Coming Soon!

Sep. 22nd, 2017 04:29 pm
[personal profile] herooftheage
This is just a reminder that the mini-gaming convention I'm holding at 3 Trolls Games And Puzzles begins in just seven days! I've fleshed out the scheduled events a bit, but don't let that fool you - games should break out spontaneously whenever folks like. Here's what we have so far:

Friday evening The Hardest Arkham Horror game you've ever been in
Saturday day 3rd Reich
Saturday evening Blades in The Dark one-off scenario
Sunday morning Advanced Civilization
Sunday evening Large scale D&D session (a regular at the club, so this is more of a spectacle than something newcomers should do

In addition, I'm hoping the miniatures players will run some Bolt Action, Konflict '47, Warhammer 40K and Check Your Six as time allows. And of course, I'm hoping to play a bunch of shorter games myself.

We'll kick things off Friday at 14:00. We'll go until the last game ends on Sunday night.

Getting ready for the show

Sep. 19th, 2017 10:57 am
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[personal profile] reedrover
This past weekend, I did more toe stuff and a general health check on all of the goats that are going to the show. I'm down to the last don-wannas. Richie still needs a toe-trimming, and I keep avoiding it because, well, he's gross. I also need to wash off Emma's butt because it's black and stinky now. I know it's just a lot of hair and her being lazy about squatting all the way to pee, but really, it's gross.

I gave up getting any more fleeces skirted for the show and sale. Five will have to be enough. I haven't done my for sale notices yet. I did apply for registration papers, but I was a smidge late getting those filed, so I'm not confident that they will arrive before Saturday.

But hey, I'm scheduled and going. We will see what happens when I arrive.

The Epilogue

Sep. 18th, 2017 06:42 pm
[personal profile] herooftheage
Today I got a guided tour of the new Arms & Armor exhibit at the Chicago Institute Of Art from the associate curator for Arms and Armor, Jonathon Tavares, who is a friend of the Chicago Swordplay Guild. With the demise of the Higgins, Jonathon claimed this collection was probably the 3rd largest in the country.

If I understand things correctly, the presentation of the collection was designed by Jonathon, and is stunningly well done. It starts with several paintings and sculptures with ecclesiastical themes, moving on to secular ones, and ending up with several rooms of magnificent arms and armor from the Viking Age through the Late Renaissance.

Jonathon talked about practically every piece we walked by. His knowledge of what he has is encyclopedic. He talked about the individual pieces, their origins, history, construction, materials, why he put them on public display, and some of the ongoing projects to recreate techniques of construction using the raw materials the armorers had available to them - down to ore from the mines they got their iron and silver from.

I generally don't take pictures of things, because (a) it distracts from my actual viewing of the piece; (b) the person who did it for the book/postcard/print in the gift shop will do a much better job; (c) I'd rather just go back and look at it again. But this time I did take one picture, of a painting depicting St. George and the Dragon. St. George is in armor which was done in silver leaf, and has tarnished to black over time. My plan, when I get home, is to photoshop the armor back to some version of silver, and then show the results in a side by side comparison. Don't know when I'll get to it though - probably not before October sometime, I imagine.

I also learned that Dr. Helmut Nickel, former curator for arms and armor at the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, is still alive. Jonathon says he's 96 now, and so doesn't get out much. I met him once, when Patri arranged for him to come to Boston to give a talk to the SCAdians here. He brought examples. It was glorious. I didn't realize what a wonderful thing I'd attended until years later.

And now, I'm spending one last quiet night recovering at Rick and Libby's place, thinking "There's no place like home".

The Finale

Sep. 17th, 2017 09:43 pm
[personal profile] herooftheage
It was a great last day. I've loved the whole thing. I'm coming back in two years (next year we're cruising the Eastern Med.) I can recommend this event to anyone with a serious interest in European weapons fighting. While HEMA uses its own rules set to play the game they play, the classes all have adaptability to varying rules sets in mind, even when that wasn't built in explicitly, so far as I can tell.

9:30 Armizare Free Expression: Working across the System. Greg Mele may well be the finest martial arts teacher I've ever encountered - and I say that even though I'm not really a Fiore guy. He is certainly a far better teacher than I am. In this class, he didn't teach plays or techniques, though both were in the class - he taught ideas, and used the techniques to explicate them. It was a tour-de-force, and I'm glad I got to see it.

13:00 Pole Arm fighting in the Leichtenauer Tradition. This was pretty much the class that I came to WMAW for, and it didn't disappoint. Even though Christian Tobler gave a very basic class, I got to practice a thing I'd seen in passing and never gave enough credit to.

There are generally two pole arm grips people use - thumbs in the same direction for distance work and powerful oberhau's, and thumbs pointing at each other for close work. Ideally, you'd like to switch between the two.

The problem is that in gauntlets, it's generally difficult to do so, and transitioning from one to the other really can only happen when you are not at hazard. But having one or the other grip telegraphs your intention. It's basically why I always try to fight in close - I pretty much always use a thumbs pointing at each other grip. It's a weakness, and at my age, weaknesses magnify.

But there's a solution to the problem - instead of gripping the pole arm with your leading hand at all, you can let the shaft sit along the palm of your hand. It is easy to shift from this to either of the other two grips, and so if you take that initial neutral grip, you can make your entering move without your opponent having a preview of whether you're going to come fight in or out.

I've done that in practice now, and I'm going to try to do it in tournament at the next convenient opportunity. If I like it as much as I do now, I am going to incorporate it into my teaching.

Monday morning I get a private tour of the armor collection at the Chicago Art Institute, sponsored/arranged for by the Chicago Sword Guild. I expect it to be grand.

Tuesday I get to come home again. I love traveling, but I love coming home just as much.

Constellations

Sep. 17th, 2017 05:33 pm
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[personal profile] alexxkay
Kestrell and I went to see Constellations at the Central Square Theater. I quite liked it; Kestrell hated it. Which, to my mind, makes it worth talking about.

The play has only two actors, each of them on stage throughout. They both get to show off their acting chops as almost every scene is repeated multiple times, with slight but significant variations. It’s a bit like Groundhog Day, but none of the characters are aware of what’s going on, it’s merely the audience observing different forks of a branching multiverse. I’ve seen Marianna Bassham in a number of local plays over the years, and gotten to be rather a fan; I thought she was brilliant in this.

Interestingly, one scene was almost entirely in sign language. I’m not sure if it’s more or less funny if you as an audience member don’t understand sign. By the end of the scene, at any rate, I found the communication to be quite effective.

The set is abstract but gorgeous. The floor and (tilted) ceiling are mirrors reflecting the action (which of course reflects itself). The back of the stage is a dark but translucent curtain, behind which are an array of light bulbs of varying sizes and colors; stars in a night sky, lights of a ballroom floor, points of significance slowly dying…

The ads for the play say that it is “about love, possibility, bees, and… quantum physics”. This is true, as far as it goes. It is perhaps more difficult to fill seats with such phrases as “fatal brain cancer”* and “coping with a meaningless universe.” I found the ending bittersweet in a manner reminiscent of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia; Kestrell found it nothing but bleak. Obviously, mileage varies. Hopefully, this random assortment of reactions will give you some idea whether or not you want to go see it. It runs through October 8.

* This play is likely to evoke strong feelings in those who knew Caleb Hanson, especially in his final months.

Day3

Sep. 16th, 2017 07:15 pm
[personal profile] herooftheage
So running on fumes for the past couple of weeks finally caught up with me, and today ended up being a very laid-back day for me. Just as well, given the intensity of yesterday.

9am: lecture of the flexibility of historical fencing swords. Daniel Jaquet presented some findings from studying the physical properties of three "fencing swords" (swords specifically used for practice) in Zurich.

11:00 Armored combat clinic and monitored sparring. Mostly I hung out with Bob Charette and talked about differences between HEMA and SCA combat, and we both talked to some people about some finer points of poleax fighting.

12:45 Wrestling techniques for armored opponents. Daniel demonstrated several of his reconstructions from a German fight book about wrestling techniques in armor. I think he's still in an early stage with a lot of this stuff - he has a couple of techniques down cold, and thinks some of the other techniques are fanciful. This is a sort of well known place reconstructors end up in when they have had the first insight into their material, but haven't worked through enough to understand beyond the first flush yet. Sort of like archeologists calling unidentified items religious artifacts. I think it sort of ends up being a placeholder.

Anyway, I got some insight into throwing people around in armor, but it was during this class that I sort of shut down for the rest of the day. I ended up auditing

15:00 Monte's Two Handed Sword - The Levata. So there was this early 16th century guy who published a hodgepodge of instructions on fighting. Like many fencing masters of his time, he thought two-handed sword fighting was the basis for everything else, and so used those techniques, which he called the Levata, as the foundation for a lot of his instructions on a variety of forms. This class went through some of them. I was I'd had some gas left, because they looked like they were having a lot of fun.

I'm skipping the feast and entertainment tonight, in the hopes of being back up to form tomorrow. The premier HEMA pole arm guy is teaching a pole arm class, and he knows stuff I do not. That's got to change, at least in small part.
[syndicated profile] wwdn_feed

Posted by Wil

Tabletop’s Eldritch Horror Pt. 1 was released this week.

Speaking of horror, I think I mentioned that I had this idea for a 1970s-style ridiculous, bloody, Grindhouse horror film. I thought it was just a silly story exercise, but the more I thought I about it and the more I did the story work for practice, the more I wanted to do the story work to make it into a real thing. So I’ve been working on that. It isn’t on cards just yet, but it’s on the whiteboard and it has its own file of ideas and beats and characters and stuff. I don’t know if it’ll get made, but at the very least I’ll have a script to publish.

I’ve been using that idea as an excuse to watch a ton of actual 1970s ridiculous, bloody, Grindhouse horror films. I’ve thrown some classic exploitation films into the mix, and learned a lot about how those movies were made. Some of them are terribad, but most of them have a sincerity that is utterly charming and worthy of emulation in my own screenplay.

I’ve been leveling up my understanding of story and character construction with this book called The Anatomy of Story. It’s densely packed with information and examples, and it’s slow reading for me because I keep going back to review, and I’m making a ton of notes in my notebook, but I’m pulling in tons of XP with each chapter. If you’re interested in writing and want to understand how to build your story, I highly recommend it.

The Deuce is as amazing as I hoped it would be. I am hoping so hard that the series lives up to the pilot (which is a thing I never say, because pilots are generally not that great, since they have to introduce a ton of characters and information.) Franco has always turned me off (it’s not him, it’s me), but I fucking LOVE him in this show.

Blood Drive was not renewed by the network formerly known as Sci-Fi, which makes me a little sad, because Colin Cunningham and Christina Ochoa are brilliant in it (Christina should have had top billing and Colin should win awards), and I would watch them as those characters forever. But! It always felt like it should be a miniseries, and the last four episodes weren’t nearly as compelling as the first eight. I felt like they had to bail on the premise — each episode pays homage to a classic exploitation trope — to set it up for multiple seasons. There was so much great stuff in it, though, and I sincerely love that SyFy gave the project the greenlight. It was a risky project, to say the least, and it’s so cool to see a network that was profoundly risk-averse when I worked for them take the chance.

I read a bunch of short stories from Charlie Jane Anders when I was on vacation last week, and I loved them all. So I went to the bookstore yesterday to pick up All the Birds in the Sky, and while I was there, I browsed the tabletop game section. My finger is ten miles from the pulse of tabletop gaming right now, but I took pictures of some games there that looked promising to me:

Have any of you played any of them? I’m just looking for fun games to add to my collection, not necessarily games that are candidates for Tabletop, as Tabletop’s future is uncertain.

Also, not that it matters, but getting Twitter off my phone and mostly out of my life has been a really great choice. It turns out that not being kicked in the face by infuriating bullshit dozens of times a day is a pretty neat idea.

So that’s a bunch of stuff I want you to know. What do you want me to know? I’m enjoying these posts, because it reminds me of the early days of my blog, when you who read it and I who wrote it would interact more than we seem to these days.

 

Day 2

Sep. 15th, 2017 09:51 pm
[personal profile] herooftheage
Today I took two longer classes

9:00 Bruchius and the Dutch Rapier Tradition. I gather this wasn't what was actually taught - the instructor decided to talk about Dutch rapier fighting as it relates to tempo. There was still a ton of information I got. Amongst other things, I got some info on why Thomas Of Effingham holds his rapier the way he does. :)

It also turned out most of the class was above my pay grade. The first half of the class was introductory rapier techniques, reminiscent of techniques Quinn has briefly shown me. I was terrible at them. Apparently, trying to finesse your way through a guard so you can poke a person isn't all that much like knocking them into next week with a poleax. Who knew? Someday I may get good at that - it is certainly my intent. Today was not that day. I bowed out at the half-way point when they started doing much more advanced stuff, and went and audited (since I didn't have equipment) the Spanish sword and buckler class.

13:00 Persian War Wrestling. I did somewhat better in this class. :) Though it was still a bit problematical, for reasons I'll go into below. The instructor was quite expert, and of a very serious nature. He wanted us to know that this wasn't a class where the partners are cooperative to get to the right result, but really wanted us to resist and try to frustrate our opponents at every turn.

I have no formal background in wrestling at all, but have picked up a thing or two over the years - there's a reason why in my heyday charging opponents all bounced off me. This is important for later.

What the instructor stressed was: (a) you need to get close to your opponent, putting your body on theirs a lot; (b) you can't just charge in, but have to frustrate their guard first; (c) you need to mix up which part of the body you go for, so your opponent doesn't know a priori if you're planning on lifting him up or throwing them down. He then started on a variety of techniques of breaking through guards. I learned a lot in a short period of time.

But now for the problem bits. We get to the end of the indoor part of the session, and he asks for a couple of volunteers. Naturally I go up. Another guy, 6'5" or so, and very fit, is the other volunteer, and asks him to demo the first technique we learned. He does. It doesn't work. That is he can go through the motions of the technique, and sort of get to the desired position to throw me, but in doing so, he didn't actually restrict me, and is therefore unable to throw me to the ground. We talk a bit about why that happened, and then the instructor has a third volunteer come up to demonstrate the second technique.

Same thing. Doesn't work. The guy sort of executes the move, but I frustrate him enough that he doesn't control me at all when the time comes for the throw. We go through the same rigamarole again.

The instructor decides to do the third technique himself. This time it partially works. He displaces me, and I'm not free of action, but I am in a solid stance, so he can't actually throw me directly. However, if he wanted to, he was in a position to punch my kidneys very hard, and the way for me to get out of that was to go to the ground, which I did.

He then did the submission move, but I managed to get an arm up to fend things off, so I was in a place of distress, but not yet helpless. His counter to that was, interestingly, to roll back and forth across my chest so I expelled all the air in my lungs, and then I was done.

But here's the thing. I'm pretty sure that rather than just hold him off like I did, I could have thrown him off me and recovered. Maybe he was prepared for that, but I decided not to try that, and here's why:

The problem was the situation. (a) he was teaching basic techniques. The thing about basic technique is that if the sport is fair and interesting, it can be countered. If the first easy thing was guaranteed to work, it wouldn't be much of a sport. (b) The instructor could, in fact, have seriously injured me anytime he wanted to. But of course, he'd never do that. By setting up a situation where I was supposed to resist to my utmost, we escalated to the point where he'd either have to do some other technique or do something more drastic than was reasonable for the setting we were in.

I face this problem teaching historical poleax sometime. Since I do a lot of set play teaching, we often get to a point where one of the partners can do something to frustrate their partner - but the point is to teach the technique. The technique isn't flawed because there's a way to frustrate it - if someone does, you switch over to Plan B. The point is to get a lot of different techniques into the repertoire.

So the bottom line is I did learn a lot, I wasn't all that happy with how I behaved during the demos, and I also wasn't all that happy with not seeing some better way to navigate through the situation. It's a teaching moment I don't have a good answer for, and I wish I did.

Day 1

Sep. 14th, 2017 07:38 pm
[personal profile] herooftheage
10:30 Abrizare class with daggers and rapiers. This was grappling with weapons. The dagger stuff was reasonably easy, the rapier arm lock was a big trickier. It was all a lot of fun, and I'm going to be interested in the results of the Midrealm wresting-while-fighting experiment - it seems like a pretty dangerous thing to incorporate into a full-contact sport, because it would be awfully easy to break bones. Still, with a modicum of care, it is both a lot of fun, and brings people to closer contact with judicial combat.

13:00 Drills for Armored combat. This was HEMA-style armored combat, and so these were all drills meant to get at the unarmored bits of fully armored people - armpit, palm, eyeslot, and other creases in the armor. It was all half-swording drills, which were fascinating.

At the end was a drill that I may try to see if it'll fly in the cut and thust practices. Basically, it's build your own set play. Partners start in a defensive position, in or out of range. The leader makes some sort of entering play against that which the follower doesn't respond to. Reset, and do it again, until the leader is happy with their entering move. Then do it again, except now the follower responds with both a defense and attack. Keep doing that until the responder is happy with what they have, and then the leader adds segment 3, responder segment 4, etc. until the logic of the situation requires a break. That drill really supercharged my learning how to half-sword.

14:30 Montante class. A Montante is a Spanish great sword. No, that's not right. Well, it's right, but its not descriptive. A Montante is an impossibly large weapon. It's a level 120 Horde weapon from World Of Warcraft. Its a weapon large and heavy enough that even Flieg would approve of it. It isn't meant for single combat, it's made to clear streets in a riot, to knock a Ritter off his horse, to stove in the side of a pike formation. It is a weapon best wielded by Demi-gods.

You know how you use different moves when you are fighting half a dozen people, and aren't just worried about one? Those are the moves we practiced. I keep thinking, somehow I've got to be able to use this stuff in an SCA melee to bust up a line, but I don't think I could get a weapon passed that could do what we did today - and that's counting that I have an in with the Earl Marshal. :)

After the Montante class, I was done. By done, I mean no longer able to lift my arms up, and wondering why it is people think expending the energy to walk is a good idea - so I skipped the last class of the day, which is too bad since it was Persian spear technique, and I gather the guy who teaches it really knows his stuff.

The hotel I'm staying at has a pool with a jacuzzi. I may have to go buy swim trunks.

Tomorrow is another day.
[syndicated profile] wwdn_feed

Posted by Wil

It was an incredible honor and privilege to contribute a story to this anthology. We were given the opportunity to write a story about a minor character in the Star Wars universe, and I chose the guy who watches ships fly away from the rebel base.

My editor pointed out that one of the guys (who I call Rebel Base Bucket Guy, because that amuses me) is already named, so my Rebel Base Bucket Guy is a different guy. I have to point this out, because the Star Wars Nerds are going to force choke me if they think I renamed their canonical Rebel Base Bucket Guy.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun to write, and I titled it for my friend, Laina, who is best known for her hilarious YouTube videos.

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