Category Archives: Hobby Musings

Cloaked Assassin

A brief interlude from Star Trek for my Character of the Month, and to show off my mad organization skillz, brah!

For Tom’s #paintanadventuringparty challenge over on Instagram, I present my Character of the Month from Ral Partha: The Cloaked Assassin, by sculpted by Bob Charrette, from their Fantasy Adventurers range (03-058).

I’ve had this fellow for thirty years or so; another occupant of my pile of shame that I never got around to painting. He was, however, primed white, so I must have at least intended to paint him at some point. I primed him black over the white before I painted him this time, however.

I’ve never been a big fan of putting assassins in adventuring parties. In my mind, assassins should be either adversaries to the PCs or something else entirely, not a character class. Why would an assassin go on an adventure? They have a pretty limited skill set: they know how to kill people. Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to stick to what they’re good at? Garroting someone in an alley seems far safer than kicking down a door in a necromancer’s crypt and fighting his undead minions, doesn’t it?

So, let’s call this guy a thief instead. Or rogue, if you prefer the current nomenclature of D&D 5E.

This was my painting desk up until a couple of months ago. Although you can’t really see them, most of my paints sat on a pair of old spice racks. These cheap plastic racks were not designed for paint (duh), and I often had the annoying chore of picking up paints from the floor, where they had fallen between my desk and the wall after being knocked over or jostled from their precarious perches on the too-narrow racks.

Something needed to be done, so a new rack was constructed from XPS foam. This one measured the entire length of my desk and was designed to fit flush along the wall. The shelves were intentionally made wide enough to accommodate multiple rows of bottles of all different types, from dropper bottles to pop-tops to even the dreaded (and hated) old-style Citadel twist-off paint pots.

Here’s what it looks like now. Although I would have been content to just slap together some pink foam and use it as-is, my better half flatly refused to even consider such a stupid idea and wouldn’t allow it. She painted and wrapped the whole thing in adhesive shelf paper, so now my paint rack looks like it’s made of solid marble.

I love it. No more falling paint pots. Room for all may paints and then some (which just means I will fill the space eventually). Naturally I took photos because I know it will not look like this for long. So far I’ve managed to keep it tidy.

But wait, there’s more! I decided to take this opportunity to organize my gaming closet, too. So, here it is!

Thirty-plus years of roleplaying games on the left side.

Board games and RPG boxed sets in the middle.

More board games, miniatures games and terrain (including a Mighty Fortress!), and collectible card games on the right (last played circa 2004 or so).

Last but not least: the pile of shame; or as I like to call it: the Insanity Pile. Old miniatures, new miniatures, abandoned projects, projects I know I will never get to but won’t say are abandoned, projects I intend to get to one day, and projects I will actually work on. The plastic cases at the bottom hold Owen’s miniatures; the white boxes on the second shelf are mostly Heroclix, and all the shit you can’t see behind what you see here is mostly bitz on sprues and unopened armies and units for 40K and WFB. On the Naya rack is unpainted Plasticville scenery and most of the High Elf Army I’ll never get to. And of course, on the top are all my old-school miniatures, some painted, some not. The plain cardboard boxes hold various projects, including what I have left from last year’s order from Wargames Terrain Workshop!

Gotta say, I like this organization thing a lot. This stuff was all over my basement, and I got tired of hearing about it. I took these pictures to remind me what it’s like to be responsible and put away my toys.

They also make it clear that I really need to get rid of stuff.

Next: back to the Enterprise-D!

Achtung! Barsoom

I can’t resist a huge sale. Modiphius’s US store had a sale at the end of last month; and there were some ri-fucking-diculous deals to be had. Here’s what $70.00 US got me:

The John Carter of Mars RPG Slipcase set: contains both the Core Rulebook and the Phantoms of Mars Campaign Guide: $21.00. Regularly $105.00!

The John Carter of Mars Narrator’s Toolkit and GM Screen: $7.00. Regularly $35.00!

The John Carter of Mars Player’s Guide: $6.00. Regularly $28.00!

In addition, I picked up the Helium Dice Set and the Landscape Location Deck. Usually, I’m not a fan of special dice and/or add-ons like this deck, neither of which you need to play. But, at $4.00 and $5.00 respectively (regularly $17.00 and $21.00), I figured what the hell.

While I was at it, I picked up some Achtung! Cthulhu fiction for $3.00; and EIGHT Deep One metal miniatures for the low, low price of $6.00!!!! (Regularly $14.00 and $28.00!)

That’s a total of $52.00, regularly $238.00! That’s 78% off the total! Makes the $18.00 shipping charge seem pretty worth it, considering I ALSO get the digital PDFs of everything (except the dice and the miniatures, obviously)!

Of course, like most of the games I buy nowadays, I doubt I’ll ever play this. The Achtung! Cthulhu fiction will definitely get read, and I will certainly paint the miniatures; but I don’t have high hopes for playing a John Carter game. Most of my friends aren’t familiar with the characters and setting, and those that are familiar are not particularly interested. Still, I’m a huge Burroughs fan, and, like most Modiphius stuff, these books are simply gorgeous. They are laid out in landscape orientation, and the artwork is some truly stunning stuff.

Time for a visit to Barsoom…even if it’s just to find out what Carrion Crow‘s been up to on his periodic jaunts to Mars. I have a feeling this is going to make me want to dust off my copy of A Princess of Mars

Games (other) people play

I want to play games. These games, to show but a few:

As you can see, I’ve accumulated quite a bit of new RPG stuff, through both purchases and gifts, during this interminable pandemic. That’s some of it, up there. I acquired it with the intent (always the intent) that I would eventually play and/or run these games; and in some cases, I have managed to do that. But not enough.

The problem is that I listen to too many gaming podcasts. I watch too many YouTube videos. All this new stuff sounds awesome, and I want to try everything. When you add the fact that Modiphius and Free League have acquired the licenses to some of the best licensed properties out there (Star Trek, Alien, Dune, Conan, Blade Runner,) and that their stuff is both gorgeous to look at and fun to play, you can actually watch and see what little willpower I possess fading away. I cannot resist the pull. I wants it, my precious.

It’s a lot of stuff, and it would be nice to use it rather than just look at it. When you pile it all up like that, it’s a bit sobering, because my regular gaming group (the guys I’ve played with for decades) don’t want to play most of these at all. For one reason or another, my group can’t agree on shit lately. It’s fucking aggravating.

One great thing about remote gaming is that it’s remote (duh). I have been fortunate enough to play some short games over the course of this pandemic with some really cool people from different parts of America and Canada that I would likely never have met in person (and probably never will). Some of them play-tested my own Call of Cthulhu project (still working on that, BTW); and some have gamed with me outside of that. I had fun each time, and I’d like to think they did too. They keep inviting me back, so I must be doing something right…

If you check out THIS PAGE RIGHT HERE, you will see my plans for running some classic games over the course of this year. I’m looking for new players, so if you’re interested in playing then let me know. You never know what could come of it!

Finally, if you are running any of the games shown in the picture above and are looking for a player, I’m your man; and I already have the rulebook.

2022 Resolutions

Well, it’s that time again: time to rate how faithful I was to my hobby resolutions from last year, and time to make some new ones for 2022. Last year I decided to keep it simple and not set too many lofty or unrealistic goals for myself (including goals that just seem to be set every year and never started; like my Old West scenery or my Wargames Factory Shock Troopers). In fact, this what I said: “I’m going to paint whatever the hell I want, whenever the hell I want…with some minor guidelines.” Sound advice, and it will be more of the same this year.

So, how did I do last year? I only set four goals for myself. They were:

More Roleplaying Stuff: Goal met! I posted some write-ups of a Marvel Super Heroes game I ran way back in January. The game was much more fun to write up than it was to play, because two of my four players didn’t exactly enjoy a return to the old 1980’s TSR system, (One really didn’t enjoy it, but that’s another story. ‘Nuff said.) Still, for myself and the other two, it was a lot of fun. I didn’t manage to write up any further Star Trek Adventures games, although we did play a few times. I hope to return to running both these games again this year, although likely with a new group of players (see below).

One Character a Month: Goal met! You can see the results here if you want. Some were late for their respective months, but all made it in by year’s end.

Painting Challenges: Goal Met! In addition to the one I set for myself, I hosted my now-annual Monster Mayhem in May, and I took part in no less than six other painting competitions: Leadballoony’s Fembruary (although I posted my miniature in March), Carrion Crow’s Forgotten Heroes (my favorite painting challenge!) in June, Dave Stone’s Season of Scenery (July-August) and Apocalypse Me challenges (October, although I posted her late), Orctober (October), and, although I didn’t “officially” enter, I painted a miniature for Deadcember, an Instagram challenge.

More AARs: Goal met! I posted After Action Reports with original scenarios for two games: a couple of Green Hornet .45 Adventure games, and a return to Super Mission Force, featuring The Crimson Hound!

So,I grabbed all the rings, despite being annoyingly late a few times. I also got two more personal projects completed: all the Star Wars: Imperial Assault miniatures in the Twin Shadows expansion, plus the accompanying Ally and Villain packs; and all the miniatures for the Aliens: Another Glorious Day in the Corps game, including the Ultimate Badasses expansion. Not too shabby!

So what about this year? Well, these goals should look somewhat similar.

More Roleplaying Stuff: This year, Dead Dick’s Tavern will feature even more RPG content. Roleplaying games were my first love and my initial entry point into the miniatures hobby. I love playing RPGs, I love running RPGs, I love talking about RP games and game systems. We are in a golden age of RPGs; with tons of small-press and creator-owned content sharing the market with amazing companies like Free League Publishing and Modiphius. I will (hopefully) discuss RPGs old and new, post some game write-ups and reviews; and if possible, maybe even get to play in more games as a result.

Through Instagram and Discord, I have been fortunate to meet some roleplaying gamers from all over the country and play games with them. It’s been a pretty fun experience, and one I plan to continue this year. If you look at the top of this blog, you will see there is more than one page. (Yeah, I know. I didn’t realize that either for the longest time.) Anyway, a new page will soon be up there, talking about which RPGs I hope to run in 2022. If you are interested in playing anything I list (remotely, of course), then by all means contact me for the particulars!

One Character a Month: Maybe more, actually. As I said, I won’t be hosting this challenge, but it’s open to anyone who has an Instagram account and wants to participate. It’s essentially the same challenge as mine (though no backstory required): paint a D&D character class each month. I’m using this as an excuse to paint some classic lead: Grenadier, Ral Partha, RAFM…I will post my submissions here, too!

Painting Challenges: I’ll be paring it back a bit this year. Aside from the above Character of the Month, I will absolutely be hosting Monster Mayhem again, and I will always do Forgotten Heroes for as long as Jeremy hosts it. I can’t say no to Dave’s Season of Scenery, either; he’s so accommodating by giving us two months, and it’s pretty much the only time I force myself to build and paint scenery. Other than that, we’ll see what comes my way.

More AARs: Yes! This year will see a return and conclusion to the Green Hornet adventure. I would also like very much to do some more Star Trek skirmish games; perhaps this time using the TNG crew; and of course, Super Mission Force.

Personal Projects: I don’t like to make promises to myself that I don’t keep (although it happens often)…BUT…I’m going to be focusing on getting all my Star Wars: Imperial Assault miniatures painted this year. Will I be able to get through 3 more boxed expansions and 20 + blister packs, a total of 63 miniatures? Probably not. We’ll see. I have some other things I keep looking at, thinking I should start or finish them. As always.

Get Back Out There: I’ve been neglecting the blogs of others for a while, as real life has reared its ugly head. I hope to be once again be more of a nuisance to hobbyists everywhere.

Well, that’s about it. Keep watch for that new RPG page, if interested. (I have no idea what I’ll be posting next, but it’s a good bet it will have something to do with the miniatures hobby.)

A’hunting I will go…to find the Carrion Crow…

It’s been pretty desolate lately over at Carrion Crow’s Buffet, with nary a word from our thick-thewed, swarthy hero for nigh on two months. Of course, the Crow has been known to take extended absences before (he has a house on Barsoom, I hear); but we are living in “challenging and uncertain times” (I swear if I hear that one more time I’m going to kill someone), so I grew concerned. I reached out to my friend to see if all was well.

Contacting the Crow is never easy. Through a series of dead-drops, codes left on dead Cold War-era radio broadcasts, packages carried by unwitting agents and clues left in Internet Alternate Reality Games, I finally succeeded. In short, I wanted to know if he was ok.

He responded, but I got the feeling he was pressed for time, as he only sent this one folded photo of himself showing what he’s been up to over the last two months.

I breathed a sigh of relief. As you can see, he has remarkably smooth legs. He also seems to have everything well-sorted and under control. Business as usual.

Product Reviews: Wargames Atlantic Halfling Militia and the “Big Three” Wargaming Magazines that aren’t White Dwarf

Been a long time since I did a product review. This time I thought I’d share my thoughts on the “Big Three” wargaming mags: Miniature Wargames; Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy; and Wargames Illustrated; as well as some cool plastic miniatures: Halfling Militia from Wargames Atlantic.

I didn’t buy these, I got five of them for FREEEEEEEEEEEEE! with my copy of Miniature Wargames magazine. MW has taken to attaching free sprues of miniatures with some issues, which makes the $15 per issue price tag a bit more bearable for me. (Skip down below to read my thoughts on the “Big Three” Wargaming magazines.)

These halflings look pretty cool, as you can see. They have a nice level of detail, come with several options for heads and weapons (bows, halberds, spears and a sword), and fit together nicely. They’re versatile, too. You could easily use them for any fantasy game; or, if you still play Warhammer Fantasy Battle, they’d fit right into an Empire army as a spearman regiment or archer unit. (These guys are from Stirland!) They’re also fun to paint.

The one quibble I have is the length (and strength) of the spears and halberds. They’re too long. Don’t get me wrong: if I was keeping a huge spider at bay (as pictured on the cover), I’d want my spear to be as long as possible; but they’re a disaster in the making, as they stick so far out they’re easy to snag. So far they’re bendy enough not to snap, but I’m not what you’d call an optimist. They’re also somewhat inconvenient to store and ship because of the length of the spears. Other than this relatively minor complaint, color me impressed with this set, considering I hate assembling plastic miniatures.

Onto the gaming magazines.

First off, I’m not including White Dwarf, because White Dwarf is not a wargaming magazine. It’s a Games Workshop house engine that only covers GW products and has been primarily functioning as a product catalog for the last twenty years. Also, I don’t buy it.

The actual wargaming magazines–Miniature Wargames; Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy and Wargames Illustrated–have quite a bit in common. They cover a wide variety of wargaming and hobby news, they’re all very well-produced and pretty, they’re all published in the UK, and they all cost $15 here in the States. So what are the differences, at least the ones that matter to me?

Wargames Illustrated is fantastic to look at. It has a good variety of wargaming articles for all genres; showcases new games regularly, and sometimes comes with free sprues of miniatures. (I got most of my Cruel Seas ships from this magazine.) It has some good modeling and painting articles, too. It also devotes a lot of pages to covering game shows and conventions in the UK and Europe; which, although cool, is not something I really give a shit about, considering I don’t live there and am not likely to attend any of them. I would rather have more articles and scenarios for games I like.

Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy is another beautiful magazine that is heavily weighted towards the historical wargamer, which makes it of limited use to me. I rarely buy this magazine as a result; but the issues I do own are very nice. WS&S generally focuses on a monthly theme (The Carlist Wars, for example) and then devotes several articles and scenarios to the topic, including a compendium of miniatures for the period/conflict in question, presented in a variety of scales by different manufacturers. It’s a wonderful reference, and also regularly features articles by some big names in wargaming (Rick Priestly, Henry Hyde, etc…) What it does it does very well; but it’s just not for me.

Miniature Wargames, finally, is my UK wargaming mag of choice. I’ve collected it for a couple of years and it’s always been good; but since John Treadaway took over as editor it’s really been great to see the shift from a traditional historical focus to include other genres of wargames. Now, there is a center section devoted specifically to fantasy and sci-fi wargaming in each issue, which is much appreciated. MW also features product reviews, modeling and painting articles and occasional convention and wargame show coverage that doesn’t monopolize the pages. It often gives away free sprues of miniatures, too (like the halflings above). For me, Miniature Wargames is the best fit.

Here in the States, we get all of these magazines a month or two after they are published in the UK. COVID-19 disrupted the shipping schedule and so now I have months of missed issues. Print publishing is getting insanely expensive at $15 a pop and it may just be time to cut the cord. (MW doesn’t offer discounted subscription rates in the States, so I’m stuck paying full cover price.) Since I hate reading electronic media, I will likely just learn to live without it rather than purchase an online subscription.

Star Wars stuff coming soon!

2021 Resolutions

Today, I thought I’d try to get things back to whatever passes for normal around here.

Usually I would do a post like Mark A. Morin and many others did; where I first rate my performance against last year’s resolutions before making new ones. I did that last year, but when I went back and looked, it doesn’t seem like I actually made any resolutions for 2020. I think I forgot to; but somewhere along the way, I must have silently resolved to finish all my Star Trek miniatures, because that was one thing I did manage to do!

Mostly, anyway. I would have succeeded completely, if it weren’t for that meddling Dave from Wargames Terrain Workshop, who just had to make some awesome Trek-themed computer consoles and bridge chairs which of course I just had to buy. They’re not done yet. Bummer.

Anyway, this year, I’ve decided not to focus on too much. That’s because every year I resolve to start a new project and/or army, and that never gets done. (I’ve been saying I would start my Old West scenery for years now.) I think in 2021 I will keep it manageable and realistic. I’m going to paint whatever the hell I want, whenever the hell I want…with some minor guidelines. With that in mind, here are my plans for Dead Dick’s Tavern in 2021:

1: More Roleplaying Stuff. The response to my RPG write-ups has been pretty positive, both on and off Dead Dick’s Tavern. I have some Instagram followers who particularly seem to enjoy them. They correspond with me about my blog, but never leave comments here. (You can do that, guys. Really!) Anyway, expect to see more exploits of the USS Adventure, as well as some other games I run. Expect to see something new soon.

2. One character a month. I came to miniature gaming through roleplaying games, specifically Dungeons & Dragons. With this in mind, I’m going to set a fun challenge for myself: each month, I’m going to paint one model based on a classic character class from Dungeons & Dragons. So, I may do a cleric in January, a fighter in February, etc… I’m not going to officially limit myself by assigning classes to months (whatever I feel like painting, I will paint, remember?); but by the end of the year I should have 12 different characters painted. This will give me an excuse to paint some of my Reaper miniatures that have been sitting around for years in their blisters. Watch for the first one soon!

3. Painting challenges. I like them. In May, I’ll be hosting Monster May(hem) again (blame Roger for the name); so get your monsters ready by then if you want to take part. I will most certainly be participating in Forgotten Heroes again in June, because it’s so much fun. (I expect to see Big Wheel, Jeremy.) If Dave hosts the Summer of Scenery again, I’m in; I never would have got my sludge pool done last year if it weren’t for him. I’d also like to do Fem-bruary for the first time this year, after learning of it by listening to the Imperial Rebel Ork podast. I gather it involves painting at least one female miniature in February; I’ll go one better and paint ALL female miniatures in February (I have a lot of them to paint).

4. More After Action Reports. I love playing games, and I love blogging about them. Expect to see more; a pulp game that’s been set up for months (but sadly unplayed as of yet); and likely more Star Trek games down the road (which should please Dave).

Santa brought me this stuff, and I just wanted to share it with you all. First, some 5/64″ wire, perfect for pinning pesky models that don’t want to cooperate. I was running low, and it’s amazing how St. Nick just seemed to know what I needed. Second, some Gorilla Glue gel; a perfect stocking stuffer for any miniatures enthusiast. Lastly: this magnifying visor that has CHANGED MY LIFE.

I’ve been using reading glasses to paint for a few years now, as I can’t seem to see shit anymore. This visor is so much better. First, it has a selection of magnifying lenses you can swap out or flip up, which is quite helpful. Second, it has a two-setting LED light right on the front, which illuminates areas on the miniature like the face, which can be problematic to paint when you can’t see shit. Third, it doesn’t take batteries: it’s rechargeable with a USB port. Last and most important, it’s comfortable. It fits snugly around my head, and doesn’t annoy me. I love this thing. I recently used it to help me assemble some Cruel Seas ships (I hate assembling plastic models).

Although I don’t ask Santa how much she pays for stuff (that would be gauche), I found these on Amazon for $30. (Worth it!)

That’s about it for now. I’m off to choose my first character class for my new challenge!

Grognard? Me? Guess so.

What is a grognard?

The term “grognard” has traditionally been used to denote an “old soldier”; but has become a pejorative term that, until recently, was used (usually in a good-natured manner) almost solely in the wargaming hobby. It means a “crusty old wargamer-type”; someone who is likely to grumble and complain about new versions of rules and/or miniatures; or about historical accuracy (or more likely, lack thereof); how much better things used to be, like when H. G. Wells’s Little Wars was the only wargame rules in town.

A grognard is a stereotype. This is important to know, because like any stereotype, it is never universally accurate. Most grognards likely arrived at miniature wargaming via the old cardboard counter-filled, massive bookshelf wargames like those put out by Avalon Hill or Victory Games; games that could (and did) often take days or weeks to play. They will happily argue ad infinitum about the brilliance or stupidity of the tactics and strategies of historical generals; or about the differing outcome of historical battles had the terrain or force composition been different, or if something like dysentery hadn’t played a part; or about the correct color of the straps on the uniforms of Hessian mercenaries employed during the American War of Independence (I said the correct color, not the one you painted on your miniatures). They’re also stereotypically frugal (i.e. cheap), especially where miniatures are concerned; most favor the smaller scales (10mm-6mm) because of the relatively low-cost of the miniatures, and also because to a grognard, the actual miniatures are far less important than the game itself. Grognards will play the same historical battle over and over and over again, with little to no variation. They consider this fun. They are notorious gatekeepers to the wargaming hobby, so as you would expect, grognards really only get along with other grognards.

So: am I a grognard? No. Not in the wargaming sense, anyway. (Although I will admit to some frustration at the “new rules every two years” trend in wargaming. But I don’t bitch about it much. I just don’t buy the new rules. I don’t get to play wargames very often nowadays anyway.) However; lately, the term “grognard” has been broadened to include roleplaying gamers. It has been applied in this manner by younger, newer gamers; and it is most certainly meant to be insulting.

This week I’m turning 48. You think I’d have a thicker skin by now, but no. I recently listened to a Technical Difficulties podcast (or perhaps it was The Roleplaying Exchange; they are pretty closely enmeshed with regard to rotating players), and one of the regulars used the term to generalize gamers older than he, implying we were all cut from the same cloth. I felt a knee-jerk resentment to being categorized as a roleplaying grognard because of my age. That’s because I still associate the term with hobby gatekeeping, and I’m not a gatekeeping kind of guy. I like to think I encourage everyone I can. The fact that I find this particular guy smarmy, annoying and a colossal douchebag at the best of times is only part of the reason I immediately wanted to punch him in the fucking face (a sure sign of grognardism if ever there was one).

As near as I can guess, to assholes like this genius, a RPG grognard is defined as a combination of any and/or all of the following:

  • a gamer that was born at any point in the prior millennium; and/or
  • a person who has run or played in a roleplaying game that was published prior to 2010; and/or
  • a person who is old enough and/or educated enough to know the actual definition of the term “grognard”; and/or
  • a person who is aware of who E. Gary Gygax was, who understands that roleplaying games were a thing that existed prior to Critical Role, and that (despite his admitted awesomeness) Matt Mercer didn’t create them; and/or
  • a gamer who remembers a time when roleplaying games, comic books, science fiction, action figures and miniature wargames were all considered nerdy, and it was far from cool to be a nerd; and/or
  • a gamer who remembers there was a time where there was no such thing as the Internet, and rulebooks existed in a form other than pdf, and who perhaps still prefers physical media to electronic; and/or
  • a gamer who doesn’t want anyone new in “their” hobby, because anyone new isn’t doing it right.

I meet all the above criteria except for the last one, plus I want to punch that guy in the face so fucking bad; so I guess, by his standards, anyway, I’m a roleplaying grognard.

But…with a little word-switching Hocus-Pocus, I’m gonna blow your mind and show that gatekeeping isn’t solely a grognard thing to do. (Fun facts: Hocus-Pocus is an olde-tyme word magicians used to use when pulling off tricks, and also the title of a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Also, Kurt Vonnegut was a brilliant and transformative writer, in case that wasn’t apparent for all the young’uns out there. See? I can be a dick, too.)

Let’s look at that last criterion there, and let’s switch the word “new” with “old”. Anyone “old” in the hobby isn’t doing it right; so say those new gamers in the hobbies we enjoy who complain most vociferously of grognardism. Hypocritical? Yes. Ironic? Indeed; certainly by Alanis Morrissette’s dubious definition, anyway (Alanis Morrissette is a musician who actually plays musical instruments in addition to singing her own songs, for all you young’uns out there). Gatekeeping? You bet.

So, I’m not doing it right because:

  • As a GM, I prefer roleplaying to roll-playing; but I most often run games in which players roll actual dice to determine the success or failure of their characters’ actions; in other words, there’s a definite game mechanic;
  • As a GM, I will apply appropriate consequences to stupid or ill-considered character actions (e.g. “I kill the wizard’s cat to show him I mean business”);
  • As a GM or a player, I don’t want your ambiguously-aged (but probably too fucking young) anime-inspired “cat-girl”; your sparkly vampire; your over-the-top evil psychopath; your personal kink proxy or your stupid homebrewed were-scorpion character (yes, that actually happened) in my group, regardless of whether you believe it limits your personal expression;
  • As a GM or a player, I will never, regardless of your gender or the gender of your character, roleplay a sex scene with you, whether you think that makes me inhibited and/or intolerant or not (again, yes, that actually happened);
  • As a GM, I prefer you put your fucking phone or tablet away for the duration of the game session; checking it only during breaks or in emergencies, because I consider it rude and disrespectful to your fellow gamers (I know, crazy, right?);
  • As a GM, unless it’s a one-shot or the first time in a new system; I expect you to be somewhat familiar with the setting, the basic rules and your character’s capabilities (e.g. you don’t need to know every episode of Star Trek, but you should at least know what a Klingon is).

The above list is by no means exhaustive. It’s just what I could think about before my Zoom meeting. To the “new” gamers who subscribe to this viewpoint, i.e. that all the above means I’m doing it wrong and therefore am a grognard (especially that asshole on the podcast), I say, loudly and proudly:

Get off my fucking lawn.

Theatre of the Mind

Irony. I has it.

This whole COVID-19 pandemic really sucks. I am extremely fortunate. I know this. My pandemic experience is not typical; here in the US or around the world. Throughout this crazy time I’ve been getting paid. I have a personality that does not suffer much from isolation. I have hobbies and interests that keep me occupied. I am lucky.

One of those hobbies is gaming, specifically roleplaying games. Back to the irony: I have played RPGs with friends more often during the pandemic than I did pre-COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, I couldn’t get my friends to commit to a game night if I gave them three months advance notice. Now it seems when everyone is stuck at home, they have more free time; or at least more discretion in how they use it. We’ve been using Roll20 and other free apps to run roleplaying games over the web, and it’s worked well, for the most part. It’s even allowed me to reconnect with one of my oldest and best friends who lives all the way across the country and play games with him, which is a very good thing.

The upside: since March, when everything started to shut down (at least where I am, in a state with a governor who isn’t a spineless suck-ass who puts loyalty to a fucking political party above a public health emergency…sorry, don’t get me started), I’ve run Star Trek Adventures and Slasher Flick, and I’ve been a player in a steady D&D 5th edition campaign. Like clockwork, I have played a game every week with 4-5 friends with no problems. We made a schedule and stuck to it. You know: like adults do, when apparently they don’t have the freedom of not being in lockdown to hold them back.

I hear you. Shut up, Piper. You’re getting what you want: you’re playing games, right? Why are you still complaining about it?

Because I miss gaming more than ever. Real gaming. I miss being around a table with my friends. I miss rolling dice. I miss passing the potato chips and ordering pizza. I miss the digressions and the jokes, and the bullshitting and catching up that takes time away from the game. I miss the pantomimed actions and the facial expressions, neither of which really come through well over a webcam. I miss a game free of technical difficulties. I miss having the need for a GM screen.

I miss my friends. Don’t tell them I said that. I’ll deny it. None of them read this blog anyway. But it’s true. I miss those fucking assholes with all my heart.

Because I am old, we have traditionally played games that are more “theatre of the mind” than actual map-and-miniatures games. Again, ironic; considering I’ve collected miniatures since I started playing rpgs, and since I (at least) am certainly a full-blown miniature wargamer as well. However; when running or playing in a roleplaying game I prefer to imagine the action and the setting, only resorting to hastily scrawled maps or pictures should they be needed to convey vital information or remove confusion.

Why do I prefer this? Because theatre of the mind forces things into a first person perspective. Things are happening to and being imagined by you, the player, not observed from a godlike, top-down strategic map that shows exactly how many 5-foot squares are between you and that bandit over there and what his initiative score is.

Let’s talk about that bandit. The bandit scowls at you, gripping his hand axe, his knuckles white. The once-fine weapon has been used as a tool, its blade notched and worn. He is lanky, malnourished, and unwashed; and does not have the look of one who enjoys his work. His leather armor is surprisingly-well cared for save for a shiny patch on his left forearm, where it is obvious he has often stropped his knife. Perhaps he, like so many in this war-ravaged land, was once a guardsman or soldier; now reduced to the life of a road agent, robbing and stealing to survive. The bandit stares through the eyes of a man with nothing to lose, for he has lost everything already.

I’d be willing to bet you have a pretty good idea of what that bandit looks like in your mind now. Guess what? I bet it’s not exactly the same as what MY bandit looks like. Sure, I provided all the necessary details (perhaps too many) to form a picture, but the picture was YOUR formation. What colors is he wearing? What color are his eyes? His hair? His skin? How long is his hair, if he has any? Does he have any scars? I never described any of those things.

In the tactical environment of online roleplaying, none of that matters, because as soon as you encountered the bandit the DM plopped down a virtual token with a generic picture of a guy who likely looks nothing like what anyone pictured from the description; but now becomes what the bandit looks like for everyone. Congratulations. Your menacing bandit has been reduced to a crappy piece of clip art. (And yes, I know you can make your own tokens and you’re not reduced to clip art; but once again, a token is a token; not a bandit, or a Deep One, or a dragon.) Your thrilling, imaginative combat has now degenerated into a strategic, turn-based board game. Which would be fine for me, if I was playing a board game.

My gripes are in no way reflective of the quality of the games I have participated in. We’re all working with what tools we have. I miss being around an actual table, although I would much rather play over Discord than not play at all. I’m playing in a few hours, as a matter of fact.

I just can’t wait until we’re all back together again.

The Slump is Here…

I’ve hit a bit of a painting slump. Actually, it’s a bit more than that. It’s a general hobby slump. I haven’t painted a miniature since I finished up Kratos for Forgotten Heroes. In fact, I’ve barely done anything at all since July 1st.

Partly this was due to real life work anxiety getting in the way of any pleasant diversions I might seek. Now that that is mostly over, though, my painting mojo still has yet to return. A quick turn around some of the blogs I follow shows I am not alone in this; for whatever reason, we all hit a slump every now and again, or as The Dude would say, “strikes and gutters. man…strikes and gutters.”

So what HAVE I been doing? Playing video games, mostly. I recently did a replay of The Last of Us and the DLC, Left Behind; because I don’t know how long I can resist buying the long-awaited sequel, released a couple of months ago. The Last of Us is a true masterpiece; the only video game that I have ever played, finished, and immediately replayed. I did the same thing again recently. It’s an amazing storytelling experience, and it serves very well to get my mind off of shit I don’t enjoy thinking about. My mind naturally goes to these places when I paint; hence the whole no painting thing lately.

I’ve also been making some Starship Corridor tiles, using Heroic Maps Starship Corridors and DM Scotty’s 2.5D method. There’s a pretty great video on it here by The Mighty Gluestick (ironically not by DM Scotty, but whatever). It’s pretty quick work, but I’ve since run out of double-wall cardboard and need to get some. I really don’t want to buy it from a craft store, but I don’t have any heavy-duty boxes lying around.

I still plan on producing something for the Summer of Scenery over at Wargames Terrain Workshop, but it won’t be as much as I would have liked. In other words, no Western town or graveyard; but as you can see, I managed to give the sludge pool a quick basecoat (space marine included for scale)…

…followed by a black wash and some texturing with Stirland Mud. I’ll hit it with some light drybrushing before beginning the weathering process. Hopefully my Vallejo Water Texture will arrive by month’s end and I can complete this thing soon.

In the meantime, I need to find a project that will drag me back to the painting table.