Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons Books

Those things are EXPENSIVE now! Phew!!

I spent the 90s playing other systems like Ars Magica, Bushido, and Deadlands (these being my favorites). It was a great time to explore as TSR was kind of bloated and over-bearing with the AD&D / 2e version of the game.

Actually wish I still had my old PHB.
Ars Magica ... historical fantasy RPG. 

Deadlands, father of the Savage Worlds rule system.

3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons came about in 2000 and I bought back into it – the intro price for the three core books (Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual) was $20, later to be raised to $25. By 3.5 Edition the standard was $30. Being a guy of mediocre at best income I always found < $30 to be a good price point for rulebooks needed to enjoy a game you love.

I never bought a 4th Edition D&D book as I did not like the system. I did buy-in to Pathfinder in 2010 and the Core Book was $50. Expensive but it was also a combined Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide to parallel Dungeons and Dragons. Supplemental books were $30-$40 for hardcovers but soft-covers (like fluff books or all-important Adventure Paths) were around $20; though a complete AP was about 6 issues so that’s $120 but that is over time. All in all still quite affordable and I also saved money on PDFs I bought. A $20 was much easier to drop than a $50.

From 3.x through Pathfinder I also, extensively, used SRDs available for free on the net. My sense of honor made it so I was not comfortable doing this unless I bought a core rule book though. I still do this BTW – I’m uncomfortable with using “free” things from the internet unless I have bought the hard copy first. Within reason of course, I’ve got to like the system and want to support the company.

 Further, I want to support brick and mortar stores that sell these books. I like my Friendly Local Game Store… both of them as a matter of fact. I don’t play Magic so that cash stream is closed off from me. Historical miniature war-games are just not very feasible most of the time to stock on shelves. I know enough about business to know the nuances there regarding that and I don’t fault FLGSs not stocking historicals… thus another cash-stream cut off from me.

This year I got back into role playing games after a two year break. I decided to start playing Dungeons and Dragons Next aka 5th Edition*.

*I’ll expand on the actual product sometime later but here is a condensed version of my thoughts on 5e: It’s fine. It’s not the end-all-be-all of Dungeons and Dragons and not ground-breaking in any way. The only thing missing is the ability to tinker with and customize a character and that’s fine. It’s just another way to game.

After Xmas in 2016 I took some money and bought myself a Players Handbook from Guardian Games. It was $49.95 ! Whewww!! That’s some money. After a few months I felt compelled to buy the other two “core” books (Monster Manual and Dungeon Masters Guide) and those, too, are $50 each. Definitely not an impulse buy anymore and, even with a grown-man’s salary, quite a bite into my gaming budget.

Wanting a DMG for months now but not willing to drop a $50 on it I waited for a used one to pop up at Guardian Games with no luck. I was saving it for later this year but I did have a coupon for 20% off a purchase at Red Castle Games as well as $8 in store credit there so I went there last weekend to get a DMG for $32.

Sure, I can find them regularly on Amazon for $36 and I am a huge fan of Amazon. My consumer ethics got in the way of that though and I buy off Amazon what is hard to search for in brick and mortars around me. Rustic iron nails? Amazon. Dungeons and Dragons books? I know of 5 places, without research, that sell them in my city. Still, $50 each is pretty steep for three core rule books. Unless I run across some deal it looks like the only “deal” I can make is Amazon for the Monster Manual though.

I’m glad I own dice and miniatures and tons of other stuff already. A lifetime in the hobby has given me a good collection of usable game aids. If I was a kid or young adult right now trying to get into the hobby? Sheesh… feel bad for you kid.

So, thanks for reading and get off my lawn.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Staycation 2017 Part II

10 days off in a row and what did I do? Not much really. I got some boring and busy stuff done but nothing important or major. I guess that’s an OK staycation then.

Gretchen got a break from dinner-duty and I managed dinner most of the nights. On top of that I did a load of dishes a day if not more so our cupboards and silverware drawers were stocked! I also made some from-scratch horchata for the first time and it was OK. Next batch I make will be better now that I’ve got the mediocre one out of the way. I learned how to make horchata by watching YouTube videos.

I also got a good deal on some new bedding for Gretchen and I but you get what you pay for and the new bedding will take some getting used to. Nice comforter though but it’s still hitting high 90s and 100s outside so enjoying the coziness of a new comforter is off the list right now.

I did not plan to play any video games but I ended up playing my way through the main scenario in Battlefield 1. I’m not a huge video gamer, any kind of button combo perplexes me and I was having some trouble with Battlefield 1 when I first got it last winter, but I set it on easy and figured some things out and worked my way through it. It is both a fun and slightly educating game (in that I looked up some things after getting inspired by fictional and fantastical events in the game).

Speaking of YouTube, video games, TV, and the PS4 I did spend a lot of time trying out some TV shows, getting in some good documentaries, and watching a lot of instructional YouTube videos.

I watched the first episode of Comrade Detective. It was good but did not immediately grab my interest. It is a parody/spoof , the story being Channing Tatum and some other producer found the footage of an old 80s Romanian (Communist-era) TV show. They digitally remastered it and added some dubbing. There was some Cold War nostalgia for me in it and I think it’s very imaginative of the makers of this thing. It’s on Amazon Prime if you are interested.

Most of the documentaries I watched were about music and also on Amazon Prime save the best doc I saw – Who The F**k Is That Guy which was on Netflix. It’s about Michael Alago, the Electra A&R agent that was an under the radar but seminal aspect in the growth of metal as we know it today. A gay Puerto Rican from the Bronx he loved metal and got a job with Electra and signed major acts like Metallica and White Zombie.  The movie is about his trials and tribulations and his importance in the scene. I always heard about him – namely “Did you know a gay Puerto Rican signed Metallica?” – but never saw his full story until the doc.

YouTube watching was 95% instructional videos. Cooking (the horchata up above) was first and foremost. Then there was the obligatory bushcraft and outdoor gear review videos. I also found some basic Western Martial Art videos on basic spear thrusts that I practiced in the living room Monday-Friday morning, about 10 minutes per day. 

I did find some good videos on basic wood carving. I’ve got blocks of bass wood, I’ve got a few carving knives, I’ve never whittled anything “crafty” with it. I still haven’t but seeing some basics videos I know I’ve got all the things I need to give it a good go. I just need to do it outside and outside is just too hot … and as of last Friday too smoky and ash is falling around us from the fires in The Gorge.

One of the more interesting videos I saw was a 50 minute seminar Dave Cantbury did at some expo-show thing. He talked about “tool-heavy sustainability” and, as is the usual for me, I agreed with a lot of what he had to say. I know some have misguided feelings about him and that’s fine but of all the outdoors gurus out there he has taught me the most, surpassing Cody Lundin who is in credibility mode right now (and justly so) in his suit against Discovery and the producers of Dual Survivor.

Some of the big events during my staycation were:
Saga Club Day at Guardian Games on Saturday.
Dungeons and Dragons on Sunday.
Another Dungeons and Dragons game on Wednesday.
Cinema Babylon on the following Saturday – in which I hosted Hardware and Deadly Species. Two great movies if you ask me.
Some beers and bread pudding with my friend Jason.

Things I did not get to but had hoped to do (and my excuse):
2 dozen comic books to get caught up on. (lazy)
Finish my Viking leggings/pants. (lazy and my lack of skill intimidates me still)
A hike in Forest Park. (it was too hot all week really)
Wash truck (lazy … and the forest fires in the Gorge just dumped ash on us so I’m glad I did not waste the time or money)

… Yesterday being Labor Day, thus an added day off to my week off, and my last day off before coming back to work, I did:
Get caught up on my current favorite comic book Manifest Destiny.
Finish my Viking shield… well… it is ready to be used on the battle field in rebated steel combat at least. Still have some details to work out and give it a smooth look.

All the above said I’m looking forward to some cooler temps and a bit of rain, we need it. I hope to bust out the old pack this fall and get one good overnighter in and bust some rust off my outdoor skills. Some of the “Adventure Buddy” posts I have planned in the near future are a review on the Terävä Jääkäripuukko knives in 110 carbon and 140 stainless as well as how my 2 transactions from the famed Finnish surplus store Varusteleka have gone.

On the Neo-Grognard side I hope to get a wet palette by end of year and maybe I’ll show my well-painted and skill-heavy 54mm I will have done before Xmas. I do have a Saga Tournament I am organizing coming up in October and that will also be featured here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

August Painting Break

Kind of like summer vacation back when we were kids – I’m halfway through a miniatures painting break in August.

As I posted here I finished up those Scots Covenanters I started after Memorial Day. I do have some items in the “que” I want to paint but I’ve no deadline. Also, we’ve been getting some record breaking temps in Portland the past few weeks (upper 90s and into the 100s) though some respite this week (only in the 80s). I’ve got some DVD movies to catch up on and a staycation to have the week prior to Labor Day.

The “Saga Club” has taken off and the first play-day was a success at 7 people showing up. We had 3 simultaneous games going and most of the players got 2 games in. The next one is August 26th and it’s looking like another 3 tables with 7 people coming to play. Again, PDX-Metro Saga is for people that have an army and want to play Saga. I cannot offer demos for PDX-Metro Saga days; this monthly day is for playing.

Frankly, I’ve been running demos for 3 years straight now and I’m not really the best person to be doing that. Time for other people to take up the mantle, people that are much better suited than I – my rules knowledge is basic at best and my temperament is “getting old and grumbly”.

 Put 22 ozs of cider in me though, and if I’m in a good mood, I will happily play 2-3 games!

Other things I am doing this month, not wargaming related:

As I have mentioned I have not bush-crafted, let alone even went car camping, in almost 2 years. It’s getting harder to do those things and what used to be simple trips thought out in the last minute are now treks I need to plan for. I used to be able to want to go camping Saturday morning, pack up the truck with my pack and a cooler, and take off no more than 2 hours out of Portland. This became more difficult a few years ago as the population has dramatically rose and all my “spots” are now filled with people. Even car camping takes reservations months, if not a year, out in advance.

I’m not quite sure about what to do about it. During my staycation I do plan to explore some of the local Portland trails though, like in Forest Park. I’ve put together my old haversack kit and I’ll set off end of the month on a weekday to see what is up and get myself back into some woods-bum action. At the least I’d like to brew up a cup of coffee in the woods and have a smoke.

On this tip I made an order for some outdoorsy gear from Varusteleka out of Finland. Fast becoming my favorite online seller of MilSurp gear. My first order from them was a Jaakaripuukko (hunter’s knife) in the 140mm stainless steel blade configuration. If not out of stock I would’ve gotten the 110 carbon blade. I also got a sheath for the knife. Altogether it was $80. I also got 2 Polish bread bags (due to my obsession with common items a soldier would carry), a repro Finnish field cap from WW2, and some reflective decals. Delivery, from Finland, was in 8 days for $9.99. 

I’ve lusted after the knife for a while and also really wanted to be a Varusteleka customer since last year. I finally pulled the trigger due to some videos that came out this summer about the knife and comparing it to other knives like the Mora Garberg – full tang knives in the sub $100 range that are heavy duty woods users. Garbergs are $99 and I’ve been wanting one all year but my lack of woods-time prevented me. I also like the Jaakaripuukko aesthetic better as well as the cool leather dangler sheath. That said I will get a Garberg later I hope and I will compare the two knives.

My Dungeons and Dragons game is going strong. My paladin, Sir Evanagrio de la Guerre, just hit 5th level! In D&D5e every 5 levels is an “echelon” in power and prestige I guess? So hitting level 5 is a milestone. I’ve a mini all painted and ready to be used for “higher level” Evanagrio but he’s not quite there yet so I’m sticking with the current Evanagrio mini.

Coincidently I just took one of those dumb online “which character are you” tests via Facebook. Obviously a way to mine your data. I take few of those and I normally get an answer I don’t like – always some 2nd-rate character and usually the funny fat guy – but this one was for Game of Thrones and I got Oberyn Martell. I thought “Cool, he was sexy and almost killed The Mountain, though he ended up getting killed by The Mountain.” So I looked him up to see if there was anything I was missing about his character (there wasn’t) but realized this was exactly what my D&D character was! Cool, I love it when a character I’m playing has a literature or show based parallel I can steal from!!

 Sir Evanagrio is a Paladin from a noble family. He is seen as a hero by the common folk as he likes to defend them. He is a duelist – loves single combat. He is from southern land thus has darker skin. Evanagrio has a known lust for carnal action too. He’s also developed an insatiable urge for vengeance against demons. 

Other than using poison to gain unfair advantage, that is Oberyn Martell.

The Viking recreation stuff is moving along. Hoping to start a wool fabric hood (using the Skoldham find as my inspiration) this weekend. I might also make a leather pouch for “mundane items” I need to carry with me while dressed up – something to carry wallet, phone, and Swiss Army knife.

Got back into some shows after ending up getting bored with TV earlier this year. Namely Game of Thrones after being out for 2 seasons of it. I might have even blogged about it here?? Firstly one of the lawyers at my firm started a GoT Fantasy League. Buy in was $5. Out of 16 teams I am solidly right in the middle with my team of Grey Worm, Milisandre, Jaqen, and Yohn Royce. So far, a pretty mediocre team with Grey Worm being my only star player, and Jaqen probably being my poorest choice in that he might not even show up in this season. I was hoping for more with Melisandre but looks like she’s out too. At least mine are all alive!

Second, the show got better. Every episode has had a major reveal or a plot device realized. Also we have not seen one sexual assault. Past seasons those were layered on top of each other each episode to the point of tedium. “Really? You’re going to emotionally manipulate me with rape scenes again?”

I’ve also realized (while watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2) that long and very dynamic CGI scenes cancel out in my brain after about 10 minutes and I just fall asleep. Awww … 46 years old and finally out of the demographic!

Anyways, thanks for reading and sorry for this filler post! I plan to write about my Cro-Mags patch and my history with them next. Stay tuned – so much excite!!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Scots Covenanters, ECW, The Last Foot Squad

Today I finished up the last of my Covenanter Foot Regiments. I now have 3 full "pike and shotte" foot regiments for any gaming I may want to partake of.

All but one of the figures are from Warlord's Foot Regiment box set. The one that isn't is a Perry. Long story short I messed up modeling some of the plastic figures so had to fill the hole with the Perry guy. All of the bonnets were bought separately and added in lieu of the other hat choices Warlord gives you.

The officer and sgt. I painted up based off some pictures in an Osprey book. I wanted to layer them a bit more but just wanted to be done as I have been working on the whole regiment since after Enfilade in May. So, 2 layers it was.

And here is the whole band. I'm going to do a separate stand for Ensign and Command.
Now that I am done I am not in much of a hurry to paint up anything any time soon. Maybe 8 more figures to add to my Pagan Rus for Saga.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Every Day Carry

I have a slight obsession with Every Day Carry aka EDC. It blends with some of my other interests like disaster prepping (that’s more a “what I do” as opposed to “interest”) and historical re-enacting.

Modern EDC options

Otzi the Iceman's EDC from 5000 years ago.

Thing is, my tastes lean more towards the mundane than cool high-speed-low-drag tactical gear and guns. I’m a common man and have some common tastes to live my common life. I do appreciate some of the knowledge I’ve gleaned over the years from some of the pro-level tactical guys and I think I have a good gauge on what I need for my life and what I don’t. It’s a fine balance between:

I need to be ready to repel another country’s army from my lands
Glock 19 is the new standard for side arms
Basically, I want to be able to take part in my own active defense but I’m not fighting ISIS or China.

My interest in things in people’s and my own pockets is not in guns though. I’ve always had a fascination with wallets, pocket knives, watches, flashlights, change pouches… things of that nature. I don’t collect either. Sure, I’m hunting for some pretty specific things like a good Sunday Puukko or a pocket organizer but I don’t blow a ton of money on something when I find what is working great for me and my tastes for “what is working great” are pretty low compared to others.
Gotta' keep them from flopping around in the pocket and tearing things up.

Really nice (to me) puukko knife

What I have in my pockets daily, 100% and if I don’t have it I made a mistake:
1) A Coach wallet. Pretty fancy for a guy like me, the inlaws got it for me for Xmas a few years back. It’s a little thick but it does its job (hold cash, licenses, cards, bus pass, etc.) and the only real peculiarity for me is I like to have a flip-out window for my bus pass and it needs to hold cash as I like to have cash. I really appreciate this gift from the Parhams and, being a Coach, makes me feel luxurious in a simple way.
2) A hanky – the good old paisley endowed western hanky you can get at Fred Meyer for cheap. Wipes up messes, soaks up sweat, first aid, blow my nose in it.
3) Keys on an old spring clip – I got the spring clip after graduating Navy bootcamp in 1990. I remember my first day of liberty after graduation. Everyone wanted to go out in a group but I needed some alone time so the first thing I did was go to the PX* (first time I had money in my pocket for months) and I bought a piece of pizza, a Dr. Pepper, a pack of cigarettes, a lighter, and that spring clip for keys as I was told I might end up with some keys to care for. I sat alone and ate that pizza and sipped the Dr. Pepper. Then I lit a smoke and smoked it.
4) Fenix E12 pocket light – my favorite flashlight right now. AA battery, small, up to 100 lumens. Hit my sweet spot after I bought it and have had it for 3-4 years now. Perfect for office and outdoors (and when outdoors I do bring other lights).
5) Leatherman Juice XE6 – Gretchen got my name engraved on it and gave it to me for Xmas. Handiest pocket tool I ever had (out of the 10 or so I own!)
6) Bic lighter – for my smokes, for emergencies.
My iPhone is either in my back pocket with my hanky or a jacket pocket or vest. Same with smokes but I don’t smoke often so a lot of the time smokes are not on me.

On me, right now as I type.
$.79 cents in San Diego RTC Navy Exchange February 1990. I still use it daily.
There it is, lower left of picture, hanging off my belt loop. M2 quals, 1990

A few years ago, it's a bit beat up now.
For work I also carry a commuter bag, an old Timbuk messenger. It’s getting worn out so I’m looking to replace it but I’m in no hurry. My phone and cigarettes go in the bag a lot. Also in the bag are some boo-boo kit items (bandaids, pain killers, Pepto and antiacids), hand sanitizer, some pens and pencils, ear buds (phone), a fixed blade knife, and a larger flashlight (Surefire of course!). In and out daily are lunch, reading material, a drink, and maybe socks.

I’m not going to talk much about a firearm. I have a concealed carry license and many options to carry different pistols.

Some people may think this is scary looking.
On Facebook and Tumblr I am subscribed to many different “EDC” fan pages. 90% of the time I’m a bit meh about it as the masses into EDC are more into pistols and fighting knives.  Anything not pistols and knives lean towards a pistol and knife aesthetic and are too tacticool for my blood. Black guns and coyote knives that look hooky and dangerous, chunky pens that also stab, flashlights that can start fires, “grey man” bags with tomahawks and short rifles, a back pack 90% of trauma kit … it’s quite funny sometimes as the people carrying this stuff are not congruent to people who will be using this stuff.  Sure “it’s better to have it and not need it yadda yadda…” but I’ve got a 10 pounds of shit on me daily limit. I’m fine with what other’s carry I just won’t do it nor see a real probable need and think the Greyman Tacticool look is rather obvious and quite noticeable and exactly opposite of Greyman Philosophy. Thing is when I see the "scary stuff I know it's mostly aesthetics and color and not actually any more scary than other things.
Just as effective tools, probably more expensive, not as scary looking. 

Actually, a very wise man once taught me that a true greyman is “congruent” to their surroundings and that has stuck with me since. Thanks ODA and I wish I knew your real name. This is why my “philosophy” is to be me which is “an office worker that likes heavy metal and ice cream”.
When you dress like this I immediately think "That guy has a gun or wishes they did." They think they are blending in. They are also just as fashionably minded as any other consumer out there but refuse to admit it.
What I like to see on blogs and FB pages and such are the quality things that really tell you something about a person (other than I’m Gonna Fight In A Fucking Big War!). Like, a pocket knife that looks like Grandpa hung out with them or an old Zippo that has an old Infantry unit insignia. Maybe a watch with a clown on it or something. Other than the personal things like that I also like real simple and elegant but highly functional pocket carry items like a 2 or 3 pocket organizer (for pen, knife, lighter?) or a pocket notebook and wallet combo. One thing I’ve always wanted was a hanky with a simple map of Portland on it.

*Edit I typed PX and that's the land lubber Army name for it. We called it the Navy Exchange. I think that most people know what a PX is over an NEX. How true that is I don't know.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Works in Progress - Scots Covenanters, Modern SWAT, Paladin for D&D

After watching Wizards Friday night at The Hollywood Theater (see previous post) I had a pretty easy weekend with some free time... not so the next 2-3 weekends. So I took some time to try to wrap up some miniature projects.

First there is the slog, the thing I have been working on consistently for about a year now - English Civil War Scots Covenanters. I wanted a third foot regiment of pike and shotte, looking at 36 figures in 28mm. I bought a Warlord P&S infantry foot regiment box, added some Scottish bonnets to the order, and got to work in June.

Faces first!
Faces were based in a light brown. Then washed in Army Painter ink, Then heavily dry brushed in AP Barbarian flesh and highlighted in a a Vallejo Pale Flesh. 
I'm now on the last company of musketeers and looking forward to being done.  The big difference on these figures over the other 2 regiments I painted last year is they are Warlord plastics (as opposed to Old Glory metals) and I'm multi basing them over single based on 20mm squares.

The last year has been a haze of grey and blue paint!

Next for show and tell are some Old Glory SWAT figures I picked up a few years ago. Painting them for some modern (Osprey's Black Ops) gaming in the near future. These figures painted up really fast as the pallet is very simple. So much so I did not like the blue and black they originally were so I threw in some dark grey on armor plates and tactical harness and popped some red onto lights and scopes.

Not a lot of experience in modern bases so tried a gravel and cement look. 

Speaking of modern miniatures here is a female figure that I picked up from Hasslefree Miniatures a few years back. I like to have a stock of these in my storage trays. Not done and exercising my layering on a smaller scale as this mini is pretty tiny.

For my D&D game, the one where I play a Paladin, this is my "higher level" figure for my character. He did find a sunsword so I decided to portray that in the figure and took it as a cue to try out "reflection" effect on the armor of the miniature. I think I did OK my first time out but I'm definitely not there yet.

I like to have a lot of monster miniatures laying around. I use them, mostly, as tools to practice painting and modeling techniques. This "brain eater" (aka Grell from D&D mythology) I'm using as a study in layering with watered down paints. The brain part was base coated in purple. I then painted the brains in pink. Then I layered in a watered down red and the effect was pretty good I think.

I'm sure I'll let y'all know when I'm all done with painting Scots Covenanters! Have a good week or whatever and thanks for reading.