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.

19 June 2015

[From the Mailbag] Mixed Bag of Goodies

An odd day today, deep in the throes of some manner of food allergy--dinner last night got contaminated somehow.... All day today the symptoms have been getting worse; currently I’m feeling like a bad case of the flu. Body aches, dizziness, nausea...then add in the bloating, excessive gas, and “bodily excretions” and I’m down for the count.

Fortunately, we were able to have some family fun today before the symptoms really set their claws into my midsection. My oldest two kids have been at a Youth Conference since Wednesday--a spiritual retreat for the youth of my church, in which all the youth of a certain region gather together for inspiration and spiritual education & growth. Did it myself as a teenager without complaint. This one was held at a two-year junior college 110 miles south of our home; for a variety of reasons, we decided to circumvent the norm (the church youth leaders usually convey them home) by driving down early in the morning with my youngest two in tow, pick up the eldest two, and do some “daycation” day trip stuff. Whenever we head that far south, we usually take the interstate, but when we head home, we tend to take the old state highway back up. This takes you through some quaint little towns and farm communities and is a restful, scenic trip.

This time around, we stopped at a town’s “Art and History Museum”--mostly because the wife’s ancestors helped found the town and I wanted her to have the chance to see some pictures or artifacts from her family and show them to the kids. Sure enough, her ancestors’ names were on a plinth right outside the converted mansion, and then in several of the rooms and nooks were artifacts and pictures of her relations, including a steamer trunk, baby clothes, and musical instruments of her relations that came across the plains with the early Mormon immigrants. Got some great pictures for the family album and the kids had fun.

(Incidentally, I loved the layout of this house and quickly sketched out some ideas to use in a future map. Inspiration is everywhere!)

By this time, the symptoms were grabbing hold and we still had another 60-odd miles to travel. Much to my delight when we arrived home, Fed Ex had delivered some books I’ve been anxiously awaiting. There’s nothing better than learning back-ordered books have finally come into stock and been shipped out. I hate my money hanging out there doing someone else some good while I wait and wait without product.

The only mitigating factor to my happiness (besides my physical ailments) was the state of the package. Noble Knight Games has always served me well in the past, without serious complaint. Even when I had an OOP miniature arrive broken, they rectified the situation immediately. But this was ridiculous.

Rather than using a small box, or even a padded envelope, to protect my shipment, they essentially “flat-packed” the books within a collapsed shipping box. The ends were taped with packing tape (except for slits on the side, which would allow dirt, etc., into the package).

Inside, they were wrapped in layers of butcher paper for padding. Not bubble wrap, or even packing peanuts (like if they were in a normally assembled box) I'm not exactly sure what the "cushion rating" is of butcher paper wrapped around objects, but apparently that's what my order rated.Now, when I got them out, they WERE held in one large plastic zipper-close-type bag. This would have mollified my concerns re: damage, except that the main bag WAS NOT SEALED (See below). This, boys and girls, in case you were not aware, drastically reduces the protective power of a plastic zipper-close-type bag. Sigh.

 But here’s what I received, with a squeal or two of delight from me.

First off, two titles from Expeditious Retreat Press--Monster Geographica: Marsh & Aquatic and Monster Geographica: Forest. These will fit well with the Monster Geographica: Underground volume that I already have in the collection. While I don’t really like the layout of these books (they’re arranged alphabetically under respective CR rather than like traditional monster manuals AND they don’t use the easier-to-read “one page, one monster” format) and they don’t have any artwork, they’re still (a) bestiaries and (b) full of fun, different, and mean critters. Plus, hey, MONSTERS, am I right?

Next was a volume for which I’ve searched for the past year: the Encyclopedia of Villains from Fast Forward Entertainment. Now, I’ve seen/heard lots of complaints about FFE, and some of that is justified and has kept me from picking up some various titles in the past. This one, however, comes recommended by +Tim Shorts  and with good reason. I think Tim likes NPCs about as much as I do...which is a lot. But, for all my devotion to 3.x, I will admit that statblocks and rolling up NPCs is far from my favorite gaming activity. I’ll jump at any chance I get to grab hold of some pre-gen NPCs; add in the fact that it’s an entire book of NPCs and that there’s a wide range of CRs: added bonus. Then add in backstory, associations, maps, etc.? WINNING PRODUCT RIGHT HERE.

I grabbed a copy of Arcana Unearthed because I like Monte Cook’s work, I like the Book Of Experimental Might, and it has some intriguing options/alternative rules. Plus, it was less than $5 and in great shape, so that certainly didn’t hurt.

Finally, the piece de resistance: Armory’s 30-Sided Dice Gaming Tables. I’ve always wanted a copy, but never found one in good shape at the right time. This time I lucked out. I love tables, especially d30 tables, and these are all useful, both at the table and for world-building. The contents take me back to a more innocent time of gaming and of life. The tables are printed around random black and white line images of lead miniatures from various distributors. The back cover is an advertisement for Armory’s 30-sided dice and “dice inking pens.” The text itself is typed out in classic dot-matrix Courier font; I’d use it in my own Stronghold ‘Zine for nostalgia if I didn’t hate the look of Courier so much. But the quaintness and nostalgia was definitely palpable, and the typos (“I do not have to many” jumped right off the page at me) added to the feeling that this really was printed in someone’s basement (or after hours on the shared work printer and then copied under some sucker’s customer code) and took me back decades. Even though this one came bagged and boarded for protection and storage, I think it’s going to see some use.

So, the day balances out. I have some reading material for when I curl up in the fetal position from the physical effects of my allergies. That’s always a good thing. At least I’m done with Issue #2 of the Stronghold ‘Zine until it comes back from my proof readers. Plus, tomorrow is Free RPG Day, one of my most favorite days of the year (although from the website it appears that several companies will be sending out the same re-tread free items from last year (and the year before, etc.)).

Oddly enough, I received shipping notices for this package and a package from another company on the same day; this one from Wisconsin and the other from Missouri. Both sent Fed Ex. Both sent using the same shipping option. Both hit the local distribution hub on the same day. The Missouri package says that the scheduled delivery on the other package is Wednesday, the 24th.  Hmm. Either some higher power doesn’t want me to explode from over-happiness today, or there’s something about Wednesday that requires some “Found Stuff” happiness. I’m not sure which option is more frightening.

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