Blog

Intellectual Starvation

It’s a short one today. My life is so consumed by Open Gaming License fallout and such that I have been swamped these past few days. I’m rapidly running out of steam and desperately in need of the weekend. Stay tuned to the end of the post for a few miniatures too.

So I’ve been reading Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and it’s really hitting the spot. Reading it for 30 minutes at a time even has been giving me the satisfaction of a particularly well-cooked meal does, and it suddenly hit me. All of these months without reading real written material crafted with a purpose other than to get clicks has been starving my brain.

I am being a bit hyperbolic, but I think there’s something to this comparison, something in the nature of internet content in 2023 and the way we consume it that is thin fucking gruel. It’s addictive though, and so we scoop it up. It’s low effort, so we can do it for hours and hours. But increasingly, I am convinced that most of it is not only not beneficial, but is actually harmful to our ability to think clearly.

I’ve had to dip back into Twitter lately to get work related news and I find the site so repugnant that I find myself subconsciously holding my breath while I scan the feeds. I dip back out as quickly as I can. It’s amazing how only a few weeks away can make something you previously felt was essential seem completely toxic.

So at least in that sense, my 2023 is going better than my 2022. I’m on book number four of the year and showing no signs of slowing down. I feel sharper, and I’m noticing that my writing skills here are improving already. I do have some bad habits to fix, like starting new paragraphs with the word “so.”

If I have any advice to you, my six readers, it’s give up on social media and read a book. Jesus, that’s boring advice. But it is what it is.


Here are the four miniatures I painted last night – #14 to #17. I am particularly proud of the wet-blending I did on the axe. I’ve never tried that type of gradient transition before, but now I’ll probably be looking for places to do it all over because it’s sexy as hell.

Four assorted miniatures painted by Jeremiah Tolbert
That left-most dwarf was a crappy print and hard to paint, but I do like the other three.

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Misc. Miniatures

I’m trying not to rely exclusively on my miniature painting for a source of blogging fodder, but at the same time, there are some days where the only noteworthy thing I do is paint a couple of miniatures before bed. Note, I just typed “dead” instead of bed. I may be a bit tired by this point in the week. I really need to get a new gym membership. If only I could persuade myself that a gym membership isn’t just a way to pay to get COVID again.

Anyway, here are a couple of miniatures, bringing my total up to 13. The number of gnomes present is a total coincidence.

I didn’t paint any last night – it was my night off from family responsibilities so I headed out to the office and binged The Rig on Amazon Prime. It was super mediocre. I started out focused, because I liked a lot of the actors, but by the mid to late episodes, I was more playing a video game called Dinkum and not paying much attention.

I tried to do this with Copenhagen Cowboy but the subtitles meant I will have to watch that one with my full attention. I’ve heard mixed reviews, but I have liked some of the director’s films.

In general, my attention span is terrible right now. Work events have me distracted and anxious. See previous posts about all that. We’re alive and perhaps even thriving though, so there’s a lot to be thankful for.

We’ve started tentatively planning a family vacation over spring break to Disney World. I knew it would be expensive, but I’m shocked at just how much. My kid is lucky we love him, because if I had my way, we’d go to Costa Rica or Puerto Rico instead of cursed Florida. The things we do for our children, huh? So I guess we’ll go there in March. We’ll confirm that and make reservations once our taxes are back and we know we have no nasty surprises.

Until next time, be kind to yourself and get lots of rest. Enough for both of us, okay?

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painting of building

Miniatures, Personal Life

Raising the Black Flag

It’s been a busy day for my clients, and thus it was a very busy day for me. I nearly forgot to write a post, but luckily I can talk about part of the reasons it has been so busy.

All of this activity appears to be at least partially in response to the WotC OGL 1.1 snafu and leak. It’s an absolutely terrible agreement and Wizards of the Coast has misstepped badly with this, it seems. Matt Coville of MCDM has also announced their plans to develop their own system. Just about the only major players we’re still waiting to hear from are Darrington Press (Critical Role folks) and Paizo (Pathfinder folks). I expect we’ll hear something very soon on those fronts.

I expect a Cambrian Explosion of sorts for new fantasy RPG systems, and frankly, I am here for it. Not all of these new creations being announced with succeed, and to some degree, I hope there’s early consolidation of efforts, but I think if we as a community could come together under one flag and create a genuinely open game system, it will benefit us all and provide many people careers and a healthy living despite the best attempts by certain nefarious magic users to eliminate the competition.

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Gaming

The World Still Spins

I have sticky earwax. Too much information?

My ear wax has been a pox upon me for many years. Most people, your ears just kind of expel the ear wax normally, but mine don’t. Over time, my ears get compacted and I’ve punctured my ear drums more than once trying to clear things out. Now days, I have little Japanese tools to help me keep them clear and I know how to use hot water to flush it out (perhaps the most disgusting aftermath you’d ever find in a bathroom sink), but sometimes, I wake up and the world is spinning. Sticky earwax, damn you!

Today is one of those days. It’s not too bad, but if I move too quickly, the world continues to move and there’s a good chance I might fall over. It’s probably comical to everyone but me. I’ll keep yawning and hoping that I’ll eventually stablize. Usually, this takes a couple of days. I’d like to say I’m used to it, but you never get used to being dizzy.

It’s carrying over my disconcertment from waking up from a particular kind of dream. I know, stories of other peoples dreams are about the least interesting thing in the world, so I won’t bore you with details, but I lately have dreams about buying or receiving a new home, only it’s not a regular house. It’s some crazy building re-tasked as a house, full of hidden rooms, corridors, and other strange spaces, often liminal ones. It’s the kind of place you can own for years and still discover new things within.

Putting on my arm-chair psychiatrist hat, I’d say these dreams are a byproduct of living with two other people (and a dog and a cat) in a very small house (by modern standards). My brain seems particularly obsessed with having more space, in exploring spaces. I am definitely descended from apes that didn’t like to stay in one place for long. The ones who were first to wander into mysterious caves, probably. Quite a few snipped lines of distant ancestors eaten by cave bears probably. Might be why we also have a genetic predisposition for anxiety. My people? Oh, we were nervous cave explorers. If cavemen had novelty t-shirts, ours would have read “if you see me running, try and keep up.”

I used to have dreams about world travel, visiting exotic locales, but COVID has killed those, and if I have travel dreams at all, they’re about getting stuck and not even managing to board a plane. I find the idea of getting on a plane absolutely repugnant now. Completely dehumanizing. Having not done it in so long, and hearing all the travel horror stories in the past few years, I think I would much rather drive myself anywhere I go. This is rather limiting on the choice of destinations, though. We’re talking about a drive to Disney World this year. A nice half-month trip, driven somewhat slowly, giving me a chance to work in the evenings. Always with the working, me.

Speaking of which, I had better get back to it. The world’s still spinning, and I had best try to keep up.

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Personal Life

Watched: The Pale Blue Eye (2022)

We watched The Pale Blue Eye last night on Netflix, starring Christian Bale and Harry Melling. If you had told me that the actor who was going to have the best post-Harry Potter career was the kid who played Dursley, I would have thought you were nuts, but here we are.

Melling has a kind of vulnerability to him that suits him well in his role as Edgar Allan Poe here. Christian Bale plays the damaged, world-weary man that he’s come to specialize in lately, post-Batman. The directing is good, the camera work good, and the writing pretty serviceable, actually. The costumes, according to Sarah, were absolutely on point for the era, which I believe is the early 1830s.

The plot is easily summarized – a cadet has died at West Point under mysterious circumstances, and Bale’s Augustus Landor is brought in to investigate. Landor and Poe are drawn together by the death and soon begin to work together.

I’m stuck in the old-world mentality because I thought this was good enough to warrant a real theatrical release, not a Netflix one, but of course this is a Netflix movie. Quality has nothing to do with it anymore, and I need to get my head around that in our post-pandemic (not really post) society. Theaters seem to be just about dead at this rate, Avatar 2’s success notwithstanding.

Pale Blue Eye is probably not going to win any major awards, but it’s a nice, moody film, even if a bit shallow at times. I give it a recommended view.

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What is Frostgrave, Anyway?

I’ve been talking a lot about Frostgrave in my posts, but I haven’t really done any work to explain what that is. Time to fix that!

Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City by Joseph A. McCullough

Frostgrave is a campaign-based, miniatures-agnostic skirmish wargame. Each player control a wizard, their apprentice, and around eight other mooks as they delve into a frozen city, attempting to recover magical treasures and hold off deadly monsters. Miniatures-agnostic means it’s not like a Games Workshop game where you have to buy official miniatures. You can play with pretty much whatever you want. And campaign-based, meaning your wizards gain loot and experience and change from game to game.

For the past several years, I’ve been 3D printing and painting miniatures and terrain to get a group of folks interested in playing.

It’s been something I’ve had an interest in since the early days of the pandemic, but thanks to the pandemic, it took until this past year for me to really get going on organizing and playing. I’ve been running a table of it every Saturday at our FLGS Gamenut (Friendly Local Game Store), for three or four months. Time is a blur these days. Things started out with just me and my friend Gene going head to head, but today, we had five people playing –the most we’ve managed so far, and we have a couple more people who have played in the past or are interested. Growth has been really good, and I’m very happy with turnout lately.

Gene, who also owns Gamenut, has pointed out that the trick to building a play group for these niche games is having one really dedicated person, and in the case of Frostgrave, that has been me. It’s gratifying to me to grow something like this and share my love of the hobby with others. I hope we keep it going and growing because there are all sorts of cool supplements and scenarios I want to play in the future.

Otherwise, not much going on for me today. Yesterday, I finished the first Murderbot novella, All Systems Red, and enjoyed that. I have picked up Lies of Locke Lamora as my next read. I’ve heard so many good things about it over the years, so it’s time to give it a try. After dinner, I painted these two idiots who will die with honor (or not) in Frostgrave games in the future.

A goblin and a thug for Frostgrave.

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white and blue bokeh lights

Gaming, Miniatures

Murderbot and Mini #8

I finished All Systems Red by Martha Wells tonight, which was an easy, breezy read, the first of the Murderbot series of novellas. I’m reading whatever I feel like this year to get back into the hobby instead of just focusing on what I think would “improve” or challenge me, but I think I may want to find a few things that push me harder after the last few books have warmed me up. I liked this and will read the others, but I didn’t love it the way many seem to love them. I hope I’m not becoming too jaded in my old age. I want to be wowed still. I hope I can be.

I also managed to paint this little murderous halfling/hobbit for our Frostgrave model pool. I’ve never succeeded in painting half-way decent human eyes before, but I think this guy’s eyes turned out decent! It’s funny how I don’t like these minis when photographed as much as I like them in reality. I had to shoot a couple of angles to really capture him. As always, the base is a work-in-progress. After all, it’s a goal to paint 365 minis in a year, not a goal to do 365 nice bases!

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Pumped up and ready to fight God

There have been two large turns-of-events in the past few weeks that may dramatically effect my clients, and thus, my own personal ability to make a living. In both cases, they involve actions and the consequences of those actions by large corporations.

First, Amazon has decided to end its Kindle Subscriptions program. In the world of SF/F magazines online, Kindle subscriptions has been a dominant source of income that has allowed this space to flourish. Magazines such as Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Uncanny, and more will face very serious challenges ahead because of this. Even older trad magazines like Asimov’s and F&SF will be impacted, certainly. I expect many magazines will be forced to close if they cannot find adequate sources of income to replace the Amazon money. While I no longer actively write short fiction, this is a major blow to the field, and one that makes no sense. This is all about Amazon being a penny-pinching Grinch, and it does nothing but make little people suffer. A handful of magazines got invited into the Ponzi scheme that is Amazon Unlimited, but not all. And what can we do? Will Amazon listen to upset consumers? Nah. Why should they care what 10,000 odd magazine subscribers think about anything? They’re Amazon.

The second event is that the new open gaming license under which 3rd party publishers are able to publish material compatible with official Dungeons & Dragons books has been leaked. There’s a lot not really clear right now, but one common interpretation of this is that not only do they intend to place strict constraints (financial reporting, royalties) on OGL products for the upcoming new edition — they intend to claw back provisions given in the past for previous editions. The popular refrain has been, in response to rumors of an Open Gaming LIcense update, to say “well, we will just keep using the old one and old editions.” This leaked edition seems to say “naw. We no longer allow that.” In fact, they explicitly say that the new OGL is intended to stifle “competition” which is what they see the third party publisher as now.

The result of these changes will be like an atom bomb being set off in the third party publishing space, which has been rich and vibrant over the course of 5th edition. My client Kobold Press will most certainly be impacted by this (Note: I’m a contractor for all these companies listed here and my opinions here are my own and do not represent the views of those companies). I imagine my client Monte Cook Games will also be impacted, although perhaps not as much as Kobold. New royalty requirements alone could put people out of work or out of business. I’m not privy to any specific details about how it will impact my clients; I’m just reading the writing on the wall here.

My initial reaction is one of helplessness and fear, but that’s quickly been replaced with anger and a desire to burn down shit. As a life-long (seriously, 39 years of experience) player of D&D, this will be the final nail in the coffin for me as a consumer if this goes forward. Not only will I stop purchasing Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro products, I will stop playing the ones I own. I’m more than happy to switch to OSR products or any number of other creative systems that exist.

Also, it just really awakens my socialist tendencies. I’m so fucking tired of how publicly traded corporations only have to serve one thing under our system of capitalism – shareholder value. They can destroy the environment, the arts, whatever they like, all in search of quarterly profits to make stock ticker go up. The corporation as a concept primarily exists to protect individuals from liability anyway, so they were rotten to start. At this point, I say fuck all corporations. Ban stock trading. This form of capitalism is ruining us and many things we hold dear, just so some rich assholes can get richer.

I may not be able to successfully boycott Amazon, but I can boycott a toy company. And if this moves forward, I sure as hell will be. I suspect that Wizards/Hasbro has significantly overplayed their hand here. They will soon know the wrath of nerds — nerds with a million competing options available to them. Under the current system, everyone can and has been able to succeed. But under these proposed changes, the whole thing comes crashing down all due to greed and a typical corporate desire for control.

In my opinion, the idea of D&D is far too important for one company to control its future. The idea and heart of it will live on no matter what the current corporate owners do. But it’s going to cause some pain and suffering in the process, and that’s just dumb and avoidable. The open gaming movement may have to design an alternative that is open to all. And so we see that with Wizards, at least, all they will do is cut off one head of a hydra, piss it of, and see several more grow in its place. It was small and they literally had a monopoly on selling hydra chow. Now who knows what will happen?

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man in black tank top and black shorts wearing black boxing gloves

Uncategorized

Minis 5 and 6, Mornings Suck

I start each week determined to wake up early and attack my day, and each day I wake up a little later and a little later. Especially in winter. I think my body finds it easiest to wake up with the sun, and getting up while it is still somewhat dark is particularly difficult for me. On cloudy days, I can accidentally sleep in an hour or two. If they ever give humans the ability to hibernate through winter, sign me up. Until then, I’ll be groggy and poorly composed for the first hour or two of every day. I really should take up drinking coffee. I am pretty lucky not to have to sleep with an alarm. Freelancer life!

Last night (when I wasn’t tired, how’s that for a segue?) I managed to paint a couple of goblins after Matty went to bed. Nothing too exciting or difficult here. My brush control continues to improve, which feels pretty good.

Two goblin miniatures, one with sword and shield and another holding a spear with orange cloth on it
Whut’s over there?

I started a new book yesterday after painting these guys. I found a copy of Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstor on Libby, which appears to be about a haunted Ikea analogue. It’s about work also, which means it is right up my alley. I’m enjoying it so far. More when I finish it.

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Books, Miniatures, Personal Life

The Menu

I had the pleasure of watching The Menu last night. It’s a delightfully twisted movie that is very hard to predict if you go in blind, so the less you know about the plot, the better. The 5 minute opening synopsis that spoils nothing is that we follow a dozen diners, particularly two played by Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult to a secluded island restaurant run by a genius chef (Ralph Fiennes). It has some in common with Glass Onion, so if you enjoyed that, I think you may enjoy this one too. Both had impeccable casting. I adore Hoult, Taylor-Joy, and Fiennes in general. The movie could have been about anything at all and I would have seen it for that trio alone.

There’s much more I would like to say about it and its themes, but perhaps I’ll let my thoughts marinade a bit. I’ll try to remember to come back and talk about it more in six months. You’ve been warned!

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Movies and TV