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Jeff's Gameblog
Saturday, 22 May 2004

Stopped by the library today. I returned my Jack the Ripper books. I figure I get them again as I get closer to the con and need to bear down on my scenario writing. I also returned Songs of Earth & Power. It wasn't doing much for me. I'm not sure if it was my general annoyance at most forms of fiction or maybe the fact that it was starting to look like umpteen chapters of learn-about-this-strange-new-world-and-the-heros-secret-inner-powers. Given that this novel was over 500 pages long, that sort of crap could go on a very long time before the hero actually starts to do something.

I checked out two other books, both history books. The first is Queen Victoria's Little Wars by Byron Farwell. I figured it'd be chock full of imperialistic adventures of old. The second book I got is The Franco-Prussian War: Germany's Rise As A World Power by Irving Werstein. I'm already onto page eighty of this puppy. Its a good light read. I first got interested in the Franco-Prussian War because Martin Gilbert indicated in his book The First World War that the Franco-German animosity leading up to WWI had its roots in this earlier conflict. Interestingly enough, one of the first things mentioned in Werstein's book is that the seeds of the Franco-Prussian war were sown in the 30 Years War. Looks like I'll be needing to find a book on that war now.

Posted by jrients at 3:57 PM CDT
Friday, 21 May 2004
Ever tried to answer a 20 year old classified?
I've been attempting to collect all the magazine articles printed for the old Avalon Hill multigenre rpg Lords of Creation. This task is not very difficult, as I can find no evidence that anyone ever cared a hoot for the game, other than AH's own rag Heroes. I just got my fourth issue of Heroes in from the eBay today. That leaves 3 more issues out there with LoC material.

Anyway, like many magazines of the era Heroes has a player classifieds section for folks looking for gaming groups. I was amused by a particular "Opponents Wanted" entry from this most recently acquired issue (volume 1, number 5). Seems that back in 1984 a Mike Strathearn of Urbana, Illinois was looking for players and/or a GM for RuneQuest, Lords of Creation, and Powers & Perils.

Urbana, Illinois has been my home for about a decade now. So of course I immediately began looking for Mr. Strathearn. Finding missing people is part of my day job, so I thought that reaching him after 20 years was not an impossibility. The contact number Mr. Strathearn left in his ad had a prefix that belonged to the University of Illinois, so odds are pretty good that he was a student at the time. The local phonebook has no Strathearns listed and a quick check of an online phonebook revealed no Strathearns in the state of Illinois.

Casting my net a little wider 'cross the intarweb, I found a computer geek in Ayrshire, England by the name of Michael Strathearn, but he seems to be too young to be the guy I'm looking for. His resume is online and he doesn't mention the U of I either. This Michael Strathearn may also be "Chopper", a participant in organizing a British e-wrestling federation called the T.F.W.F. Don't ask me what that stands for. I don't know.

There's also a Michael Strathearn from West Simsbury, Connecticut who finished 186th in the 1999 Maple Leaf Half Marathon, held in Manchester Village, Vermont and 920th in the 1999 KeyBank Vermont City Marathon. Also, a fellow named Michael Charles Strathearn seems to have graduated from West Point in in 1975. I suppose that -might- be our man. After all, the kind of games the Hill made were pretty popular with members of the armed services. I think the marathon man and the West Point grad are one and the same, as I found a Michael Strathearn of West Simsbury, Connecticut who participated in a Marine Corps marathon in Washington, DC. Sure sounds like this Mike Strathearn kicks ass!

I'm pretty sure I'm on the right track when I find Michael Strathearn on a list of people who helped out at RuneQuest-Con. (Interestingly, I recognized some other names on the list: Shannon Appel and Lawrence Schick.) Looks like RQ-Con was held in '93 or '94, so a decade after putting up his classified Mr. Strathearn was still an active participant in the hobby. Thumbs up to him.

It looks like my best guess is that the RQ-Con Michael Strathearn and the fellow in my ad might be a chemistry professor at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California. My online phonebook gives two home numbers for him and I'm sure I could reach him by calling the college. I would greatly prefer to email him, but I'm not finding an email address for the guy. Maybe I take a guess based upon other faculty email addresses I can find.

Posted by jrients at 3:44 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, 21 May 2004 4:24 PM CDT
Thursday, 20 May 2004

At last night's game Pat slipped me his copy of Wyrd is Bond, Jason Blair's new rpg of magic-wielding hip-hop street gangsters. It looks pretty damn cool. I'd take points off for the slight legibility problems inherent in using a graffiti-style font for the headers and such, but the font selection is highly appropriate. I'm not done reading it, but WiB looks like a modern era weirdness game I could get into. There'd be a bit of a hump to get over on the race & culture angles. I think this whitebread farmraised middleclass geek would initially feel like a total dork-o-rama trying to play a badass black street thug. Isn't that what clueless suburban teenagers do for fun? I suppose I could have my first character be ironic, something like Honkey B Real.

Posted by jrients at 2:39 PM CDT
Mini's games I kinda like
I liked Warhammer 40K back when it was still :Rogue Trader and most miniatures games are _okay_. I'd play just about any minis game at least once, but I don't see many out there that I feel like I would want to actually build armies and terrain for. The following games are pretty much the only ones that I feel any motivation


If I could paint worth a darn I get a bunch of BTech plastic and march them all over my hexmaps. As it stands, the full color cardboard stand-ups are a pretty decent substitution.

Little Wars

The Granddaddy of them all. Tried for years to track down a copy only to have them reprinted recently. (Very recently. My copy says "copyright June 2004"!) Maybe others will want to play the game now that the rules are back in circulation. I've been thinking maybe the old Airfix 1/72 Waterloo line would do the trick. I just paint the guys a solid color and have at it. I even have a lead on useable cannons.


Not the recent collectible miniatures crapola, I'm talking the Gygax and Perrin original. The main rules have some interesting stuff, especially the morale and cannon rules. And the fantasy appendix is a golden nugget of rpg history. I could easily play the fantasy skirmish version of this game with my stock of Steve Jackson's Cardboard Heroes and S. John Ross's Sparks.

Star Fleet Battle Manual

A great old Star Trek ruleset. Suitable for small task forces, 3 or 4 ships a side, one player per ship. SFBM has very few ship types statted out, but vessels from Star Fleet Battles or the FASA material could be adapted if needed.

Other sci-fi ship-to-ship games

There are lotsa good sci-fi shoot-em-ups out there. I'm particularly fond of the Starmada Compedium, but I usually use cardboard counters for it.

Dino WARS!

As far as I can tell, no webpage exists for this game of army men vs rubber dinosaur action. The theme is great, but the rules are not particularly suitable.

Sumo Basho

The folks over at Amazon Sci-Fi & Fantasy have lots of neato looking stuff, but for me the pick of the litter is Sumo Basho, a Sumo wrestling simulation. If I could paint, I'd probably already have a set.


The miniatures adaptation of Shane Hensley's Savage Worlds ought to be as fast, furious, and fun as the rpg game. It's currently the big contender as the replacement for the clunky Dino WARS! rules. Also, when it comes to the frantic action of the old Rogue Trader, Showdown might do a better job than the present 40K rules.

Posted by jrients at 1:54 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, 20 May 2004 4:14 PM CDT

Last night was another great run of Dave's "Avatars" game. We finally got that bandit bastard! Yay! Once again we ended a session looking forward to the next get-together. I got to see the Savage Worlds fatigue rules up close and personal when my PC pushed himself to the breaking point. That was interesting. I'm more and more liking this ruleset. Talk around the table indicated that there was a forthcoming SW worldbook "Necessary Evil", in which the PCs are supervillains in a world where the aliens invaded and the superheroes failed to repel them. Between this and "Zombie Run" thats 2 SW products I'm thinking about getting.

This Saturday is Dave's tacos-and-LAN party. I was looking forward to trying some of Dave's tacos. I've heard good things about his cooking. I think I'm gonna have to no-show. My ex-girlfriend Karen is going to be there. I don't expect any drama or anything. We're both grown-up and after all, its been, what, seven or eight years? Still, it would be at least a little weird and I just don't feel like spending psychic energy on it. Since Pat brought the whole thing to my attention I've talked about it and thought about it more than the situation really warrants. Now I've blogged about it too. Time to move on.

Oh well. There will be other opportunities to get together with Dave and the crowd he runs around with.

Posted by jrients at 12:31 PM CDT
Wednesday, 19 May 2004

Tonight is another episode of Dave Hoover's Savage Worlds game, "Avatars". I kinda see tonight's game as a lynchpin. We've had a lot of build-up to what should be a big climax tonight. Unless we blow it.

Posted by jrients at 5:01 PM CDT
Tuesday, 18 May 2004

A member of the kindly editorial staff at the Chess Variants Pages has posted Game Courier presets I slapped together for the 44 squares contest. I sure wish they'd get my write-ups for Knight Chase and Enochian Chess posted!

Posted by jrients at 1:30 PM CDT
Monday, 17 May 2004

I dashed off a tiny missive to Mike Carr today in reply to his note from last week. Hopefully he won't think I'm prodding him too much, but this time I presumed to ask him for a photocopy of the relevant rpg passage from Fight in the Skies.

Looking at the pricing for books from CafePress.com got me thinking. I've come up with a rather ambitious idea for a journal devoted to the history of roleplaying games. It wouldn't be large, probably 52 pages at most (allowing me to use a saddle stapled binding), and not too frequent, maybe an annual. I'm sure there are other people out there who would be willing to contribute and who would be interested in reading it.

Posted by jrients at 2:29 PM CDT

I started a novel yesterday, Songs of Earth and Power by Greg Bear. Someone at RPG.net, though I can't recal who, recommended it as a book that exemplifies the game Lords of Creation. So far it seems to be a bildungsroman turned fantasy adventure, which seems mightily appropriate for a game with levels and nifty powers.

Pat came over last night. We chewed the fat about games and other stuff. After talking with him I'm more convinced than ever that I should tackle Gamma World as my next rpg. My brain is already starting to go to work. Last night as I was going to sleep it occurred to me that FASA's Orion material for the old Star Trek rpg could be easily adapted to a Gamma World society. Thinking about that kept me up for a while.

Posted by jrients at 11:43 AM CDT
Sunday, 16 May 2004

Boy, that was fast! I finished the little book on the Falklands this afternoon! Not only am I more interested than ever in Falklands wargaming, but I think the situation is mineable for James Bond 007 rpg material.

Posted by jrients at 3:16 PM CDT

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