Plaza, but Minty did. “DOWN”, he hissed, pushing a startled Fleebus and Arlo behind a ruined garden wall. He quickly pointed at the oncoming party. They were not, at first glance, impressive. Ozick’s men were lean and hungry looking, dressed in rags and piecemeal armor, mostly leather bits. “Either cheap, or a necromancer”, thought Minty to himself as he frantically gestured for two of the archers to get up high and lay down some suppressing fire on the oncoming party. Minty cringed as he heard a bolt whistle overhead and impact against the fence behind him. “You, you.. and YOU..” he snapped at a crossbowman, an archer and a thief. “With me, we’ll circle left. Stay under cover!”
Across the circular plaza, the Defiler was also directing his men to fire into the oncoming party as he got behind cover and concentrated on a spell. There were few clues to deduce the power of the opposing wizard. “Red Robes. That means exactly nothing. The only thing I see summoned is an Animal Companion, all that tells me is that he’s neutral to the Witch’s School. He’s not Summoning anything, I would have felt that.. no, wait he’s touching one of his fighters… ” The distant wizard’s hands glowed for a second as he chanted, then the fighter’s clothes glowed briefly, as well. “That’s a shield, or I’m a rat..” Ozick chuckled to himself. A Thaumaturge. It wouldn’t do to get cocky, but Ozick already sensed victory. There was nothing a Thaumaturge had in his bag of tricks that he hadn’t seen already. He was far more concerned with the Witch Party they had fought a running battle with for five blocks. Where were they now?

Arlo the Treasure Hunter climbed up to the second floor of one of the residential ruins to delve into a promising heap of sacking that had congregated in one corner. Instantly two black feathered arrows sped towards him, and swerved around him to bury in the wall. Arlo quickly flashed a thumb’s up to Fleebus, sheltering in the lee of the broken wall below. The shield was working. Excellent. As Arlo dug through the mass of rags and rotted timbers in the attic of the house he was, he felt a telltale hollow space in the timber give below his probing pick, and a tiny hatch was revealed. Inside was an oblong rectangular box about a foot long, covered with leather and sporting two silver clasps. Arlo’s hands shook. A grimoire! Possibly. “Guess who’s getting a bonus, old boy!” Arlo whispered to himself. A thin quivering shriek disturbed his reverie. Arlo’s head snapped up.. What was that? The shriek was followed by distinctive growls, barks, and the guttural sound of the Dark Speech coming out of the wrecked buildings North and East of the Circle below him. “Uh oh, that’s not…”

“GOOD!” shouted Ozick as his last crossbowman neatly put a bolt through the left eye of one of the hired thugs from the party of the doddering old mage across the alley. “Try to heal THAT!” he said to himself.. now sure that he was pitted against a less aggressive wizard, very likely a thaumaturge. Ozick wasn’t a tactician. When he was locked in battle, he didn’t maneuver. He brought everything he had, as fast as he could, against his opponents, and so he was doing now. Squeebles was crouched behind a pillar, making the somatic gestures for The Dart of Bone, the most basic spell a Necromancer can cast. Of course, it was ruined by the dolt being in a crouching position. Ozick strode up to Squeebles, heedless of the two arrows that passed behind him, and hauled Squeebles up by the collar. “Idiot! You can’t fire that spell bent at the waist!”
“Sssssorrrry, Masster! They have archerssss!” mumbled Squeebles, and then his last thief, a Coast bravo whose name he couldn’t pronounce, was at his elbow. “Master..” he said, bowing, and presenting a small amulet. Ozick was no good at reading auras or divining artifacts, but he had seen this kind of thing before. An amulet of protection? Possibly. “Not bad. Was there anything else?” “Coin, a fair amount” the thief replied in heavily accented Common. “A fair job! Take it out of here to the Safe House via the safe route, even if you have to go around for a few blocks. We’ll regroup and do the counting as soon as we are clear of this.” The thief nodded silently, and faded back into the shadows, swiftly getting as far away from the escalating fight as he could. At that moment, Ozick heard the screech and growl of something large and massive moving in his direction, punctuated by the crashing sound of collapsing walls. Ozick looked at Squeebles. “Whatever that is, it’s…. ”

“HUGE!” yelled Minty from across the alley, where he had a clear view at the collapsed fountain in the circle ahead, and several tantalizing objects laying around out in the open. “It’s a huge, damned THING! Likely a demon! And I can hear what I think are Gnolls.. they have that high, yippy kind of language that’s hard to make out!” Fleebus called back. “It would appear that the party is about to be joined by another hopeful! Can you make out what kind of Wizard?” “Not from here, no.. he or she is staying under cover behind the buildings yonder. They are so close together we can’t really track their movement.”

HERE ENDS PART ONE (Stay tuned!)

copyright 2016 Walter O’Hara

Let’s have fun with your Phone Number


Want to pull off a great trick that will make you the toast of the cocktail party circuit?  A trick so fiendishly clever that men will envy you, and women want to flirt with  you?  Well, this probably isn’t that trick.  But it’s pretty good, and it involves the concept of numerical congruence dreamed up by a famous German mathematician named Carl Friedrich Gauss.  Now, I know you.. you want me to get right into it, you little scamp, so here it is:

A) Write down your phone number on a piece of paper.  Area Code too.

B) Using those same digits in your phone number, randomize that phone number any which way you want, to create a Dummy Number.  Use cards, or (like me) put slips of paper with the numbers on them in a cup and draw them out in a row for dramatic effect.. reciting pertinent facts from the life of Carl Friedrich Gauss.

C) Subtract the smaller number from the larger number.   It doesn’t matter if the real phone number (yours, presumably) is larger or smaller than the Dummy Number.

D) Add up all the digits created by the difference between the larger phone number and the smaller phone number.  This will likely create a two digit number.

To give you a handy visual, I’ve encapsulated steps A-D in this handy graphic lifted from Excel, and using the made up phone number of 212-555-2379.  I randomized them with pieces of paper being pulled out of a salad bowl.  See the highlighted line for the Dummy Number.  Important!  use YOUR OWN number, not this made up number.

Observe THIS table of secret cannibalistic symbols, taken from ancient scrolls of forbidden wisdom:

Starting with the Pentagram up top (As number one) move clockwise, with the triangle as number two, etc. Go around the circle as many times as your number from Step D.

What symbol did you land on?  I have a guess, here it is.  What’s more, here’s the trick: It will land on that symbol EVERY, SINGLE TIME.  Every one!

Now, isn’t that handy?  Men will mutter and women will swoon.  At the very least, you’ll get a free drink out of it if you play your cards right.

Psssst.. it’s a mathematics thing, not magic, but you know that already. To understand it, you might have to read up on mathematical congruence.  If two numbers have the same remainder when divided by a number k, they are congruent to the number k.  The number K is called a “modulus”.  Example– 16 and 23 buth have a remainder of 2 when divided by 7 and therefore are congruent modulo 7.  Since 9 is the largest digit in the decimal number system, the sum of the digits of any number will ALWAYS be congruent modulo 9 to the original number.  Note that there are 9 digits in a telephone number.  Scrambling the digits can’t change the digital root of a number, so basically you end up with multiples of 9 + the digital root subtracting multiples of 9 + the same digital root, equaling a multiple of 9 +0.  For our “cabalistic symbol counting” purposes, it will always give you one result.  Nifty, eh?  Remember that cool “mind reading” t-shirt from a previous post?  It works on exactly the same principle, just different numbers.

 

 

Lancaster Host: the end of the end, we mean it this time.


Bad news from the Lancaster Host, site of many HMGS and WBC game conventions over the years.  The Lancaster Online just reported a major water main break, causing the ceiling on three floors to break, 2000 residents and crew to be evacuated, and most importantly, the local fire chief has condemned the facility.  Details from the Lancaster Online.News Link

What does it mean?  Very likely the end of our relationship with the Host.  HMGS had a contract with the Host for Fall IN this Fall, but I’d say the Host just effectively cancelled most contracts.  It’s a shame, really.  The Host was a smelly dump, but it was our smelly dump.. As comfortable as an old shoe.

Farewell, Host, you served us well over the years.


 From the HMGS Board of Directors

It’s important to show the other side of the story, always.  I have to hand it to this Board, they have been on top of rumor control and quick to reach out to individual bloggers (such as your humble servant) in an effort to quell the occasional bout of mass hysteria.  When I get that kind of communication, I feel duty bound to post it– it doesn’t cost anything to see the other side of the coin, eh?

As you may have heard a plumbing line ruptured in the Host on Saturday.  Assorted on line accounts can be found here:

http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/lancaster-host-condemned-after-major-water-main-break-collapses-ceilings/article_b84f5ff2-252f-11e6-88fb-ffb8c2d14621.html

http://www.pennlive.com/news/2016/05/lancaster_host_resort_closed_b.html

http://fox43.com/2016/05/29/hundreds-evacuated-from-lancaster-host-resort-after-ceiling-collapse/

In spite of the overblown news reports the HOST has power and water restored Monday.

We spoke with Host management Tuesday and can add the following details:

The Host is currently open for business but with certain areas inaccessible due to flooding and water damage.

The Host had two [2] water pipes break; one on the 400 level and one on the 600 level which caused some of the drop ceiling to come down in the hallways.

Both a plumbing company and a restoration company are on site making repairs.
The Host is planning to reopen the affected areas by  Monday 6/6 at the latest.

We  will update you if there is any new information, especially as regards to Fall IN 2016, and the possibly accelerated remodeling.

Kevin Kelley
For HMGS Board of Directors

With that said, has my opinion changed much?  Not really.  I sincerely feel as if every show we throw at the Host is basically rehearsing for a disaster of these proportions.  Fortunately this was a local dancing event and not one of our shows– that would be a severe financial hit, albeit not cataclysmic, to be objective.  If we had to evacuate everyone from the show, and possibly even refund a lot of the admissions, it would certainly hurt the bottom line, but worse, it would erode any confidence in the holding company that operates the Host currently.  As it is, they operate the place on the barest of shoestring budgets– no investment is evident, beyond sustenance level patchwork measures like renting a portable physical plant to keep the place heated and air conditioned (and parked in the parking lot), or brand new shiny blue tarps to cover the multitudinous leaks over the Lampeter ballroom.  Last convention, we heard a lot of positive stuff at the membership meeting about the company investing money into the hotel.  This just doesn’t seem to have come to pass, beyond emergency repairs.

All that griping aside, I’m a realist.  There just isn’t a competing space anywhere in the “sweet spot” (Central PA).  EVERY alternative the board has looked at seems to have a problem with it that could lead to even worse griping if we move the cons there.  Believe it or not there are metrics for what the BoD is looking for, and they have been forthcoming about what they are– a certain amount of space, adequate parking, attached hotels, easy access to transportation hubs like 95, nearby airports, lots of places to go to eat and even something to do if you bring your family with you.   Lancaster isn’t the perfect option, but it had one thing going for it– it was very cheap compared to other venues, and it hit ENOUGH of those metrics to keep a significant amount of people content for many years.  I’m not sure what we can do going forward.  We might just have to compromise on something major– cost/space/parking/geography, something, to find a new venue.

The more things change, the more they stay the same


Back in 2015…

Approximately a year ago, I was driving through West Virginia, when I chanced upon a diner with an old fashioned look to it. In my experience, that’s the kind of place to visit when you are on the road. I stopped in, had a great breakfast, and noticed a cute sign on the wall just opposite me. It said “Faith / Family / Friends” in gold pen, on a block of wood that rested on a little shelf on the wall. It appeared to me like it was designed to rotate:

From one year ago, table under the sign. I won’t name the diner.

“cute”, I reasoned. “But shouldn’t there be a reverse side, with reverse sentiments?

Pondering the Yin and Yang of evil, over coffee, a year ago.

What is the reverse of “Faith / Family / Friends”?

Fortunately, and oddly enough, I had a silver pen marker in my pocket, a year ago, so I executed an opposite side.

It came out very well indeed.

I was pleased with my opposite side, but the rest of the patrons hardly noticed the switch.


It’s 2016, though…

Almost a year later, I’m driving through again. Same place, same table. I look up.. no, someone HAD indeed recognized the incongruity about the paean to Satan and Hobos on the wall of a wholesome diner.

Of course, someone “fixed” it.

27056875935_e10f7103fe[1]

Except…

Are they TRULY back to normal? The back side wasn’t erased, painted over or drawn through. Almost as if the cafe owner was acknowledging life has a dark side along with the light.

There. Lurking on the dark side of the cube was SATAN / HOBOS again. When nobody was watching, I flipped it back, paid for breakfast and went my wary way…

Video

Discworld on Youtube


I’m an off again on again fan of Discworld by the late great Sir Terry Pratchett, who sadly left us last year. One of the problems with living on the right side of the Atlantic Ocean is that you sometimes aren’t in the know about what gets produced for British Television, although that is changing quickly with the advent of BBC America. So I am totally not hip about some cultural artifacts that our British cousins enjoy that we may never hear of. Just yesterday I heard of a few from the realm of Discworld, Terry Pratchett’s universe featuring a flat disc shaped world supported on the backs of four giant elephants on the back of a giant tortoise that sails through space. Do I need to explain this? Of course not. Anyway, apparently there are a few locations where one can find BBC (I expect) adaptions of Discworld novels, for internet viewing. I had no idea this existed, I’m not sure what the limitations are, and I kind of feel bad about sharing it, but shucks, I figure they’ll be shut down soon enough. Let’s party!

GOING POSTAL (TV mini series, 2010, based on the 33rd Discworld novel of the same name)

first of several links.

HOGFATHER the 20th novel in the Discworld series (another mini series, this time by Sky One, aired in 2006 at Christmas time, appropriately).

part 1 of 4.

THE COLOUR OF MAGIC, the first novel in the Discworld series of course! (Another special from Sky One, in 2008)
part 1 of unknown parts.

So, that is what I know of for now. I hear tell there are to animated films floating around in the aetherverse, but they have eluded me so far.

I know what I’ll be bingewatching shortly.

If the links are broken at some point, don’t kvetch. They come and go on Youtube, for obvious reasons.

Quill: A letter writing..erm..game? Discovery Series #2


QUILL: A letter-writing game for single players
by Scott Malthouse
available on DrivethruRPG (and presumably direct from Mr. Malthouse)

Quill is a short little game (available as a PDF only, I think) that defies easy description. It categorizes itself as being an “roleplaying game”. In the strictest sense, that’s certainly true. Players assume a role (there are six of them), the roles have statistics associated with them, the statistics have lower or higher number to judge successful attempts at doing something in a RPG setting, and there are actual skills that increase your chances of success as a bonus versus rolling against our statistics.

That is about where the similarity to any conventional RPG you are familiar with ends. Quill is a game about writing letters. Letters in Quill are very rigid and formalized exercises and they are written to achieve an outcome, which is defined by the scenarios provided with the game. Letters are the sole means of determining success or failure in this game– characters only are used to create letters. To give an example of “a character”, a Quill player may choose one of six– say, a Monk. Monks have statistics (there are only three in the game: Penmanship, Language, and Heart). The character’s statistics are pre-defined, so the monk has Good Penmanship, Average Language and Poor “Heart”. Our monk is also chooses a skill in Augmentation to bump up his poor “Heart” Skill (This will grant him +1 dice to a “Heart Test”).

The monk receives the scenario, which gives him his “Superior Words” (high scoring words) for his letter. He must write a five paragraph letter (always) to some person. Using my first example of playing Quill, in the fourth scenario, the task is to write to King Gerald V. The Monk is now corresponding with the King (known to be a bit of a sourpuss) on account of a suspicious person that has been seen lurking about town– he might be a spy! You have an “ink pot” full of words you need to use to bump your score up. There are several, like “Your Majesty”, Smith/Blacksmith, Curious Individual, etc. etc.

My monk sets himself to the task. Superior words in bold.

Gracious Majesty, King Gerald V,
from the Abbey of Beresford, I send you greetings.

Your Majesty, I beg pardon any intrusion of my humble self into the weighty matters of state might cause, but I felt compelled to write you out of concern for the security of the kingdome. For the past two fortnights there has been curious individual loitering about Beresford Common, his manner is sly and retiring, but there is something about him that I find worrying in my soul. He is a sneaky fellow of ill aspect named Roger Calloway, late arrived as a laborer in a merchant caravan, but he has stayed in town a week after market day, which has caused suspicion.

Calloway is hardly an imposing man, but buggered of face and possessing a furry lip that he allows to droop down and conceal his aspect to great effect. It is hard to see what he is thinking. I have often seen him walking about the Common and visiting the market place and various shoppes about town, all the while making notes on pieces of parchment he keeps concealed on his person.

This behavior may seem innocent in its face; certainly listing prices for hemp and cordage or a pound of ha’penny nails is not an ill deed akin to dropping deadly nightshade into the village fountain, but it does beg the question: why? What advantage could be gained from this information? One can only speculate, and of course mention the matter to wiser heads such as yours.

My theory is that he might be an agent from a trading cartel in Holland or Flanders, and he is here posing as an Englishman to keep an eye on products and prices compared to Continental markets. The advantages in trade would of course be obvious to your Majesty, and acted on should you decide to act. I am unlettered in the matters of law and trade, and do not know what the consequences of apprehending this individual might be.

Calloway keeps his own counsel and consorts with nobody I have seen, although I have seen him loitering at the Smithy kept by Will Ramsay, also on the commons. Their friendship, it that may be the word for it, does seem strained. I saw them have words the other night and Calloway left the forge in a hurry, with Ramsay following behind, red-faced, his hand raised as if to strike him. I made no further inquiries into this matter, deciding there and then to bring it to your Majesty’s kind attention.

I trust I have been of some service in this matter, which I hope is really nothing to find alarming— but one may never know.

Your humble servant,
Roger, Assistant Abbot, Abbey of Beresford

(actual letter, my first time playing)

Let’s “score this letter” in game terms– this is the next part of the “RPG”.

My Monk’s stats are: Penmanship: Good (3D6) , Language: Average (2D6), Heart: Poor (1D6).
For every Superior Word, add 1 point.
(He has augmentation in reserve for Heart checks, once per scenario)

Rolling Language for each Superior Word I attempted to use: I hit on a 5 or 6, 4 times for 4 points.
I didn’t really “get” flourishes (using the HEART skill) as equating to using adjectives, so there are not many in the above letter directed towards Superior Words. I will fudge a little and say “Gracious Majesty” is one, and roll 1D6 for Heart, and use my Augmentation skill to add a dice. Once. Miraculously, I get a 5 and a 6., for 2 points.
Next is Penmanship. My Monk has GOOD penmanship, so I hope to clear up, with five rolls of 3 dice: for a score of 5 more.

Totaling it all up, I get 4 + 2 + 5 for 11 points on this letter. According to the scenario outcome, my result is:

11+ points: The King writes you personally, with great thanks. He has positioned his guard close by and the spy will be caught. You are invited to the King’s court as a guest, and a hero.

Not bad, not bad at all. I might have done better with more flourishes, but I did end up using my Augmentation Skill to great effect, which got me the best result possible.

Okay, so all this is pretty amusing and creative, but…..

Well, it’s not really a RPG, is it? You run a character but it’s not really a role-playing exercise. Your only interaction with a character is with an off-board NPC, and it is in the form of a letter. You don’t really make a lot of decisions above and beyond choosing how to use Superior Words in a letter. Writing a letter is a fun creative exercise, and I was impressed that I could easily make up a narrative thread to encompass all (or most of) the Superior Words in my Scenario.

Summary: So what is Quill? Perhaps an interesting classroom exercise developed by a creative instructor, who said to himself “Hey, self, this could be an RPG with a little polish!”. It feels like it is a fragment of something larger to me. The game’s theme is a thin patina indeed, and might improve with some expansion material in a follow up. Quill is amusing, EXTREMELY affordable, and a lot of fun. It will not bear up to repeated plays before becoming a bit tedious. Until then, it’s quirky and interesting, and worth a look. At the asking price, you can forget what you paid for it easily if you want. Enjoy!