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Jeff's Gameblog
Friday, 28 May 2004

It has now been 5 weeks since I submitted my write-up for Knight Chase to the Chess Variants Pages. I'm starting to get antsy. I'm sure the editors have got a large queue of submissions, but the timeliness of their handling of the 44-squares contest got my hopes up. Obviously, they expedited the 44-square stuff because they had a deadline to shoot for. There's no particular reason why they can't sit on my items indefinitely. I sure would like to see my Knight Chase and Enochian Chess articles up on the site though. Items are continuing to be added an a daily or near-daily basis, so I figure that eventually they will go up. The waiting between submission and publication just gets my goat sometimes.

I fired off a brief introductory email to one of the mysterious Mr. Michael Strathearns. I guessed the email address of the chemistry professor based upon the format of a publically-available address belonging to one of his colleagues. I really look forward to hearing from someone who might have actually played Lords of Creation back in its heyday. Well, maybe heyday is too strong a term given how little impact the game made upon the hobby. Come to think of it, I ought to start a thread on RPG.net fishing around for some actual play.

Posted by jrients at 5:04 PM CDT
Thursday, 27 May 2004

Well, I decided to try to cut down on my eBay habit. I don't have the willpower to quit cold turkey, so here's my plan:

1) Get rid of most of my automatic searches. These things were killing me. Every damn day my mailbox would be crammed with little "Hey bid on this!" notes. I ditched all of them except for two searches that are longterm, like half a year with no nibbles. One is for original Erol Otus artwork, which I've only seen come up once in the 5 years I've been on eBay. Foolishly, I did not bid on it at the time. Of course, I didn't have a tricked out game room to hang it in either. The other item I want is Seren Ironhand a Tom Moldvay module that he released as a small press item. I've never seen a copy for sale. It exists to me right now only as an entries in the non-TSR xD&D item list and Heroic Worlds, Lawrence Schick's excellent rpg reference book.

2) Collect only one thing at a time. By "thing" I mean like a single game line or whatever. Collecting multiple game lines in parallel results in me placing too many bids. Sure, 5 or 6 bids of two or three bucks doesn't look too bad on paper, but win them all and add in five bucks shipping apiece and suddenly I've just spent fifty bucks without breaking a sweat. Right now, I've narrowed myself down to just Gamma World. At this point there's only a handful of modules I really want, particularly the Mind Masters and Epsilon Cyborgs. If I happened across a copy of the Albequerque Starport minimodule I might bite as well, but I already have the screen it went with. The chances of finding the module solo are pretty low.

Posted by jrients at 9:33 PM CDT
Mitregi and Humpmitregi Arrays
Charles Gilman's Rules for these variants

Posted by jrients at 11:17 AM CDT
Wednesday, 26 May 2004
Behold, the Turquoise Star of Shame

Well, it finally happened. I got my 100th positive feedback on the eBay, earning me a turquoise star next to my name. Back when I got a blue star for being such a good little consumer, I thought it was kinda cool. "Oh look, there's a blue star next to my userid. I rule!" Nowadays I can't help but think about all the game crap I've bought, most of which has yet to be used at the game table.

I'd like to write here that I am committing myself to playing all the games and modules I've bought. I'd like to announce I'm quitting eBay cold turkey and spending my money on something else. But those would both be lies. I may be a cheapskate bottomfeeder who rarely bids more than 5 bucks on an item, but I'm just as hooked as the folks who quit their day jobs to buy and sell on eBay fulltime.

I guess I shouldn't be too hard on myself. Many things I've got off of eBay I have used. Things like some old D&D stuff or my Starmada Compendium. And I continue to stick to my policy of not buying things solely for "collectibility". If I bid on it, I plan on using it in some way, whether it be to play it as written, or to adapt to some other game, or for one of my silly research projects, or (in the case of old magazines) just for light reading.

EDIT: Corrected some spelling.

Posted by jrients at 9:13 AM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 26 May 2004 9:16 AM CDT
Monday, 24 May 2004

I'd like to start a second RPG campaign, but I'm torn between two games: Gamma World and Lords of Creation. GW would clearly be the easier of the two to run, as it can be handled as post-apocalyptic D&D. LoC would be a harder sell for players, though I think I could get at least two.

Or maybe I'll punt and run a Savage Worlds minicampaign of some sort. Either way, I need to talk to Pat and find out his take on the situation.

Posted by jrients at 9:13 PM CDT
Sunday, 23 May 2004

Finished The Franco-Prussian War this morning. I'm not entirely satisified with it, so I think I'm going to have to track down a second book on th matter. Maybe the University has the relevant Osprey "Essential History".

I'm knocking around in my head what I'm going to do next with my "Home Team" campaign. I've had two ideas that stray a little outside the rpg narrative formula. I just don't know if the players would buy them.

1) "Night of a Thousand Villains". The premise behind this idea is that heroing ain't easy, but someone's got to do it. Basically, we cut from scene to scene of the heroes fighting bad guys, never giving them a chance to rest. I just need to figure out a way to tell a coherent story, otherwise it would become "Night of a Thousand Wandering Monsters", which is not what I'm shooting for.

2) Reverse Adventure. For most of the night the players run the villains, who are on some sort of sdastardly mission. They bypass security systems and maybe fight guards and/or robots. In the final fight we swotch back to normal as the usual PCs foil the villains plans.

Posted by jrients at 2:37 PM CDT
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

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