A place wherein this Dwarven Cleric can share his love of maps, dice, miniatures, and all things involving gaming and general geekery--not to mention the occasional witty non-gaming observations--whilst escaping from the humdrum existence of his routine Terran existence.

Hail and Well Met, fellow traveler! May my Stronghold provide a place for enlightenment and amusement, and somewhere to keep your dice dry. Enter and rest awhile.

22 August 2016

'SHROOMS!

Game night last Friday.

I was really excited about it; new DM sitting behind the screen, new campaign. Well, technically an old campaign...call it a new old campaign. And I was juiced.

I started playing in '81. But would you believe I've never played through—or DM'd —The Tomb of Horrors?

That was the DM's choice for the new campaign, and I was really excited. Did I say I was excited?

And then, 2 hours before our only chance at a game this month...one of the guys got sick. Really sick.  We were at risk of having to wait yet another month to march to our doom. I—as propmaster—and the DM put our heads together...and he said he had something. A little side quest to get us all to know each other, or at least 3 of us. And then came the request: instead of the previous list of miniatures, he needed a druid, some piercers, and some Myconids.

Myconids? Where the Hell was I going to get Myconids? And on short notice, too....

So I loaded the car with all my other gear and headed out with a little bit of inspiration. A quick stop at Hobby Lobby...and I had my myconids.
As you can see, they look pretty good. They're cast of a heavy resin, fair amount of detail with the stems (at least they're not smooth), and the bottoms are flat and stable enough that they don't really need basing...unless I want to go through the effort.

Even the scale is about correct, at least in our campaign.The small ones are just barely above the top of the human miniature's head, so they're about 6'–6.5' tall. The big ones are about twice that. Both sizes have bases that fit in the 1" squares.


Each package held four small ones and one big one; with a coupon, it was actually quite economical.  It was certainly cheaper than doing it myself.

Hobby Lobby was actually my second stop because the local Michael's was closer. All they had was some tiny ones (scaled at about 2'-3') with floral wire coming from the bottom that were more for wreaths or "fairy garden" use. I actually stopped at Hobby Lobby to grab a pin vise because Michael's didn't have one. I only asked about the mushrooms at Hobby Lobby on a whim. After a pack of those tiny mushrooms, several packages of 1" discs, and some quick-drying epoxy...well, I would have spent more—especially with conversion/prep time—than I did on the packs of the big ones.

Come to think of it, I could base the bigger ones, and use these tiny ones to add detail to the bases. I was going to return them...but.... Hmm.... I'd need some bases bigger than 1". Dang it. I should have stopped thinking while I was ahead.

The big ones represented a series of shrieker guardians in the lair of an anti-druid. The small ones saw double-use as some smaller guardian 'shrooms as well as a group of Myconid warriors captured, caged, and used as a food source for the anti-druid's Beholder companion. None of the characters had any idea what these things were; I was actually the only player at the table that, in meta-game, knew what Myconids were. They didn't register as "evil" to my character, so he risked life and limb to release these things that were speaking to him telepathically. As a result, the three PCs were named "clan brothers" to this group of Myconids. The photos were taken as we returned to the cave from a quick jaunt back to town, post-Myconid rescue but pre-anti-druid confrontation. (A dozen of them returned from their cave to aid us in our quest to destroy the anti-druid.)

The DM actually ran several test-runs of this scenario—both the beholder fight and the anti-druid fight—and it ended in TPK Every. Single. Time. Somehow we pulled both off; the only casualty was, of course, our elf, who was turned to stone. [Aside: I say "of course" because in our group, somehow, the elf is always the first to die. It has been that way for 16 years. The player who routinely plays our elf has had at least as many characters over this time as the rest of us have had...put together. No joke. We go through elves like they're made of Mountain Dew and Doritos. End aside.] My trap-finding and lock-picking skills and rolls were STELLAR and the DM kept rolling Critical 1s...so the dice were falling in our favor on every side. All in all it was a good night.We found the Crown of the Gods where the anti-druid had hidden it and returned it to the local temple, only to be offered the chance to go on several more quests to find teh powerful gemstones that accompany the crown.

So now we're left with the choice: go after the gems? or head to the Tomb of Horrors?

Choices...choices...choices.... Either way, the next month won't go fast enough!

18 July 2016

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Issue #3 is One Step Closer!

Gentle readers, Issue #3 is one step closer to reality!

Both figuratively and literally (at least, in a literary sense).

Last night I received the digital image for the cover from +Jim Magnusson. It is, in a word, fantastic. I gave him the barest of suggestions (include a monster and the Stronghold) and he delivered in spades and with bells on. the artwork means I'm down to waiting for just one last image. And the monster in question, is leaving footprints. Big ones.

Sorry, folks. No teaser image this time around.

It truly made my day, and I needed it. Family crap again; trying to divide up my parents' estate is nearly killing me. The sheer greed and childishness that has come to light is...well, ludicrous, but also absurd to the level of humorous. I needed some good news after the emotional wringer that was my Saturday and Sunday.

Back to Issue #3: start gearing up and spreading the word. It's coming; can't you feel the earth shake?

15 July 2016

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Issue #3 Update and a Dance Break

A quick update on Issue #3 of The Stronghold 'Zine: I have received 1 of the last 3 pieces of artwork. It looks fantastic, courtesy of +Ripley Stonebrook.

Here's a teaser: a snippet of the art accompanying the new class presented in Issue #3: The Warder.

I'm really excited about this class, designed by a long-time friend of mine. It'll be presented in 3.x format. I'm seriously considering finding someone to translate into an OSR-compatible format as well. If there's any interest in this, let me know ASAP!

In other news, Holy Crap. I'm getting old. And I'm feeling every single day of it today, and then some. For our most recent anniversary, I bought tickets for my beautiful wife to a Howard Jones concert. I had never been a great fan back in the day; nothing against him—I didn't listen to '80s music back then, I was listening to '50s and '60s music. My wife, on the other hand, is a HUGE fan.

But, y'see, back...oh, 28 years ago or so he came through town and my (then) wife-to-be went to the concert with a guy. Her then-boyfriend became jealous of the attention she was showing Howard Jones, even though they were probably 100 yards away or more in an open-air, mountainside venue, where he was about an inch tall or so from their seats. But Psycho-boy became jealous and forced her to leave the concert three-quarters of the way through the concert to "beat traffic down the canyon."

That was the breaking point in their relationship, and she's never forgiven or forgotten. So I agreed, mostly knowing that she would have fun.

And she did. So do I, frankly. My wife danced through all 90+ minutes. I tried to keep up. I've never danced that long in my life. And today...I'm feeling it. 18 hours later and I still can't hear from one ear. (It was a fairly intimate venue with IMMENSE speakers.) I am stiff and sore. And exhausted.

But Momma's happy...so the Stronghold is happy.

07 July 2016

RIP Steve Russell of Rite Publishing

Photo courtesy of thenerdstash.com
The news is spreading today of the passing of Steve Russell, 42, of Rite Publishing. Award-winning designer, developer, publisher, and a man I was proud to number among my friends. He leaves behind his wife of six years, expecting their first child later this year.

I've known Steve since 2012 when he first responded to an e-mail regarding printing problems I was experiencing after downloading a Rite Publishing product. He had the problem fixed quickly, and responded graciously and helpfully to future questions and concerns. Looking at all the tributes, I was not alone in feeling this way. It was who he was.

About 18 months ago, I was privileged to join the Rite Publishing family, if only in a small way, assisting with proof-reading their Pathways magazine. Through these later interactions, I grew to know him a bit better and have considered him a friend. I'd like to think I was numbered among his friends as well, even though I was little more than an internet acquaintance.

My last interaction with Steve was three weeks ago: a bit of witty repartee concerning the cover for Pathways #58. Even though I'd probably put him in a difficult position, he was still gracious and friendly.

My sincerest condolences—as well as all of my thoughts and prayers—go out to his family and close friends today. All of us who knew Steve, even peripherally, have been touched by knowing him and will miss him.

The world is truly a bit darker today.

Godspeed, Steve.

Steve's sister has set up a memorial fund for Steve's wife and soon-to-arrive first child. That link is here.

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Bride of the Son of the 'Zine

Just a short visit to say that work on Issue #3 of the Stronghold is not only progressing, but we're at about 75%-80% the way there.

I had no idea it was going to take this long; real life has been busier and commitments more numerous, but the light in the tunnel is getting brighter. Artwork is in process and one last article and one map appear to be the last content necessary. Once those are done, there's the proofreading and then assembly and sales time!

Thanks to all my friends who have and continue to support me with good karma, prayers, and positive messages. They've been much appreciated. I have managed to get one door into my past professional life mostly closed. Some obligations still exist and will exist for the next few years. But the worst albatrosses around my neck appear to have been plucked, skinned, and roasted. I'm in the process of considering a complete change of career altogether, as my current situation is not improving and does not look like it can improve. But that's a discussion for another day.

Until then, be aware that I still have some copies of Issues #1 and #2. If you haven't picked one up yet, or know of someone that might like one, the links can be found below, or at Blue Moon Ink's website.

Issue #1


Rates:



Issue #2


Rates:


04 July 2016

[Random Booster Encounters] Roadside Ambush (#01)

This series is something experimental, at least for me. The concept: create an encounter based solely on the four miniatures found in any one single random booster. I had originally thought about calling this a Pathfinder project, but then I remembered that Wizards had re-started their random miniature production. They're not the greatest paint jobs in the world, but then...some of the early Pathfinder paint jobs weren't terrific either.

The attached character sheet was also something of an experiment, as it has been somewhere over 35 years since I truly worked with the AD&D First Edition ruleset. Please forgive any errors, and accept them as what they are: an effort to pay tribute to that set of rules. It's also a nod to my OSR friends and readers. [But if you have suggestions regarding the character stats or character sheet—also of my design—please feel free to let me know. I welcome correction; I want to learn.] It was intended to be used on a 4" x 6" card.

The 3.x statblock follows the AD&D character sheet.

So, the project begins... after the break

02 July 2016

[Found Items] The Toad God Lives!!!

Some 1,859 days ago (5 years, 1 month, and 2 days) +Tim Shorts  unleashed upon the world a vision of amphibian animus that inspired its own adventure creation challenge, not to mention a 20-page bit of magnificence by +Dyson Logos .

Today there is undeniable proof that the Toad God lives!

This appeared overnight in the Stronghold's garden..
(Actually, lest too much arcane mystery be attributed to the Toad God and its power strengthened thereby, I will admit that I was walking through the local Kroger's store and found him on sale in the garden aisle. At that moment, he had to be mine. ...Come to think of it, the intensity of the attraction and need...perhaps there's a bit of the arcane at work after all.)

Not wanting my children to worry about the devilish divinity of this creature, I immediately dubbed it "King Toadankhamun, Pharoah of the Frogs."

 It may be easier to see in this picture: the smug, self-satisfied and satiated expression on his face. Look at the undisguised evil in his eyes and malicious pleasure on his face, as if he'd just finished swallowing a neighborhood dog, cat, or small child.

Now, the Mistress of the Stronghold—that beautiful, loving half-elf who stole my heart—isn't quite as enamored of the presence of the Toad God, especially as one of the first things that visitors would see upon arrival. (I suspect it has more to do than the potential threat posed to her beloved miniature yard moose that inhabit this garden.) As a result, the Toad Goad may soon be banished to the rear of the Stronghold where he poses little danger to anything but the occasional intruder. But he is here, now. And what better impetus could I have to revisit those various adventures mentioned above?

27 June 2016

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Not Quite Dead Yet!

So, for all of you who don't know... depression really sucks.

No, I mean that. Literally.

Not only does it metaphorically suck, it sucks...time, energy, will, desire, creativity. All of that stuff goes down the drain while you sit and watch and generally wait, helplessly, as life passes you by while you wish for...well, all sorts of dire and unspeakable things. "Writer's block" has nothing on this, folks.

But thank Heavens for my Muse and some weird, pain-induced dreams this morning. They inspired some cool items and, 1,900 words later, I have a new article for Issue #3 of the Stronghold 'Zine. I'm getting closer, gentle readers, and am about ready to start actively looking for artwork.

So buckle up...I'm hoping to get this new something out in the world in the next month or so. Call it a birthday present for myself.

25 March 2016

Magnificent Desolation

Yesterday I crossed off a bucket list item that I didn't even know I had.

Salt Lake Comic Con's "FanX" (Fan Experience) began Thursday and runs through Saturday. I haven't been overly enthused about it, being a bit burned out on everything, based on what's been going on in my life the past 6 months.

OK, that's not entirely true. I would have loved to have met Gillian Anderson, but didn't want to pay THAT much for the privilege. And Peter Davison was my "second" Doctor. He would have made the fourth of the Doctors I've been able to meet. [Aside: I actually did get to meet him and was able to tell him that, while he was my second Doctor, his was my first regeneration. I also complimented him on a little-known role and he showed pleasant surprise at my knowledge. Even better: all four of the Doctors I've met are genuinely nice, kind men, the kind I wouldn't mind meeting in a pub over lunch. That warms my heart. End aside.]

But I was ready to skip this Con. Just didn't have the funds or the time (or the inclination) to go this time 'round. There also really weren't any celebrities that I wanted to meet (that I hadn't met before) that warranted laying out money and time that I didn't have. That is, until they announced a True American Hero.

That word gets thrown around a lot. Sports figures get called "heroes." I've even heard movie stars and various other celebrities called "heroes." I personally think people mean "role model" rather than "hero," although most of the time that shouldn't be correct either.

But this man... there's no other word to describe him.

Dr. "Buzz" Aldrin.

Yeah. "Second Man on the Moon" Buzz Aldrin. One of seven living men to have walked on another world. A man who rode one of the world's largest explosions into orbit not just once, but twice.

I missed the moon landing by about 14 months. But my brothers remember it. My parents remembered it. I heard about it all of my childhood. The stores were still filled with Mercury-, Gemini-, and Apollo Mission toys when I was young. I had an original cardboard poster of this image on my wall when I was growing up. I wish I knew where it was; probably long lost to the local dump. I chalk that one up to an ignorant, self-centered, uncaring, and callous series of teenage years. But he was always a hero. All three of these men were.

Once I knew he was coming, I couldn't help myself. I spent considerably more than I should have, more than I truthfully could afford, so that I could get a package deal for an autograph, photo op, and prime panel seating for me and my two youngest children (my older two were able to go at the last minute, but we weren't able to get the package deal for them...just seats in the panel. But still something that—I hope—they can relate to their kids someday: the day they got to meet and hear Buzz Aldrin speak in person. Heck, I'll admit that I even put my job at risk to do this.

I wanted to participate in this, not just because of the cool factor, but because it was intensely personal for me. As my long-time readers may remember, I lost my father to cancer almost five years ago. He was Air Force, like Buzz, and they were contemporaries, although I have no reason to believe they ever met or had any association other than the wings pinned to their chest. But tears fell as I thought about how much I would have liked my father to be there and listen to these stories. I nearly sobbed out loud when Buzz talked about being on "alert" with his F-100 squadron while "bombers loaded with nuclear weapons flew overhead"; my Dad was pilot-navigator on B-47s for SAC...flying around the world with live nuclear weapons on board. The idea that one of those planes could have been my Dad's? It hit close to home and brought my Dad a bit closer...for a time, at least.

Add to this the time spent with my family today, and the chance to chill for awhile with one of my oldest friends (and fellow grumpy curmudgeon)...it was a pretty dang good day.

We could all do worse, and our kids could do worse, than a man like this as a role model. He's 86+ years old, and still spry, still working as a self-proclaimed "global ambassador for space." His latest project is trying to rejuvenate the space program and to work to get manned missions to Mars.

If you're interested, you can follow his travels and work on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/buzzaldrin ),  on Twitter (@TheRealBuzz), on the web at (http://www.buzzaldrin.com/), or at www.sharespace.org.

For those of you who may not be aware, the title of this post comes from Buzz's first words as he set foot on another world. (About 1:10 in on the below video.)



Kudos to Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg for another—for me, at least—successful Salt Lake Comic Con. If you're ever so inclined to travel to Utah, I would highly recommend it.

12 February 2016

Need Some Time

Just when I thought I'd reached rock bottom, emotionally, my mother passed away yesterday. I'm going to need a little time.

As far as the giveaway, the dice horde spoke randomly and declare +Taylor Frank   as the winner of the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bestiary Giveaway!

What did he win? A copy of Paizo Publishing's Occult Bestiary ! (See here for more detail.) It's a Campaign Setting/Bedtiary chock full of psychic and occult monster goodness!

Congratulations, good sir. Your new treasure will be winging its way to you shortly.

18 January 2016

Haggling Over Price--CONTEST

George Bernard Shaw: Madam, would you sleep with me for a million pounds?
Actress: My goodness, Well, I’d certainly think about it.
Shaw: Would you sleep with me for a pound?
Actress: Certainly not! What kind of woman do you think I am?!
Shaw: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.

I've been hovering between 98 and 99 followers to the Stronghold Blog for quite a while now. My ego needs a bit of a stroking, so I'd like to see the triple digit boundary finally crossed.

So. Here's what I propose.

I have here a spare copy of a Pathfinder Campaign Setting Bestiary that's taking up 64 pages (and nearly 50 monsters) worth of shelf space. I'd like to give it away to a deserving—and desiring—home. I'm offering it up to followers of the blog only.
  • If you're a follower and would like a Pathfinder book, leave a comment. 
  • If you're a follower—and are strictly Old School—but know someone who would like a Pathfinder book, have them come on over and follow the blog.
  • If you're not a follower and would like a Pathfinder book, follow the blog and leave a comment.
  • If you're not a follower—and are strictly Old School—but know someone who would like a Pathfinder book, have them come on over and follow the blog. And follow it yourself, just for good measure.
I'll keep the contest open until midnight, January 31, 2016 (MST). Anyone who wants to participate and leaves a comment before that time will be considered. Winners will be determined by a random dice roll.

That's it. Let the commenting and following begin. I really want to get this book to a good home.

14 January 2016

[Found Items] Thrift Store Swords and Starships!

OK. I need to brag.

On a whim I stopped by the local thrift store on the way home tonight. Occasionally they'll have bags of Lego bricks (I've found a few bags of miscellaneous pieces; my son found an entire 10" tall Bionicle warrior once...and most recently an Imperial TIE Defender...missing only one piece and the pilot) or perfectly serviceable Nerf dart guns. I rarely look at the book section because it's dominated with either Stephen King titles that I already have or Harlequin romances.

Tonight? No Lego bricks, although there was a large bag of fake MegaBlok knock-offs that I passed over. Decided to wander through the books and videos, hoping to find a copy of Labyrinth somewhere. No luck on that, but the minuscule Sci-Fi/Fantasy section had a bit of a treasure.

Picked up all six of these titles for a total of $7.50, including tax. Books 1–3 of the Mageworld Saga by Debra Doyle & James D. McDonald and the three Books of the Sword by Fred Saberhagen.

Now, I've had the Mageworld Saga for years, and found copies of the first two Books of the Sword a couple years ago at a Convention. My Mageworld copies are pretty ragged, even with as careful as I am with books, they've been read and re-read—They're quite well-loved, actually. And my Saberhagens saw much better days years before I picked them up. They're pretty ragged; I only picked them up because I'd been looking for them for a couple years.

I wanted secondary copies of these, of course. But even better—aside from the price—was the fact that these 6 books are pristine. They don't look like they've ever been opened; admittedly, The First Book of Swords has a bit of a spine-crease and the front cover of The Second Book of Swords has some ink transfer on it. Apparently, a National Geographic Society membership card from 1990 (which was stuck to the cover) will adhere to—and the ink transfer to—a book cover if left pressed against it long enough.

If you've never read the Mageworld Saga, I'd highly recommend it. A ripping good space opera series, with a good bit of action and a nice helping of magic added in...good stuff. The Saberhagen also comes highly recommended; I enjoyed the first book and the others have been working their way to the top of my "To Read" pile.

This just five days after getting a neat little haul from a downtown used book store, the largest one in the state. Dropped in with my wife while walking to my office holiday party (yeah, a post-New Year's Christmas party). It's a dangerous place, because I could literally spend hundreds of dollars there if I was allowed to do so.

I've always wanted to read Asprin's "Myth" books and was pleasantly surprised to find a 2-in-1 copy. The Face of a Stranger is a great Victorian mystery (an English detective wakes up in the hospital with a bad case of amnesia, and must discover his own identity while solving an important case involving the nobility). And a neat-looking little mystery from Isaac Asimov that I'm looking forward to reading.

All told, I'm pleased with my finds this past week; it's been a long time since I've been quite so lucky with great books for my library.

And just so I don't run afoul of the Joesky tax, here's a quick little random d20 table of books (and things stuck inside them) that you might find in that mage's dusty old library—hooks and idea germs for encounters, adventures, or campaigns:


d20 Roll
Title
1
The Everyday Application of Novel Divination
2
The Axe: A Tutorial
3
Heretics Opposing the Fire God
4
The Storm God's Invocations
5
The Minor Powers of the Great Traveling Gods
6
The Wonderful Stories of the Mysterious Plant God
7
An Expose of the Theocratic Earldom's Early Pirates
8
Sleeping Patterns of the Bugbear
9
The Trident: A Tutorial to Maintenance
10
The Subtle Truths of the Sky God
11
A Treatise of Thaumaturgy
12
Legendary Warlords
13
Virtues of the Revenge Gods
14
Hunting Habits of the Basilisk
15
A Magus' Text on Remedial Summoning
16
An Examination of the Kingdom's Cultural Annals
17
A Study of Basic Magical Arts
18
Essential Alchemy
19
Classic Evocations of the Journeyman
20
Theological Crimes in the Empire


Roll d4 times on the following table to find out "What's Inside."


d20 Roll
What's Inside
1-6
Nothing
7
Dog-eared pages marking pages with underlined passages
8
A shopping list written in code
9
Several love letters stuck haphazardly into the book
10
Hand-written notes in the margins totally unrelated to the subject of the book
11
Personal notes in the margins of several concurrent pages warning of a coming doomsday
12
A hand-written dedication in the front of the book
13
Bookmarks (d6) marking pages with errors
14
Triangular scraps of paper with notes in a foreign language
15
A document with a list of dates in the back of the book
16
A list of foreign locations in an archaic language
17
Three scraps of parchment in some kind of code that seem to have no connection
18
A list of birthdays in an archaic tongue secreted in the binding
19
A map of a local castle or keep, including secret doors and passageways
20
A map of a lost city tucked inside the binding

18 December 2015

A New Hope: Repeated History in the Making

Non-gaming post ahead.

Somewhere a little over 38 years ago, I sat in a theater watching Star Wars for the first of how-many-hundreds of times. I was the perfect age, the perfect demographic. I was a sucker for the toys, the comics, the books...everything.

OK. Not the Ewoks. Never the Ewoks. Those "movies" may be the only mass-market Star Wars product of which I've never participated. I hate those fuzzy little turds.

Seriously...they completely ruin Return of the Jedi for me.

But I digress.

I still remember—and feel—the awe as the docking hatch of the Tantive IV burns away and Darth Vader strides in. The same goes for the gut-wrenching anticipation of the trash compactor sequence and for the stomach-churning aerial acrobatics above and around the Death Star Trench.

I still remember the anticipation and dread and unbelievable angst of knowing it would be THREE! MORE! YEARS! for the next chapter in the lives of Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, and the droids. And I remember the lines—and standing in lines—for each of the three movies.

And then it was over.

Over the years we had the Expanded Universe as it developed and grew. I read the heck out of Splinter of the Mind's Eye, partly because it was a fun story, but partly because it was the only Star Wars we had for a long time after Jedi. We had the prequels; I don't hate them, but I'm not enamored of them, but they're still Star Wars.

But now we have The Force Awakens. I have heard a reviewer say that we, as a culture, will never experience this kind of entertainment event again in our lifetime. [Aside: Look, I realize that in the grand scheme of things, there are bigger things than Star Wars The Jedi and Sith mean nothing to my eternal salvation. But culturally, socially, it's huge. If I have to explain that to this audience, I'll lose hope. End aside.] I remember going to Star Wars with my father, Empire with my older cousin, and Jedi with my big brother. I have great and emotional memories of each of these.

Each of my children have seen at least one of the prequels in the theater with me, so it's really nothing new. But in one respect, it is. Look: I don't hate them, but the prequels don't seem like the same...storyline...to me. Yeah, they're still Star Wars, but they have a different feel. They were "new." The prequels felt more like backstory or explanation. We already knew what happened to Yoda, Vader, and Obi Wan; the prequels just showed us how they got there. This is..."new" but also "more." It feels like the continuation of beloved memories while also the start of something new.

Tonight I'm taking four of my five kids to see The Force Awakens. I can't express how excited I am. Anyone who grew up with Star Wars knows what it means for myself. But I'm also excited to experience this with my kids. It is a phenomenon. But I think it's a bonding experience too. My boys are about the same age I was for Empire and Jedi. My youngest just turned 8 yesterday, and so is a bit older than I was for Star Wars. [Aside 2: I think I may be more excited for her, just because I remember that feeling of wonder, awe, and imagination at that age. End aside 2.] She already loves Star Wars; I'm excited to see that, by every indication, there are some strong female roles she can look up to.

I hope it won't be "perfect." I want my kids to have their own version of the stormtrooper banging his head, their own version of (arguably the greatest line in the movie) "Look, sir! Droids!" (I'm also a bit afraid they'll have their own version of Obi-Wan being cut down, and that it will hurt.) But I hope it'll have all these things; the movies diminished a bit with all the polishing that Lucas did over the years. I'm honestly surprised that the head-bang wasn't edited out, or that there wasn't more exposition included regarding the droid's exact make and model suggested by the bit of desert detritus.

I'm tearing up just thinking about sitting there with my kids, watching them experience this for themselves. It won't be quite the same. After all, none of us—or our parents—could have foreseen what would have grown from those first scrolling yellow words. But I hope that these mean to my kids something close to what the originals meant to me because of how much my kids mean to me.

They mean the galaxy to me.

29 November 2015

[found items] Foliage Template

A few months ago, my wife decided to go back to school in order to get a few more credits required for her teaching certificate. This has had a couple of side benefits for me, as well. For example, aside from being able to sleep with a smoking hot college co-ed again, I've discovered a new college bookstore.

I love college bookstores.

I don't know what it is about them, specifically. Way back when, when I was young and my brothers were going to school, I loved going with them to buy stuff at the University Bookstore. It's not just the books; it's the "other stuff." School supplies, art supplies, random crap...it's all good.

There it is...it's the art supplies. I love books, don't get me wrong. But most of the non-esoteric books can be found elsewhere, cheaper. The cool art supplies, however, and school supplies, these aren't things you can find at your local Michael's or Office Max.

One example: I love writing with pencils. There's just something basic and visceral about using a good, old-fashioned lead pencil. And the best pencil sharpener I've ever owned?  A handheld sharpener that I found at the University Bookstore. Since finding the first one 20+ years ago, I've bought several more. Glass-bodied, they're made to resemble an old-fashioned inkwell. And they sharpen pencils like nobody's business.

It's not just pencil sharpeners; pencils, pens, all sorts of supplies. I found a sweet, solid metal mechanical pencil that's got sufficient heft to make it great to write and sketch with. Perhaps my favorite thing, however, is to raid the architecture aisles for templates.

Not just circles, squares, and ovals, although I have plenty of those. I've got some that are 40+ years old that I inherited (read: sneaked out of his desk because he no longer used them) from my father. I'm always on the lookout for a new one.

This brings us back to my wife going back to school. She made the mistake of allowing me to find the college bookstore. Yep: new pens, a new mechanical pencil, and my eyes on a couple more things. I also struck the Holy Grail: a new template.

That's right: a Landscape Template. Oddly, just a few months ago I was complaining to myself about my inability to draw a tree on a map. They all looked like clouds. Puffy clouds. With dots in the center.

This, I think, is going to help. Look: three different sizes, plus a palm tree. Some shrubs and bushes that will serve as some smaller trees too. French curves built in. and I think there are some pond/pool stencils there too, although those aren't as difficult for me to draw.

I couldn't wait to get the plastic off and start playing sketching. Of course, as soon as I got the plastic off all of my ideas dried up. Ah, well. I've got it with my sketching/mapping supplies and as soon as the muse strikes, I'm all set.

28 September 2015

Shamless Plea for Help

OK, dear readers. I realize that I've dropped off the face of the planet. I barely have the energy to make this post, but I really need some help. Here comes the "shameless plea."

Well, actually, it comes as part of a great big "thank you" to you all in the gaming community. A great big "thank you" because of what you all mean to me, and how your unspoken--and possibly unrealized--support has gotten me through some bad times.

I've had a bad couple of years. After a dozen-plus years slaving for a modern day Ebenezer Scrooge, I bought him out and hung out my shingle. Then I slowly realized, more and more, that he'd taken advantage of me, and had incurred a lot of secret debt that now had my name stuck to it. In the past couple years I've sunk everything I have into this firm and have finally come to the conclusion that my desire to help people has not been outweighed and overcome by my inability to bring in business. I haven't made a mortgage payment in a year; heck, I've not taken a paycheck home in a year. There's been game-related spending, but it's been driven by extreme depression.

You see, I've been suffering from depression for nearly 5 years. I will confess, I was always one who kinda scoffed at depression. I was raised by parents who were nearly a generation older than most of my friends' parents, and were of the "pull up your boots and get back to work" mentality of the Nineteen Forties generation. I'll tell you, that mentality lasts only until the moment you realize that it's all true: depression has a definite mental, emotional, and physical effect on your life.

Then add to that the food allergies that hit about the time I bought out the old man, "Grampa Asshat" as my staff calls him. Severe food allergies. To the point that I have maybe a dozen things I can eat...at most.

I'm not saying this because I'm craving sympathy or pity. I'm getting to my point here soon.

Putting together The Stronghold has helped, putting out this blog has helped, proven a distraction, at least.

Fast forward to about 6 weeks ago. Due to circumstances beyond my control, someone close to me--professionally--screwed me over. I felt like I was the victim in a bad prison movie. I dropped emotionally, mentally, and physically lower than I had ever before experienced. I determined that I was closing my doors. I felt like a failure, even though I knew (and everyone around me knew) that I had been set up for failure by Grampa Asshat. Since that day, I have been nearly incapable of producing any gaming material. Heck, it's been tough to even get up the gumption to game. A few of you've provided some little goodies in the mail that have acted as defib paddles. A month ago, a colleague offered me a job in his firm, providing me an open window to the door I'd just closed. This past 3 weeks I've worked harder than I have in several years; my depression and medical issues have severely inhibited my thinking and processing abilities. All of this? It's exhausted me. Severely. Exhausted. It certainly hasn't helped my desire or ability to produce, game, or think straight. In addition to client deadlines from my new firm and my old firm I also have self-imposed deadlines: editing deadlines for a couple of OSR projects, writing deadlines for several anthologies, and, of course (potentially) Issue #3 of The Stronghold. None of this takes into consideration family stuff, of course.

Now the plea: I'm relying on you all. I've relied on all your support (see above) for the past several years to get me through the past several years.

Do I keep going with this? do I keep going with the blog? with The Stronghold 'Zine? with gaming? I need some reasons. I need your support. Call it prayers, karma, or positive vibes. Yeah, it's selfish, it's self-serving, it's shameless. I think of you all as my friends, and I wanted you--as my friends--to know what's been going on and what you all mean. And yeah, to beg for some positive support as well.

Maybe this is overly dramatic. I certainly don't want to give all this up. I really don't. It's probably all emotional and mental burn-out. I'm sure I'll get past it.

Thanks for listening.

And I certainly can't conceive of WHAT I can use as a Joesky tax for this post. Hope y'all will forgive the intentional oversight.
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