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Tennis, Anyone?

My son has been playing tennis for four years now and maintains an avid interest in the sport. Not so much that he spends hours watching matches on TV, but he does go to the courts as often as he can get me to take him and at odd times I’ll find him playing slow-motion “shadow tennis” working on backhand and forehand strokes or “tossing” a ball into the air to practice his serve. He’s never held much interest in baseball or football and finds basketball and soccer only partially interesting. So I spend hours at the tennis courts, watching him practice. True, I could drop him off and pick him up later (as quite a few parents do), but my wife and I feel it’s part of our responsibility as parents to be there for our kids’ sports activities.

So this year, my wife and I decided to do more than just support him in the sport and started taking cardio tennis lessons.

Yeah, I know. That’s the same reaction my mom had.

Cardio tennis is tennis supercharged. In other words, you run a bit more (in our case, run rope ladders to work on footwork, which gives you something to do while waiting in line) and you listen to Really Loud Music while you swat the ball over the net. Or try to, at least. I often strike the occasional bird innocently flying overhead. Or get really close.

After the first class back at the beginning of the summer, my son commented that it “was funny watching old people play tennis.”

I showed him proper backhand technique with racquet in hand.

He nimbly dodged out of the way and laughed his way to the car.

Since then, we’ve either gone to every cardio tennis lesson or gone to the courts in the evening just to get in an hour of tennis during the week. My daughter took lessons a couple of years ago and knows what she’s doing, so we all can participate to some extent. It’s fun exercise and it gets us outdoors (and away from the TV) for awhile.

Alas, all things come to an end and with the close of summer and school now back in session (along with half a dozen after school activities), the family outings of tennis will come less frequently. But hope remains that I’ll win the lottery and can have a tennis court squeezed into the backyard.

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Note: I was working on this last week and got sidetracked playing video games. Ah, well.

Barbarians of Lemuria Variants

The Barbarians of Lemuria system* by Simon Washbourne is easily converted to other genres. What follows are a few of the published variants.

Barbarians of Lemuria Legendary (the advanced rules) uses a Lemuria of Washbourne’s devising since he was unable to acquire the rights to Lin Carter’s version of Lemuria (used with the free version of BoL).

Barbarians of the Aftermath is a post-apocalyptic setting which provides additional Careers, rules for “build-your-own” apocalypse, vehicle rules, and so on.

Dogs of W*A*R is Washbourne’s rules for the Big Muscles, Big Guns books and movies of the 70s and 80s ala A-Team, Mack Bolan, and others.

Legends of Steel (BoL version) is another setting using these rules.

Dicey Tales (a PDF magazine) has rules for Pulp-styled settings.

Honor + Intrigue is a swashbuckling set of rules combining BoL with a bit of 7th Sea and a dash of the action breakdown of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition. This system tends to stretch the basic BoL system enough that it’s almost a different game, but I am still interested in running a campaign using it.

Barbarians of Heavy Metal is a Kickstarter using the BoL (and Barbarians of the Aftermath) rules tweaked to represent the Rocktagon: the Eight Great Schools of Rock as the characters wander the desolate wastes seeking fame and fortune. I’m interested in seeing what the author has come up with for this game.

Those are the settings I have come across. If you’ve come across others, let me know.

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*Often referred to as the BoX system.

Fast and Loose Role-play*

For the past year (or so) I’ve been on the hunt for a game system that has a minimum of rules to remember and is easily run. I’ve looked at various titles and discarded each until I came across Barbarians of Lemuria** by Simon Washbourne, author of SUPERS! and other game systems. The link provided takes you to the basic (free) game.

I’m not going to review the game system here. If you’d like to read a review (or two), you can find some here and here at RPG.net and here at Knights of the Black Banner. What I will give you is a quick overview of the system.

Barbarians of Lemuria (henceforth BoL) is designed around the mechanic of roll 2d6, add the relevant Attribute, add Combat Ability (if fighting) or Career (if not fighting), plus any other modifiers the GM calls for, and try to meet or beat a target number of 9. It doesn’t really get much more complicated than that.

Characters have Attributes of Strength, Agility, Mind, and Appeal; and Combat Abilities of Brawl, Melee, Ranged, and Defense, each having a range of -1 to 5 (or a maximum of 3 for a beginning character). Unlike practically every game system to hit the market since the mid-80s, BoL doesn’t have lists of skills that characters have to pay points into and improve. Instead, they have Careers, and a character’s Rank in a Career determines how capable he is in it, ranging from 0 for someone who either hasn’t been pursuing the Career for very long (or merely has a natural ability in it) to Rank 5, meaning he is a master and hardly ever fails “skill checks” in that Career. A few sample Careers are Barbarian, Magician, Noble, Slave, Thief, and so on.

The game also doesn’t include long equipment lists with accompanying costs. In fact, Washbourne notes in the chapter on equipment that characters can have whatever gear would be necessary for adventuring, and there are no rules for encumbrance. However, he does also add:

If you want backpacks full of . . . adventuring gear, a weapon for every occasion, three spare suits of armour and a pack animal to carry it all around on then play another game. If all you want is a breechclout and a sturdy blade, play on!

At this point I’ve only played and/or run one-shots with the system (and its variants), so I do not know how well the system would run for a long-term campaign.*** What I do know is the game plays pretty fast, and encounter building avoids most of the hassle I’ve run into with other systems.****

This is definitely a system I will spend more time playing.

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*I dropped from my weekly gaming group two months or so back. Doesn’t mean I’ve given up thinking about games—or writing about them—just playing them for the time being . . . although I did start running my kids through the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beginner Game, another system that I find interesting so far.

**Not to be confused with Lemurian barbarians, which I’d expect to be rather nasty tempered and not much fun to play with.

***Though I do have plans to run a Hyborian Age (Conan) campaign at some point.

****The basic rules don’t spend much time with NPCs, so the GM is forced to make things up on the fly, which really isn’t difficult with this system anyway but someone new to the whole roleplaying thing might have problems. Barbarians of Lemuria Legendary (the advanced rules, available here or here, not free) provides more assistance with “winging it.”

Too Much TV

A couple of weeks ago as I sat down to catch up on various TV shows I missed during the last few months, I realized I watch entirely too much TV, boob tube, idiot box, whatever you wish to call it.

I’d written awhile back about Too Many Books* but it wasn’t until I noticed I was behind four or five weeks’ worth of Revolution that I started thinking maybe I should drop something from my watch list. Not that the list is all that long—just three or four hours on Monday, two or three on Tuesday, two more on Wednesday, about four on Thursday, and the same number on Friday. Well, there are a couple of hours’ worth typically on Sunday as well, but who’s counting, right?

Wait. At minimum, I’m looking at nearly twenty hours of TV every week.

And I get on to my kids if they watch more than an hour or so each day.**

Hey, kids, do what your parents say, not what they do.

At one time I could count on programming sticking with the fall through late spring routine with summer repeats, and I would spend time outside for four or five months. Then along came USA Network with their summer line (and Monk). I was hooked and started video taping episodes.*** I think that station single-handedly beat out of me my typical avoidance of the TV during the summer. Oh, that and the summer heat keeping me indoors over the last few years. I used to love being outside in 90-degree weather, garbed in heavy period clothing, stomping around on stage, spouting Shakespeare, and drinking iced tea.

Now, anytime the temperature rises above 80, I’m heading indoors, and still drinking iced tea.

Lately though I’ve been spending more time watching TV (and still reading) than much else. Writing? Nope, well, aside from the occasional post here. Voice-over? Uh-uh, not while the kids are out of school. They do OK to be quiet while I make one recording. Anything longer than thirty minutes and they can’t hold the noise in. Painting those miniatures I received awhile back? Nope, at least not until I get the area around the painting table cleared so I can reach my paints. Drawing? What’s that? Oh, yeah, I used to do that years ago before I went to college. I still have the stuff around here somewhere to do that . . . .

Now, Bob Meyer in Write It Forward: From Writer to Successful Author indicates he watches TV against all conventional writerly advice, but my guess is that he sits with pen and paper in hand and analyzes what he’s watching, making notes on scenes that work, scenes that don’t work, interesting character ideas, and so forth. I used to do that. OK, I still sit with a pad of paper and pen at my side. Unfortunately, I too often get caught up in the spycraft of Burn Notice or laughing at some quip made by Hank Lawson that I forget to actually write anything. Oh, well.

Recently I received a newsletter from Johnn Four of Gamer-Lifestyle, a game writer course/support group that I’ve been following off-and-on for awhile. I’d noticed there’d been little activity there this last year, and in his newsletter, Johnn Four mentioned he’d been hit with a case of burnout—no gaming, no writing, little else besides watching TV and reading “weird books.” Hmmm, I dropped from gaming with my group about a month ago. I’d decided I just wasn’t having fun playing games at this time. I still read game rules, still ponder tweaks for game systems, but just haven’t gotten back into gaming.**** Maybe the GM Slump is a full-blown case of burnout?

The TV schedule hasn’t let up this summer either. USA Network’s summer line-up is in full swing again (with the new addition of Graceland, which my wife dislikes but I find amusing) and SyFy (I much prefer when it was SciFi—the new logo is goofy) has added Sinbad, a one-season only British import***** which reminds a lot of the old Hercules: Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, shows I think my kids would likely enjoy.

Aside from a few bouts of homeowner angst and painting the outside of the house or doing a bit of yard work, about all I’ve done the last couple of months (aside from shuttle the kids to-and-from various summer activities) is read.

And watch too much TV.

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*And I still have a never-ending stack of books that I am working my way through. Some that were on the list then have been finished and others have taken their place. Some still sit near the bottom of the stack(s) scattered throughout the house.

**They usually don’t watch TV during the week and reserve most of that time during the weekend, often switching on the TV and watching one show, then half-watching the next while playing a game, or drawing, or doing something else.

***Yes. And I still have a functioning VCR along with a small stack of movies on tape. I’m slowly tracking down DVD replacements.

****Well, that’s not true. My kids and I played a game of Novus Mundi over Father’s Day weekend then later that week, my son and I played Okko: Legend of the Asagiri, both of which were enjoyable.

*****The production company canceled it after one season for some reason. Too bad. The family and I enjoy this show because it is family friendly.

Dem Bones and . . . Dwarves!

Oh, my eyes were bleeding!

OK, not really, but it sure felt that way after receiving my Vampire pledge box of Reaper Bones miniatures last week. I was giddy. Christmas in June.

I opened the outer box and this is what greeted me:

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Santa came early . . . or really late.

My son took one look and said, “That can’t be 200 miniatures.” Then I opened the white box and pulled out the inner plastic bags and laid those on the table.

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Good thing Bones don’t need air.

He still shook his head and went to play video games while I took a few more pictures. I didn’t start counting minis until a day or so later. I was trying to figure out how best to go about it when I ran across this life (and time) saving link, which shows the Vampire pledge level of minis plus gives a list of the optional add-ons with links to larger images of the minis. Now, while there was one noticeable error*the page definitely helped me with the process. It took only a small handful of hours rather than an entire week to wade through the 240-some-odd miniatures in the box.**

My daughter helped open the smaller bags to extract individual miniatures. Once done, we set those on the table to see just how many miniatures were in the box.

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Nearly 250 miniatures. Not enough to cover the table. Should’ve ordered a few more boxes.

Now, overall the miniatures are rather nice. They’re clean sculpts with few blemishes. Several figures look as though they are competing in a limbo tournament and will need some work, but the best thing about the Bones line—no drilling and pinning together disparate parts to put the silly things together. I have several of these minis already in metal but haven’t put them together for just that reason. Of the figures in this pack, the only ones that required any assembly were 3 of the giants and the griffon, but the pieces slotted together easily and it looks like the fusion glue I applied will hold them together without any problems.***

Once I finished with the Bones minis, I went ahead and pulled out the dwarves from the Kickstarter I’d pointed out awhile back and set them in their bases.

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I haven’t glued them in nor have I started any work on them. These pieces being metal have a high degree of flash both on the individual figures and on the resin bases.

Here’s an image of the troll figure that came as an addition with the dwarves.

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I think both Kickstarters were worth the price. I managed to get some really nice miniatures in both sets. Of course, my wife just looks at them and shakes her head, muttering about the house sinking because of all the minis stored in boxes in the back room.****

But when the waters rise, at least the Bones will float.

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*The first mini shown is Danar, male assassin; however, the Bones list link shows an image of Kellen, nobleman adventurer.

**I swapped out the Sophie the succubus on motorcycle Kickstarter exclusive for 4 extra giants (the frost giant king and queen and the fire giant king and queen) and an extra pack of 5 necromancers (can’t have enough wizards raising the dead).

***Sorry, no pics of those minis, either before or after. Oh, well, here’s a close-up of the frost giant king.

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****At last count, I had over 3,000 miniatures. Of course, that was made about 20 years ago when I was trying to maintain them on spreadsheet. I have no clue how many minis I have now.

 

Cetaceans Camping*

Bad, Darin. Bad, Bad, Darin.

The WordPress Blog Police are pounding on the door of the office, telling me I’m being charged with attempted blogicide. I’ve gone nearly two months without seeing to the care and nourishment of this blog, and its followers have likely wandered away in search of better forage elsewhere while Write-Voice-Games withers and dies.

Ah, well.

The term blogicide is rather amusing. I ran across it a year or so ago on Hella Sydney when Nezza commented that she’d committed that act on her blog by not updating it after a two month or so stint.** Oddly, even though the -cide suffix means “someone or something that kills a particular thing”*** according to urbandictionary.com, blogicide is “One who blogs without thinking. Or says something in a blog that is obviously stupid to everyone but the person posting.”

Huh? Oh, I get it. Suicide by blog. Ha ha.

Urban Dictionary. What a joke.

Nearly six months into the new year and I still have no clue where I’m going with this blog.

It began last year as a point to co-author a story, but during the holidays, I grew slack on my end, and Nathan over at Speaking Out has since split his blog in two**** and has moved on from Menagerie (though he does seem to have links still working), which is fine. My brain just hasn’t gotten back involved with those characters since I dropped that intergalactic ball. Who knows, maybe we’ll team up again on something with a predetermined beginning, middle, and end and not go the serial route.

During the past year, I added a number of “Thought for the Day” posts (OK, so they should be called “Thought for the Week” or “for the Month” as infrequently as they come) and a handful of gaming-related posts along with a few related to various voice-over projects, but no real focus on where I’m going with this or even an idea of where I want to go, which I would have chastised my composition students for a few years ago.

Oops.

Not doing what I teach? As in, “Do what I say, not what I do?” Perish the thought.

Or perish the blog?

No, the blog will remain up and running, but will likely limp along with posts only once a month or so until I’ve figured out exactly what I want to do with this thing.

What posts have you enjoyed? What posts have you disliked? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

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*An odd example of my rather circuitous line of thought which started with the joke: What do you call a dolphin with someplace to go? Answer: A porpoise with a purpose, which of course, led me to the phrase “for all intents and purposes.” Yeah, I know, “Darin, you’re weird.”

**She got it back up and running then allowed it to lapse again back in September 2012. Hopefully, she picks up that blog again (or another) because her sense of humor is one that often gives me a stomach ache from laughing so hard. Something I miss.

***Longman Dictionary.

****Well, three, actually: Speaking Out on Life, Speaking Out on Nate, and he recently started the Speaking Out on Blogging sitefor a blog instruction course he’ll be teaching in the fall.

Now Give Them a Dungeon to Explore

Last year I pointed out a Kickstarter project designing 28mm dwarves. I received the pack of miniatures back around the first part of December, and they are some nice looking minis.*

Now along come two other Kickstarter projects that will provide those dwarven miniatures dungeons to explore—both of which close toward the end of this month.

The first that came to my attention is the Dwarven Forge Game Tiles. Now, these are a hefty set of tiles made of resin, for a rather hefty price. You’re looking at $65 for a base set of tiles (unpainted, cast in a dark grey, containing 14 straight walls, 12 floors, 6 corner walls, and 2 swinging doors) and probably a minimum $120 (double the above floors, walls, and so on) to have enough tiles to build a reasonably sized play area of several rooms and connecting corridors. A two-set pledge is required to gain any of the “stretch goals” of additional wall sections and floor pieces. For about $30 more (each set), you get professi0onally painted tiles, saving the added time of painting them (or just applying a darker wash and lighter grey highlights) yourself. A friend of mine had a set of the Dwarven Forge tiles and found them quite sturdy and easily set up and taken down.

The other set I only recently found out about. Dungeons of the Mountain King, by Fat Dragon Games, is a PDF with connecting pieces, columns, and sundry other things. There are actually four sets within this project. At $14 your backing gets you the Dungeons of the Mountain King set, containing modular walls, floors, stairs, and props. For $23, you get the Halls of the Mountain King (which includes the previous set) while at the $37 level you get the Caverns of the Mountain King (again, including the previous sets). The highest base level ($49) adds the Caverns of the Drow expansion, which also includes all previous sets.

Either one looks to be a nice addition to any gaming miniature collection. Haven’t decided which one (if either) I’ll back** though the Dwarven Forge tiles have the benefit of being less time consuming but significantly more expensive.

I have until the end of April to figure out what I’ll do.

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*Once I ever get around to cleaning them up and mounting them on bases, I’ll take some pictures and post them . . . but don’t hold your breath expecting that to be anytime soon.

**Since I’m still trying to pull enough funds together to replace the current computer.

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