Showing posts with label IRL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label IRL. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Ah... August

For some reason, everything slows down on the blog in summer. I have a ton of things going on apparently. The garden is rocking, there are five family birthdays and an anniversary in July and August. 

We worked in a concert or two and wine tasting. 

In the next few weeks, big gaming things are happening. Looking at the countdown, there are only 90 days until my OSE books are shipped. After that, I plan on launching a campaign for the kids. They have never played old-school D&D and OSE is kind of my go-to set to play. 

I've already started writing the scenario. I'm hoping to have 7-12 players for a couple of months as a playtest. There will be at least 6 non-standard classes for them to use plus all of the regular ones available in the OSE books. I can't wait. 

I hope to develop this campaign into a module or three.  

Recently, I decided to open a new social media channel on Locals. I call it The Map Bag, but there is little to nothing about gaming there. It's actually named after the bag I carry around for art supplies and computer junk. It will be a good place for many non-gaming posts, like this one. It's a tip jar of sorts. I don't play on paywalling any posts, but the built-in pay feature is there. 

I do poorly marketing myself and it has been a very long time since I have introduced a new product. I hope that changes because I have some ideas kicking around. I just won't have time for a while. 

So, here are some links to the products I do have. 



Swashbuckler Character
Class for D&D and AD&D


Swashbucklers for D&D and AD&D
Zero to Hero:
Uncommon Heroes

Zero to Hero
Zero to Hero
Character Sheet
for AD&D

Character Sheet
Character Sheet for AD&D



Kobold’s Folly
Mini Setting

Kobold’s Folly
Kobold’s Folly
Compass Rose
Inn Mini Setting

Compass Rose Inn
Compass Rose Inn
The Hex Pack
The Hex Pack
The Hex Pack

I'll see you around at the end of summer. 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Building a Better Shelfie - Part 3

This is the halfway point. Shelf four is all business. 


There are pencils, dice, scissors, and a stapler next to my glasses and some dice I find handy. The cup holds all of my loose change. 

The books on the left are either favorites I like to reread or stuff I need to read. 2010, Sanctuary, How to Make War, and Project Hail Mary are current favorites. The others are things I need to read. On the right are my glasses and a copy of Chainmail which was POD at DriveThruRPG. For less than $8, it was a steal. Under that is a copy of  A Billion Suns by Osprey. I had no idea Osprey made games. Hmm. 

Under that is the book, City by David Macaulay. This is a fascinating read and look, Macaulay's artwork is amazing. I hope to do a review of every one of his books. Back in the 1994, it was made into a 5 show series on PBS. You can buy a copy or watch on PBS or Youtube. 




PBS decided to rename it Roman City. Fair enough, it's about a fictional Roman city. It also improves upon the book by giving a larger scope to Rome's mythology and history. 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Abandoned Project Circa 1988

Back in 1980s, Battle Tech was my favorite tabletop game. It was quick and easy to play. However, I was baffled by the plot line and story. I'd make up my own stories that covered the bases. 

What I really enjoyed was Robotech, I totally understood that plotline. At some point, I collected all of the Palladium game books. However, I was baffled by the difficulty in using the rules. It could take hours to kill one opponent. 

Then it hit me. I could use Battle Tech to play Robotech themed battles. Back then, the Unseen were common mechs between Battle Tech and Robotech. They had the Veritechs, they had the Maurader which was an Office's Battlepod. 

But what they were lacking was a standard Battlepod. If I could mash up Battle Tech and Robotech, and devise my own stories, I could certainly make a Battlepod. 

Yeah... I'd kitbashed some models together, but whipping up a figurine from scratch was beyond me. 

I dug through my models and stuff, trying to come up with something. Legs were easy, I used the Maurader model for those. The hips need to be reworked out of wood. Sculpting the engines were simply two U-shaped pieces of balsam. The feet were plastic beads. 

But what about the body? 

I found a skull ring that was about the right size. I shave it down on the sides and bulked up the chin with that green fill used for models. The central eye was a wheel from an airplane model, 1:144 scale. The guns were antennae and wheels from helicopters. 

I had done it!

Given it had taken me hours and hours to build the thing, I realized I could have exactly one. The bottleneck was the skull ring, something I got from a vending machine. Where Robotech depicts odds of 50 Battlepods to each Veritech, I had the opposite. 

How unsatisfying. 

A friend came to my rescue with a handful of bullets and a can of air vulcanizing rubber. It didn't go smoothly. The rubber reacted with some of the plastics and while it took the shape I needed, it melted the original. 

Tonight, I found the results of my experiment. There were a lot of blowouts. Sometimes it was the small details like guns. Other times, it was in the hip/leg joints.  

For the life of me, I cannot remember why I abandoned this. Unfortunately, half of the mold is missing. 


But I do have two useable models to start again. Maybe someday.  


Friday, May 13, 2022

Note to Self: Mistakes were Made...

I've known about this for years, but there is a way to turn off the keyboard on a laptop. About once every 3-5 years, one of my cats walks across my laptop and the whole keyboard goes dead except for a couple of navigation keys and the Fn keys. 

Maddening. 

Since it doesn't happen that often, I never remember the keystroke necessary to fix it. 

For the record and for the next time, the keystroke is Control+Alt+L. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Dungeons and Dragons and Amusement Parks

For years, I have wondered where my brain linked up D&D and amusement parks. 

Well, dang. It's half here: 


And the other half is right here at Darien Lake: 


From 1981 to 1987, I was a member of a church youth group. I wasn't that interested in the churchy aspects of the events, but really enjoyed the camping, trips to Darien Lake, and several other events. I mention Darien Lake and camping primarily because they involved games. All kinds of games. 

(Editorial note: My parents were church shoppers, I dug in my heels with this choice as the young group. It was something I really appreciated even if the religion was not my own. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth and all that. There are a ton of ministries that have excellent outreach to any and all who have at least some of the same beliefs. It's always worth a look. ) 

On one of the first trips with the youth group, someone busted out a brand new copy of Top Secret. We thought it was like D&D. 

Nope. 

Bang. Dead. Start again. All rainy weekend long. 

The girls didn't get it and neither did I. Eventually, we all ended up in the park. 

Future trips were a lot better. A kid named Ethan pulled out a game called Toon. Unfortunately, this was somehow mixed up with a copy of Bunnies and Burrows and the insert to Bone Hill but no cover/map. No one could make heads or tails of it, I can't even say we had a whole set or multiple sets. Obviously, it was an older siblings' boxed set.  

However, I did get the references as Watership Down is one of my favorite books. Being 12 or 13, I knew I wanted the girls to play, and soon there were a dozen of us kids sitting at the table playing a game half-imagined by me and completely bought by the others. Somehow, I made pine cones and rocks become creatures, and chips, pretzels, and chocolate kisses were resources. 

I knew I was winning when the Reverend asked us if we wanted to go on the rides and three of the girls said, "No." Invariably, we would play games until it was "last call", when the adults told us there would be no more time for rides and roller coasters. We'd cram in a handful of rides just to say we did. 

I eventually fell away from that particular church for one of my own choosing, but the memories of that youth group were amazing. And has shaped how I choose to play. 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Hop, Skip and Jump Over the Shelf

Time isn't just flying, it's hopping, skipping, and jumping. If you look at the time to the right, three days came off this morning as our scheduled move-in date changed for the better. 

This morning, I began prepping some of my games for transport. But before I did that, I took a shelfie to share:

You can't really see what's there, so I will describe some of it. On the front, left edge of the shelf are my lucky orange dice plus my Dollar Store dice.  Next to that are three more important things, my watch, my glucometer, and a copy of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. The Prophet is the first book I bought for my wife on our first date. It was the first book I ever read aloud to her and the first book she purchased for me after the fire. 

(Editorial commentary: After the fire, we discovered that my wife had a copy of the Bible in her glovebox and I had a copy of "What is Dungeons and Dragons?" in mine. After the fire, we each a copy of the Bible and "What is Dungeons and Dragons?" in our cars. Just covering the bases, you can't be too prepared.) 

On the next shelf are tools: flash drives, a Chromebook and bookmarks. I'll skip the third shelf for now and move to the fourth, pictured to the left. 

These are some classic books that I am sure everyone will recognize. Clearly, I love old-school AD&D, Star Frontiers, Battletech, and Star Wars. I have a few other interesting books there, too. 

On the far left are my sketchbooks, I typically burn through one every 3-4 months, so this meager stack is more than a year's worth.
 
On the right side of the shelf are more books. These are relatively new to my collection and the ones I have been looking at recently. 

The far right-hand side of the shelf holds my notebooks and journals. They are all grid paper. I burn through the spiral and perfect bound books about once a month. 

I am much more careful and conservative with the black faux leather-bound books. I use one of those every 2-3 years, so I have a decade or more of writing material in them. They go everywhere with me, like the lucky orange dice, which I guess makes them lucky, too. 

The first leather-bound book contains a handwritten copy of all six books I have written and offered on DriveThruRPG, plus notes for the next six. 

I only write important things in these faux-leather books. On March 6th, I wrote down some interesting notes while at work. We (the teaching staff) received word that there would be some sort of State of Emergency in the next few hours or days. I wrote it down as if I would forget. 


Like anyone would forget... Nothing was written again until March 20th, when I labeled the section "Pandemic Friday" and noted the stay-at-home order. COVID is the reason I write so sparingly in these books and keep a large supply of sketchbooks on hand. I ran out of supplies during the pandemic. 

Let's circle back to the third and most important shelf. 


On this shelf are some really great items, aside from my all-important reading glasses. The top box is "5 Minute Dungeon". Underneath that are print-at-home books, presumably from DriveThruRPG: Master of the Rogue Spire Volume 1 and Volume 2, a copy of both the 1981 basic and expert D&D rules, and the notes I took in my last B2 Campaign before all of this mess. 

What makes all of these so great is someone I'll call "Blackrazor" read about the problems we were having and gifted me these books, plus dozens of more. I have yet to say, "thank you" enough. These items were well-loved, providing many hours of entertainment and distraction for me and my family. 

As time permits, I will probably comment more on these items. But in the meantime, the gaming stuff goes into boxes until the move is complete. 

Again, thank you all. For everything you have done and will do. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

How Ability Rolls Came to My Table

Even dusty old thieves   
are cool.
It's been a bit since I posted, so let's have an update. The counter to the right displays 25 days or 209 if you jumped into Old School Essentials' Kickstarter. I find myself putting stuff away lately rather than reading or gaming, which obviously decreases my post count. 

In my last post, I talked about table trouble. This one could have been called "Theif Envy", but the concepts are one and the same and tie back to OSE. 

I used to alternate between D&D and Star Frontiers campaigns (links go to DriveThruRPG). The idea of rolling against a skill is baked into Star Frontiers but is an add-on to D&D. Thieves have an array of skills that no one else has. Sure races have percentage skills for detecting doors and sloped passages, but a dwarven Thief character is like no other. 

It makes other class players envy those skills. 

Now I actually remember when the idea of rolling for certain actions came to my table. The party was at the last door in the dungeon and had plenty of warnings that the exit door would be trapped. The Thief took the lead and easily detected the dart trap in the oversized, dragon-shaped door handle. Then THE PLAYER got cocky. 

"I'll detect for poison!" he shouted. 

"You found some!" I shouted back. 

It was too good to pass up. I made him roll against his constitution score. He failed and was paralyzed. The party escaped, dragging the butt hurt Thief behind them, but as they closed the door on the dungeon, I could not close the door on "ability rolls". 

Oh, man. What a can of worms. Not because it's hard, but because it's so easy. Like being pelted with dice. 

Perversion is too many die rolls
in a role-playing game.

"I'll roll for this..."

"And I'll roll for that..." 

The one thing that could have stopped this from happening was a simple and clear acknowledgment of the player's humor vs. the character's intent. There was no way that character was that stupid. Or funny for that matter. Every other social encounter this character and player had was decidedly taciturn or even sour. 

I shouldn't have let it happen, but I happen to like this style of play... To a degree.

If a character needs to do something that can be described easily and doesn't invoke any sort of fantastic ability, the die roll itself is suspect. As much as some people can be funny like the aforementioned thief, some people's reactions to situations can be just as good. 

When the player of the Fighter hears a threat from an opponent and puts on their game face, the perfect, bone-crushing game face, he or she shouldn't roll for anything. They are not intimidated and perhaps turnabout happens where the mouthy NPC has all of his buddies fail a morale check right from the start, leaving the Fighter and the Mouth to work it out. 

You see how that's different, right? A morale check is hardcoded into the rules. But an ability check isn't. What would I have a Fighter roll against for bone-crushing aggressiveness? 

No idea. 

In all cases, I believe the characters should be able to do whatever they want when they want. It might not work out, but you know, I let them try. Unless someone proposes a task that maps directly to an ability score, I don't want the roll. 

A trivial example is leaping on or off horses. I'm not rolling for that because 99.99999% of the time, the action is merely flashy and not necessary. The times when it's necessary, eating a face full of dirt is better than what would happen. 

A not-so-trivial example is when the party or player comes up with the perfect plan, one that seems to have no flaws or problems and is delivered with confidence and flair? So long as all of their assumptions are correct, what is a roll going to do to improve the situation? 

Nothing at all. 

I can give a hysterical example of not rolling. I had a Magic User with a fly spell that he used all of the time. He got his hands on a ring of delusion, which he believed was a ring of flying. 

"Oh, shit," muttered the rest of the party. 

In talking this out with the DM, we decided that it was really a ring of double delusion. Not only did my character believe it was a ring of flying he would also be deluded into forgetting that he cast a fly spell to make it work. So the ring appeared to be a ring of inconsistent flying. 

This was preferable to making a saving throw against the ring's influence. We kept track with a token, when I cast my one and only fly spell or invoked the ring's power, I handed over the token to the DM. Without the token, any attempt to fly would fail, usually with disastrous results. 

My character would suggest ariel solutions to every problem even if it wasn't reasonable to fly at all. Again, this is a ring of delusion after all. 

In Old School Essentials, you generally have a 1 or 2 in 6 chance of pulling some random activity for a skill that isn't quantified. That's a great compromise because usually, these events don't map at all to a skill. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

AD&D e1, Dealing with Trouble at the Table - Part 1

Today, we go behind the 
curtain on my style of play.   
   
I ran e1 AD&D for as many as 12 players back in the day. 

Needless to say, a lot of trouble popped up at the table due to a large number of players. The obvious and primary problem was attendance. My way of dealing with this was not to run dungeons all the time and encourage the party to exit a dungeon whenever possible.  That at least opened the possibility of missing players' characters being left behind in a place of safety. It didn't always work out, but it significantly reduced the possibility of myself or someone else running an extra character. Wilderness and town settings are best for depositing a PC in a safe place. 

My "solution" was less than ideal. I would run the character in the background as an NPC and adjusted threats accordingly. It was rarely a good idea, but its what I did. 

The next major issue was the introduction of Unearthed Arcana to our campaign. I personally love the book, but I can count on one hand the number of times someone decided to be a Barbarian, Cavalier, or Theif-Acrobat. My players were far more interested in the new racial subtypes, spells, and weapons that were never a problem. The details in this tome are far more helpful than the mechanical changes. 

One thing I flat-out ignored was Fighter, Ranger, or Paladin as a subtype of Cavalier. No character class was a subtype of any other class in my campaigns. What helped in this regard is that I used to play B/X and let players use B/X characters in AD&D. You could be an Elf, a Fighter who was an elf, or whatever else was described in either set of rules. B/X characters tend to have lower stats, but when you're the DM who imposed the rule, you know that already and adjust accordingly. 

Cavaliers have so many new mechanics that are horrible for gameplay. Abilities or new mechanics based on alignment suck because that is the domain of Paladins or Assassins. It is too wild and inconsistent for players to remember. Starting at level 0 for one specific class is stupid. Tacking on a paragraph to the Cantrip descriptions kind of implies that Magic-Users and maybe Illusionists also start at level 0. 

Why not every character? Because it's stupid and adds nothing. Just weaken the party with a disease at level one if you want that. Worse, this book also lead to the idea that Magic-Users might have had three levels of level 0. It wasn't all that clear. 

What the hell? All I wanted from this book was to have Eric, Bobby, and Diana from the cartoon, not a tax audit form and root canal.  

To get around this, I completely eliminated the concept of level zero. In discussing this with the players, they all wanted that little bit of padding for their Hit Points at level 1. Ok, sure. What I wanted was a simple ruleset and a Cavalier that behaved more like a non-lawful good Paladin. 

I created a collection of "professional classes" which imparted a backstory, a field of special knowledge, and 1d6 HP to any player character class. There was also a slight chance that someone received a +1 with a tool-like weapon or the ability to wield a different type of weapon in lieu of a single weapon normally assigned by the main character class description. For example, a mason-turned Cleric received a +1 to hit with a hammer or a hunter-turned Magic-User knew how to use a lasso or perhaps a light spear instead of a quarterstaff. 

I even wrote a book about it called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners. The "Zero" in the title secretly refers to my "no zero-level characters" edict. This is a trivia-like spoiler. No place in this title do I suggest to the reader not to use zero-level characters. Since I want to rewrite this book, you might want to wait to download it. 

My campaigns tended to be high magic, so tacking on a few extra HP to every character did nothing special, except weaken spell casters. The deal for spell casters was also more power, I permitted first-level characters access to their bonus spells right out of the gate. In my campaigns, a super wise Cleric could unleash an extra, higher-level spell at first level. I also used the same chart for Magic-Users, Illusionists, and Druids. 

Who cares? 

I gave every PC Fighting man an extra 1d6 HP. Let the power rush to everyone's head while guiding the squishy magic-using types away from florentine style dagger fights which ends them so quickly. 

One tale of woe stands out in my head. A case of pigheadedly ignoring mechanics. A player was having a difficult real-life and decided to burden me with his troubles by lashing out with a Paladin that wouldn't stick to his alignment. The rule on this is pretty simple. The Paladin loses their abilities and some experience until they conform to the class requirements or changes class and/or alignment. 

The reason for this rule is simple, to prevent mechanical abuse. 

As you can see, I play pretty fast and loose with mechanics anyway. I couldn't let the abuse continue but I didn't feel like removing powers from someone who was already suffering from a real-life loss. It was the wrong answer. 

When the first couple of abuses happened, I merely told the player that his character felt different about his chosen class. I didn't have an instant solution on the spot. When it happened in the next session, I addressed it in the same way. By the third session of abuse, I was ready to unload on him. 

And boy, did I. 

Instead of striping the Paladin of their powers, I assigned him an invisible angel NPC. Only his character

Cavaliers are dicks... and awesome.
saw it and heard it. I had a series of notes preplanned to handle many eventualities. The angel was not much of a burden, but was not especially helpful. 

The other player and characters glommed on to the fact that either the player or the Paladin was going nuts or really did have an invisible friend, but what it was exactly was a mystery. 

At first, I dealt with things by having him read sections of the gamebooks. Deities and Demigods - about his chosen god in particular. This seemed to reduce the amount of abuse by a good bit. Rather than engaging me in a challenging fashion, he was engaging with an NPC who operated under very strange rules that he didn't know. It's hard to violate rules you don't know. 

One huge problem was when the Paladin lost his warhorse. It was shot right out from under him and died. The hostile behaviors came right back until the player realized I already had a plan for this possibility. Initially, I provided a regular horse and a few strange, mystical events to set the player back and stand the character back up for the win. A Paladin without a steed is at a disadvantage. The rest of the party either had to accept these mystical events or guard him against himself. 

At various points, a stag, a dog, a cat appeared to assist him when needed. The angel confirmed that this was his God softening the blow and putting him on the right course to find a new warhorse. 

Amusingly, the player tried to suss out the exact rules I was using for providing animal guardians. He entered a cattle pen during combat, only to have the angel proclaim: 

"These are normal cows, son. This isn't how we should end." 

Ironically, the warhorse problem resolved itself when the Paladin had it resurrected via a wish spell meant to rescue a different party member. Amazingly, the Paladin wrote out a wish that fulfilled both issues, that was also not abusive and seemed very sincere. As a Paladian would, the player ascribed the wish to his diety and pleaded for his horse and teammate's lives.   

Some of these ideas I cribbed from Infocom games. Not the details, but the humorous tone the games used to get the player off the wrong track. Other times they inspired spur-of-the-moment gambits. More than a few scenarios came from fantasy novels, like the Damiano series. But the best one was preplanned from the get-go of deciding how to deal with this troublesome player. 

For example, lot of people play AD&D with the idea players don't die at 0 HP, they slowly fall to -10 before expiring. I decided to mess with this idea. When the Paladin, who already had a lot of HP to begin with, dropped to 9 or fewer hit points, his guardian angel intervened. The angel would envelop the Paladin with his wings and at the end of the round, would physically merge with him. The Paladin would have access to flight and two flaming scimitars, but his hit points were still at 9 or less and dropping one point per round like a character at 0 HP. 

Tick-tick-tick...

It took a year for this eventuality to happen. That's 52 weekly sessions where I needed "A PLAN". Real-life losses hang around for a good bit, so having "A PLAN" for the table is helpful. Hopefully, it doesn't involve kicking someone out of the game. 

(Although, that can be a plan, too. You should approach this like ending a marriage, with or without children. Because other players may act like children. Don't do it lightly. ) 

After dozens of sessions, most of the party realized that there was something strange about the situation.  When the angel finally revealed itself, the party cheered. There were half a dozen mock, "I knew it!" exclamations and applause. They really enjoyed the reveal. 

The important bit here is creating a bit of mystery and investment for the other people at the table. Otherwise, it smacks favoritism and Mary-Sue'ing. One portion of this was explaining the mechanic, not the consequences of the mechanic. 

No one, not even the Paladin's player knew what would happen if the combat lasted long enough for him to drop to 0 HP. I didn't state what would happen so as to drag the party into the event. They all needed the combat to end in less than 9 rounds. I didn't say that, but that's how life works. I honestly had no idea what would happen and luckily, the party rose to the challenge and now we'll never know. 

While I loved the experience of dealing with this troublesome player in a creative way, I only wish to bring the inspired magic (and maybe an invisible angel) back to my table. Troublesome players are often not fun.  

Jeeze. I didn't mean to burn through 2000 words on one tale of table trouble. I have appended the words, "Part 1" to this title as I can see I will be back to discuss other problems another day. 

Friday, March 18, 2022

Five Point Friday - March 18th, 2022

 

This isn't much of a Five Point Friday, at least with respect to gaming. 

A lot has happened this week. I started a new job on Monday. The massive increase in activity has kicked my ass. My blood sugar readings are all over the place but trending positively. Despite the exhaustion, I feel great. 

I guess I'll start point one. I love John and Hannah's Red Dice Diaries. I've been plowing through them at half speed. For every episode I listen to, they upload 2. I loved the episode about stat'ing up NPC and Old Books. 

Point 2. I wish to revisit my DriveThruRPG offering, Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners. I want to add a few more professions, sample character sheets with drawings of the character, a couple of charts for random NPC encounters. One of the things I would like to do is create a map for location in my campaigns, The High Booth. It's a church/temple/bar where extraordinary things happen and a great place to meet NPCs. Obviously, readers would be welcome to adapt or replace it with their own meeting place for NPCs. This addition would go hand in hand with charts of who one might meet in a similar establishment. 

Point 3. I'd like to read for an hour or so each night. I did pick up a copy of three Thieves' World books a few weeks ago and it has sat untouched. That bothers me. Good books are there to be enjoyed. As I get my feet under me at work, I probably get the time. 

Point 4. The house is coming along nicely. This weekend, I need to pick up a pool table, drawer pulls, and handles. 


We are waiting on countertops and such. As you can see, the dog is a little nervous visiting "home", the place that burned. As we all are. Anyway, we had a great day when the appliances were delivered. 

Point 5. I picked up a nice little OSR machine, a Lenovo 10e. It's what I am using for this post. On the 10-inch screen, gamebooks look nice. One thing I cannot do is manipulate images in blog posts as touching the image scrolls the screen. I'm working on some workarounds for this and I have a few ideas. 

The image to the left is from DriveThruRPG's app and even old titles look amazing. I'm not sure if I can read them without glasses, but I can't read much without glasses anyway. 

This little device is amazing and I hope to do a review on it soon. 

Since I have been alternating between dropping hints of reviews and flat out telling you what I'll be reviewing, let me share this image:





Sunday, March 13, 2022

Website Updates

In the last two weeks, I have made quite a few updates. Three reviews for Iron Buffalo Gaming and Coffee, and one for the 2005 Serenity RPG. 

For my next three/four reviews, I will be going down a fantasy run. I finally obtained a copy of  Sanctuary from the 1980s. This book is a collection of three different books of short stories which take place in the Thieves' World setting. This book is very different from the 2003 novel of the same name. This will be three different reviews of each book, Thieves' World, Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, and Shadows of Sanctuary. 

This series of books was created by Robert Lynn Asprin as a shared universe. The authors of the stories used the same city as the settling and created their characters to exist there. It was a simple and ingenious idea that has been used for many other books.  

There has been another change behind the scenes. I have lost my Amazon Affiliate Ads. The reason for this is rather simple as much as it is baffling. The Affiliate system is not meant to be a personal or friends and family discount. By using social media, including responding to comments on the blog itself, Amazon has taken the point of view that those interactions make us friends and family or perhaps business associates. 

Ok, sure. I'll accept that. So the Amazon Ads are no more. 

As a replacement, you will see different ads for groups like Abe Books and DriveThruRPG. Since I am not doing webstats anymore, it won't be obvious what that means. Actually, it means very little. I receive the lion's share of income from DriveThruRPG. By a factor of 10 over Amazon. I don't know why this ever came to be as Amazon is such a big company. I guess the answer is this blog is 90% about games and 10% of all things that come from Amazon. 

I would be remiss if I didn't mention two other things readers should be aware of. The privacy policy has been updated noting that Amazon ads are in the past tense. I feel that I should be offering links to Amazon's privacy for a while. I will be revisiting that policy in the future. 

The second item comes about from my sharing of my collection of Bandai Star Wars models. This collection of 1:144 scale models used to retail for about $9.99. At the end of 2021, the sets became unavailable and the prices in the secondary market, such as Amazon skyrocketed. 

I have recently spotted these sets back at physical retailers with a more modest price bump of $2.00, or $11.99. The main physical retailer for these sets in my area is Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby frequently has sales at 40% off, which makes them the cheapest source for these sets. 

If you are looking for these sets online, both HobbyLobby.com and The Big Bad Toy Store. I haven't really noticed these models elsewhere, but if you know another source let me know in the comments. 

Hobby Lobby, when running a sale seems to have the best prices, even if you order online and pay to ship. However, The Big Bad Toy Store has a special web feature that is kind of special. You can select items and place them in "My Pile of Loot" to be shipped at a future date. I find this is handy when ordering items on preorder, alongside products that are currently available. This option saves on shipping. 

I am also starting a new job tomorrow. I suspect that I will be quiet for a while, until I get my feet back under me. 


Friday, March 11, 2022

Five Point Friday - March 11, 2022

Welcome to this week's Five Point Friday. I haven't been keeping up because so many things are happening around here. Today marks 50 days until we go home. In just 2 weeks, we got new floors, windows, kitchen cabinets and a lot of other stuff. 

50 days is going to go fast. My main issue is all of the changes at home. I might have to skip restoring my basement office. That's ok. 

My daughter has plans for a rabbit hutch and a reading area. My wife wants the PS4 down there, too. My son Paul's room will be down there. 

In the kitchen area, we have a nice table picked out which will be great for homework and blogging. Additionally, we'll have a nice passthrough area between the kitchen and dining room with room to write and draw. We already have the stools picked out.  


For point one, on the gaming side, I jumped into the Old School Essentials Kickstarter. It seems very popular. At the moment, with 14 days to go, they crossed the $650,000 range. They are deep into the stretch goals but shy of the $800,000 point to do physical dice. They are projecting that the Kickstarter won't make it to that. 

Ah, well. Can't have everything. But by sharing their campaign, maybe we can have everything. :) 

Just what I need, more dice. 

For point 2, I stopped off at Iron Buffalo Gaming for a book and some excellent coffee. I really enjoy this place and they have a great thing going there. 

I spoke with the owner and listened as he did an interview with a local news crew. I haven't seen him on the news, I suspect I missed it.
 
But anyway, I did manage to snap a picture or two of their D&D e5 setup.
 


I want my shelves to look like this. We'll see. 

Point 3 is I discovered that Hulu has the Firefly TV show. For some reason the film, Serenity is elsewhere in the streaming universe. Over the next couple of weeks, I plan on watching an episode per evening. 

Four. More sci-fi. 

I picked up the Serenity RPG from 2005. It looks impressive, I've been reading through it and building characters to work out the rules. I really enjoy reliving Firefly. 

My last point is on ads, media, and swag. 

I lost my Amazon ads a week or so ago. I'm not sure why. Anyway, that is why you won't see ads for them here anymore. I am still heavily into the Amazon ecosphere, so don't think that just because I don't run their ads that they have bad products. 

As a replacement, I have been including Abe Book ads with each book review. Additionally, I have some swag links available. Over on Redbubble, you can grab some great coffee mugs created by me. I am trialing putting ordering information in posts, but I'm not sure that is the way to go. I need to figure out how to present them nicely on the blog. 

Another simplification is I have eliminated my Facebook and Twitter share campaign. Redbubble is kind of pressuring me into using Instagram, but I don't use it much. The data doesn't support using Facebook, so flipping to a new platform seems... well... bad. Facebook was good for a while, but it wasn't giving me the returns I was expecting. What I found was, 38% of my readers are coming directly to the blog either by typing the name or using a bookmark. Also, only 4% of my readers came from Facebook and that number is falling. 

But... Wow! 38%. That is awesome. If I knew how to get that higher, I'd do it in a heartbeat. But 38% is amazing name recognition for a website with a wacky name. 

I am looking at all of my social media accounts and trying to decide what else can go. No matter what, I plan on keeping my MeWe and Dice.Camp accounts running. 

Anyway, thank you for reading. 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Lucky Find - Mirco Machines Star Wars Figures

I made a lucky find today at the house. A dozen or so metal Micro Machine Star Wars Figures. I found them in a box in the attic, which probably should have burned to ash but didn't thanks to the asbestos popcorn ceiling we had.  


You can see these are from a few different sets. I have a couple from Hoth, including Luke and Han. There is also a single regular Stormtrooper, Vader, and Boba Fett. 

There were two figures I didn't recognize in the same box: plastic Gamorrean guards.  


eBay sparked a memory. These are from the 1983 Parker Brother's game, Battle at Sarlacc's Pit. I recall having this one but I have no idea where the rest of the game went. I did not die in the fire, I had lost it long ago. 

Anyway, things are moving along at the house. We have windows, a toilet and kitchen cupboards. It's all looking up. 


Saturday, February 19, 2022

Copy, Paste, Flip, Cut... The Countdown is On

If you look over to the right, you'll see the countdown is on. We are set to return home by mid-April. 54 days. That means a lot of things. 

Due to the time of year, everyone here is hauling ass. Nate and Cat have the school play the first week of March. Weddings are in full swing, so they are doing double duty with practice and work at the banquet hall. My older son is off with the Air Force Reserves, in and out of the house as duty dictates. My wife and I are starting new jobs. 

Things are getting real. 

The biggest change is that we won't have time to game much at all. Rather than go on hiatus, I will still have time to do some reviews. I also want to show off some cool stuff I have received from people who reached out after the fire. I should have time to post every week or two. 

Before I check out for a bit, I wanted to show off something I put together today. I love the game Star Smuggler, a solo game created in the 80s. It's like Traveller Super Lite. You can download and print it from Dwarfstar Games

One thing that always bothered me about the set is that the tiles used for the planets forced the player to invert one tile or another to create the necessary planets. Last night, I decided to correct that by flipping every tile with Gimp. This afternoon, I printed them out and pasted them on cardboard. 

It took forever. You see, the problem was each tile has text and numbers which are backward if you merely flip them. I went in flipped the words the right way around. 

It wasn't until I had the whole set printed and mounted on cardboard that I realized the high production value of the artwork included with this game. Everything lines up correctly. 

When you look at two A tiles side by side, the available paths line up because they are mirrored. And the continents look like a Rorschach test. But that is not how they are supposed to be used. 


You're supposed to match up left and right tiles according to the rules. For example, the Planet Regari uses tiles K and J while Palatek uses A and C. 


Not only do those match, every tile matches. That's brilliant! Tom Maxwell, who did the art for the tiles was a genius. I love it. 

Given that I won't have much time on my hands in the next 50+ days, my gameplay will be limited to solo games like this one. Physical tiles make it so much easier. 

Thank you, everyone, for everything. I will be around but probably not as much as I'd like. 

Monday, January 31, 2022

News From The Home Front - We Have Ceilings!

I can't believe how long this journey has been. We have a completion date of mid-March to early April. We finally have enough of a house that I can start thinking about returning home. I took a panoramic photo in the middle of what will be our living room. 

We are slowly making progress. 

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The Inaugural 2022 Post

Welcome to 2022! The year of Time Runner and Soylent Green. 

As promised, I will continue to do science fiction and fantasy book reviews. Last year I was heavy on the sci-fi so this year I hope to swing the other direction into fantasy. 

It's January 2nd and I have already burned most of a $75.00 B&N gift card and a good chunk of another gift card. And read a book, Inhibitor Phase by Alastair Reynolds. I have a couple of other books lined up for review this year, classics like Fritz Leiber's Swords Against Deviltry and a newer title, After Dark by Michael and Shell DiBaggio. I also have Aurora Rising, Permafrost, The Winds of Gath for my Traveller friends and Sanctuary for you murderous thieves lurking out there. 


Lastly, I have picked up about 7 game titles from Noble Knights and DriveThruRPG to round everything out.

I hope you stay tuned this year. Join me on a year of epic reading. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

Chaotic Good Fun - A True Lie

Ever have one of those players that creates a character that just doesn't make sense? You know the kind. The person who shows up with a Chaotic Good Assassin. 

Actually, this story is not about me. Well, sort of. 

I did create a Chaotic Good Assassin as a part of a party tasked with killing off the evil overlord of the land. I can't remember the lord's name but let's call him Lord Farquaad. 

Now for the setup. I was late for the session that night and missed the bit about killing the lord "someday". Since I was late, the DM handed me a set of pre-generated stats. I was only allowed to shift scores around or swap points for prime requisites so I didn't have the stats to be anything interesting. 

The DM looked mulled over my sheet while describing the villain and prompted me to fill out a character description. You know, the boring eye color, hair color, skin color, etc. Since he just described the lord, I simply wrote down what DM said. Since I just pulled a fast one with the alignment, I didn't wait to draw attention to myself by flat out stating that my assassin character looked just like his quarry, Lord Farquaad.  

Right off the bat, I had a humorous way of wrecking this campaign and went for it. My character infiltrated the castle and promptly failed to kill the lord. The only person to see my assassin was Lord Farquaad and the would-be assassin managed to escape by a dangerous and inexplicably lucky leap into the moat. 

Rather than getting upset by my shenanigans, the DM ran with it. Since Lord Farquaad was hunting just one obvious assassin, it gave the party all kinds of opportunities to bushwhack him. Ultimately, the lord survived all of these attacks and went on a crazy, bloodthirsty hunt for the party. He used my foolishness to really make this lord despicable. 

That's where my rouse kicked into high gear. The party fled to the silver mines. We infiltrated the lord's own most secure outpost posing as guards. At this point, my character's secondary gambit was discovered by the DM. A Magic-User was detecting alignments on new guards and the DM was non-plussed to discover my assassin wasn't evil. 

Where it became laughable was when my character got his hands on some forged paperwork that said his name imperfectly matched Lord Farquaad's. His cover story was his mother had a tryst with Lord Farquaad and she had high hopes for becoming the legitimate Lady of the Kingdom, to the point of naming her son "Lord Farquaad". His first name was actually "Lord". This got snickers all the way around the table. 

Suddenly, the whole theme of the game shifted to a ridiculous, fantasy version of the film, "Catch Me If You Can". 

Now here is the really funny part. I didn't come up with this on my own. 

There was a family friend that had a name that matched a landed person in England from the 1700s. In the early 80's, the UK did something that I can only equate with an "estate last call". They wanted people to claim abandoned estates so that they could get back to collecting taxes or clearing their records for sale or perseveration as needed. 

This family friend was big into genealogy and laid a claim to an estate back in England. It was kind of a big deal. He managed to provide all of the documents necessary to back up his claim as his family had the same name and this particular Englishmen did visit Western New York. 

It turns out that this landed gentry from England came to New York in search of a criminal. The criminal escaped all attempts at capture by taking the name of the Lord pursuing him. Annoyed, Lord went back to his estate empty-handed. 

Here is where the story goes south and where the U. S. Government got involved. It turns out that this family friend was not related to the Lord, but the criminal quarry. Which he was fully aware of, it's is kind of illegal in rather surprising ways when you seem to have documentation that says one thing, but the reality is another. Forgery isn't always required to produce "correct" documentation, sometimes hiding contradicting documentation is better than an outright fictional document. 

I'm not sure where the B.S. starts and ends with this story as this story is about the 1700s criminal leading to a land claim in England in the early 80s. I would have been about 8-11 years old myself. While I was aware of what was happening, I didn't really understand. While it's funny enough for people to retell, it's the sort of story that gets changed with every telling. 

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Gather & Game Review

I have no idea why it took me so long to get to this shop. Gather & Game is a real gamers' shop. I took my son, Nathan, and my daughter, Catherine. Nathan was more impressed with the shop than Catherine. She had been playing guitar while my wife was at an online class, which is less than optimal. 

Name: Gather & Game
Location: 205 Grant St., Buffalo, New York 14213
Phone: 716-342-2823
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gatherandgame
Website: https://www.gatherandgame.com/

Gather & Game is located on Grant Street, a historic neighborhood with charm. Many of the shops have been there for decades and the game shop is no exception. The storefront is painted in vivid hues of purple and pink. From the outside, you'd have no idea that they crammed that much product into such a tiny space and left room for tables and gaming. 

There is no missing this place from the street, even when surrounded by equally colorful shops. 

Inside is cramped but comfortable. Shelves, displace cases, and gaming tables occupy most of the space. If you want to stroll along, you'll need to walk down Grant Street, which is always an adventure. 


I had to contain myself walking through the shelves. They have so many games. Everything from board games to Traveller5. I also had to remind myself that I had a budget to stick to, otherwise, I would have walked out with an armload of Warhammer, Battletech, and e5 products plus half a dozen board games that caught my eye. They had a few featured products but the shelves are crammed with perhaps 100 different types of games. 

They have something for everyone. 

Even better, the staff and owners are so knowledgeable about the wide array of products they have on hand. And it's not that salesman sort of knowledge, it's that warm and friendly passion about play and enjoyment that shines through. Even my heavy metal daughter smiled a bit when talking about products. 

They are already back to hosting game nights and I can't wait to go back. If you get a chance to visit Buffalo, make time to stop at our local shops for your gaming fix. 


Map: