On days when I feel grumpy and out of sorts, the best thing for me to do is go take a walk, preferably somewhere out where there are no people around. Phoenix has an urban wilderness inside the city that only a few people know about. I’m one of them, and from time to time I go down to the Rio Salado to restore my soul, and see what I can find in the way of pretty rocks. Today, Octobber 8, 2015, was one such day, and this is the record of my walk.
Trolls love bridges. This is a meme I’m trying to establish.
Being under the bridge is even better than being on the bridge.
This is what passes for a river in the urban wilderness. As pretty as it looks, you don’t want to get too close to this water. It’s dangerous.
I found fresh coyote tracks, probably made this morning. No human tracks nearby, so it’s not a dog. In my fantasy world, this is a wolf or warg track.
The river is a ribbon of green through a harsh landscape.
. . .Walking carefully.
There are flowers in the wilderness. This grows on some kind of bean tree.
The path I must walk looks unfamiliar to me.
I am always on the lookout for striped stones. This is a cleancut beauty, but just a little too large to take home with me.
There is a rest area. Here I stop and watch the birds. A large hawk of some type is flying about, but he is too fast and far away for me to catch with a cellphone camera. Airplanes fly across the city about once every 3 minutes. I drink some water and get ready to take my own picture. This is the turning back marker for the hike.
About halfway thru the hike I take my own picture. These are the moments when I feel most in tune with nature.
Men are never far away in Phoenix. On the other side of the riverbank is a giant open pit gravel mine.
This is the road leading back to civilization.. . .
I find more of the violet flowers on the return trip. I am taking the easy way back on the access road above the river.
My last glimpse of the river–a side stream feeds water into the main channel. It is wild, beautiful, and polluted.
These are the treasures found during my hike. Yes, one of them is a golf ball, miles away from the nearest golf course.
If you can identify those violet flowers or the red conglomerate rock in the last picture, or if you just like to take your own river walks, why not leave a comment?
Did you know there is a Stonehenge monument inside the United States? In fact it stands on a high down overlooking the mighty Columbia River just inside the Washington state border. By happy accident, I learned of its existence and made an epic journey to see/visit it.
The last leg of the trip started in Bigg’s Junction, Oregon at this colorful location on the wrong side of the river.
First, I had to cross a mighty river. Luckily the local trolls had built a mighty bridge.
And then I had to climb the mountain.
Then I got lost on the top and went the wrong way.
I met wild creatures who ran away from me. (There are 2 deer in the next photo.)
I saw magnificent sights . . .
and then I arrived.
The site was unguarded, so . . . I spent some time exploring it.
Mystic writings told me that Stonehenge had been built as a monument for the honored dead.
There was much to see, and I looked at everything.
When almost ready to depart, I took this picture with my son James to prove that we had really been here.
Having seen this wonder, James and I resumed our journey. We had far to go and other marvels to behold before returning to my own trollcave.
Historical note: in 1983 I visited the original Stonehenge monument near Salisbury, England. It rained on me.
If you have ever been to Stonehenge, or have crossed the Columbia River, why not leave a comment?
I haven’t done a real river walk in a couple of months now. It has been too hot, and i’ve been all over those river parks in South Phoenix several times–getting a bit bored with them. So, I went to the river at a spot further west than I have ever gone before and found to my surprise that it had changed its name–no longer Rio Salado, but now Gila River. And it had quite a bit of water in it. That’s always a surprise with an Arizona river. I walked about a half mile, and I took these pix. Come walk down by the Gila River with me!
These yellow flowers were the only flowers I found down by the river, but there were lots of them. They grow right along the water’s edge.
I like to walk by the river and search for interesting rocks. A riverbed usually provides a wide variety. This rockfield is typical of the rocks I saw today. Do you see any with stripes? That’s what I usually search for.
Does this look like Arizona to you? Not a cactus in sight!
The buildings beyond the trees across the river are part of Phoenix International Raceway–Phoenix’s auto racing establishment. Actually, it’s south of Avondale, and probably outside any city limits. Phoenix racing is usually in winter and spring. The heat would kill people if they tried to race in the summer.
River channel looks like an irrigation ditch.
Looking at the river from the road. No room for trolls under this bridge.
I collected these 7 rocks on my hike, and they followed me home to be part of my rock garden. I usually look for rocks with stripes–often an inclusion of quartz in another mineral. I especially like the 6th one in line from the left. Finding striped rocks definitely made the trip worthwhile.
The whole hike was only about half a mile. I could have stayed longer and gone farther, and found many more rocks, I’m sure, but I was a little uneasy leaving my car parked unattended on the side of the road, so I cut it short. If you ever go on river walks, why not leave a comment?
Anyone who reads or looks at this blog knows that a lot of them are simply walks in the desert or trips around Arizona. This is another walk, nothing special, but it’s right close to home. Phoenix gets a lot of summer thunderstorms, called monsoons, though they aren’t much like real monsoons in India, There was an extreme thunderstorm watch today but it only sprinkled with a light breeze and occasional rolling thunder where I live. These pix are taken in sequence as I walked about 2 miles in the cool of the afternoon. An hour earlier it was 107 outside. During my walk it was about 80 and felt cooler.
No, I’m not giving you a raspberry, dear viewer, I’m sticking out my tongue trying to catch raindrops on it. I did catch one or two.
This is the first time I’ve really felt good all day.
I found a little angel watching the storm–not my guardian–but it’s always a good sign to see an angel. We said hi, and I walked on.
When I go out walking these days, I’m always looking for pretty flowers to photograph. These are a little blurred because the breeze was blowing them around as I took their picture.
All the bushes are in blossom.
A lot of this walk was simply about getting pix of the cloudy sky.
Flowers. Can’t smell them, but I’m enjoying the colors.
Street behind me . . .
Sky above me.
Big Arizona Saguaro cactus in someone’s back yard.
I’d like to live in this house instead if the apartment I have. Nice place, but more than I can afford. Sigh.
Gold-bearded palm tree.
I met a cat as I walked. It is in all 3 pictures. The cat watched me, trying to hide in a little hole in the grass, as I walked up on it. It finally scampered away when I stopped to take the third picture and looked at it a little too long.
The rabbits get quite large in Arizona, at least in my neighborhood.
There’s a big hospital down here on 19th Avenue. This is the turn around point in my walk. Most of the interesting stuff is behind me now.
One of my favorite neighborhood landmarks is the psychic’s house guarded by two huge stone lions. Leo here is friendly and doesn’t mind having his picture taken. This cat never loses a staring contest.
Flags. Arizona, America, Apartments. They all seem to be at the same level, but the American flag is in front and flying at half mast while the other two are at the top of their poles. The American flag is only shown at half way up the pole when we are honoring dead Americans who either died tragically or in the line of duty–sometimes both.
Home again. I have walked 1.97 miles according to the pedometer. My shirt is damp from rain falling on it, but I am actually wetter from the sweat roused by the exercise. If you enjoyed this little walk with me, please leave a comment. If you like to go walking in the rain, that would be another good reason to say something.
Saturday, July 18, was the second day of the Con, and it was better, for me, than the first, but I didn’t take as many pix. Sorry about that . . .
Early Saturday morning, I am ready to start playing some Tunnels and Trolls. Our Game Master is the jovial James “Bear” Peters, who informed us that he was awake at 4 in the morning making a new dungeon for us. The place turned out to be a ruined tower that had been turned into a harpy nest. We had about 7 adventurers in the party, and though we didn’t completely clean the place out, or run into the big bad, we slew a lot of harpies, found enough loot to make the trip worthwhile, and got away with our lives, no one being even seriously injured. In my role as a wandering warrior adventurer, I count that as a major success.
This picture show me closest to the camera, then my son James St. Andre, then Hollywood scriptwriter Larry DiTillio in the blue shirt, and at the far end of the table, James Peters. The setting is the largest table in the Days Inn cafe area around 10 a.m. after the breakfast crowd had departed.
Same general area much later in the day. It doesn’t look like Bear and Larry have moved at all, but Larry has changed his shirt. At the table off to the right John Lach is running a game for James St. Andre, Mark Thornton, and Kris Miller.
Jump back in time, we see Bear explaining something to Laura Samuelsson, one of the players in the first game. James is doing what roleplayers so often have to do–wait until the game action gets back to them again. The waiting part of roleplaying drives me crazy, and is why I would much rather be the G.M. than a player.
This is a look at the area where the convention was supposed to take place. But this room is full of very noisy computer gamers who are all playing StarWeb and Heroic Fantasy. Both games are computer moderated, though you cannot see the personal computers set up to handle the task, and another turn is due every half hour. The bald gentleman standing in the back is Rick Loomis. Too noisy in here for us roleplayers, so we took over the cafe.
In midafternoon I suggested that Mark and his family leave the convention and come see me at my apartment where I would run a game for them. Everyone was hungry, so we started to go to the new Lolo’s Chicken and Waffle Restaurant that was built in the hotel parking lot last year. The place was incredibly noisy and crowded and we didn’t go there. I may never know what Purple Saurus Rex is.
We wound up eating in the Scottsdale Denny’s restaurant 2 blocks to the north instead. You get to see what I had for supper on Saturday.
After that we got to my place where we had a most excellent T & T game in a single session that lasted a little less than 4 hours. I don’t think I want to reveal the plot of my adventure, but it took our players from a palace in Khazan to an evil black pyramid in caverns far below the city. I used a favorite GM technique of planting my own powerful NPC in their party so they would have a chance–just a chance, mind you–to survive and win through situations that were numerically too tough for them. Even so, it took much brilliant role-play on their parts to “win” the scenario, and they were all richly rewarded at the end.
Alas, we got no pictures of the action at my house. I will say I was proud to be able to host Mark, Charley, Kavela, and Kamea for a few hours. After all, I spent more than a week at Mark’s place in New Zealand a few years ago.
This Con report will be continued in part 3 tomorrow.
For the last 20 or 30 years, Flying Buffalo has been holding a mini-convention for its fans here in Scottsdale, Arizona. About 6 years ago some rabid Tunnels & Trolls fans brought up the idea of holding a Tunnels & Trolls gaming convention here. Rick Loomis, owner, president, and CEO of Flying Buffalo simply adapted to the idea, changed the very unofficial name of his mini-con, and suddenly it became TrollCon, at least to me.
It’s happening again this year. I was there for most of the day, and I took these pictures. I’m not trying to do an accurate scientific report on what happened at the Con. This blog isn’t about accuracy. It’s about what entertains me. And by extension, you might be entertained also.
So, I go to cons these days mostly to hang out with friends that I seldom see other times during the year. And that’s what I’m doing here at TrollCon 6. So, no images of me in these pictures–just shots I felt like taking.
TrollCon traditionally begins with a poker game on Thursday night before the Con. This year Steve Crompton played host for it. Steve is the man with the black beret sitting next to Rick Loomis at the far end of the table. Rick is the bald, white-bearded guy at the end of the table. I’m sitting at the close end of the table. You can see my chips and my cards, but not me.
On to the next day, July 17, 2015. These pictures are in no particular order.
Closeup of my friend, Mark Thornton. Mark is an amazing gamer, a writer, a father, and a world traveler. He came all the way from New Zealand to be with us today. That is the farthest anyone has ever traveled to attend a TrollCon, although several people did come from other states.
Several of us went to lunch today at a nearby Mexican food restaurant called Los Olivos. They have a very nice aquarium, and I like aquariums so I snapped a fishy picture.
Picture of my friend, Jim “Bear” Peters. Bear has been playing Tunnels and Trolls with me since game 1 back in 1975. He is part of the Fellowship of the Troll, and contributed material to the Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls rulebook now in preparation.
Here we are eating lunch at Los Olivos. Starting with the man in the white shirt, and moving around the table clockwise: John Lach, Laura Samuelsson (Rick’s sister–it was her idea to come here for lunch), Rick Loomis, Lisa Miller, Kris Miller, Steve Crompton. It was tasty and delicious, and 7 hours later I’m still too full to eat anything.
John Lach, a member of Trollhalla, came over from Texas to game with us. Here we are playing Cthulhu Flux.
My lunch at Los Olivos: green beef chile burro, refried beans, rice, and small salad. I have this crazy idea of taking pix of everything I eat for a year, perhaps with shots of my relative corpulence along the way. I’m working into it. :)
Los Olivos is beautifully decorated inside. You saw the aquarium. This wall mural was right behind our table.
Some of us are hanging out in the hotel lounge/restaurant just talking. The young man in the black shirt is Kavela (sorry I don’t remember his last name–he is Mark’s nephew), Mark Thornton, his daughter Kamea, and Kris Miller.
Same time, at the other end of the table, a friendly conversation developed between Steve Crompton, Rick Loomis, Lisa Miller, a woman whose name I don’t remember although I know she is Niki’s mother-in-law, John Lach, and Niki Canotas. (The Millers and Niki and her companion came from the San Francisco area of California to be here.)
In the morning, before any of these other pictures except the poker game happened, some of enjoyed a friendly game of Ticket to Ride–10th anniversary edition. Starting with the woman in yellow, the players were Lisa Miller, Kris Miller, John Lach, Laura Samuelsson (her game, her rules) and me (not shown, but you can see the coffee I was drinking). Lisa won this game and also a second one. That’s wrong, of course, in a moral way, because Laura brought the game, and she was supposed to win it. :)
That’s all the pictures I took today. By about 4:30 p.m. I wasn’t feeling too good, very tired, headache, shmoozed out. I excused myself and went home. TrollCon will resume in the morning, for me, although all these others will probably stay and party together far into the night.
If you wish you were at TrollCon, or know any of these participants, why not leave a comment?
This morning about 8 a.m. I went back to Complete Print Shop and picked up a proof copy of Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls. It is standard practice for a printer to show the publisher what he intends to print before the presses really start running. This is the last chance to correct any errors before the book actually gets printed.
In this case, I’m not the guy who would make or order corrections, but I am the guy who lives closest to the printer, so I get to do the legwork. Around 8:30 I was talking to Dennis Dunn again, and he handed me what looked like a ream of typing paper and a big color wraparound version of the cover. Of course I took some pictures.
So, I drove 20 miles to Scottsdale and delivered the package to my layout artist/editor/producer Steve Crompton.
This is the crucial document right here. Before they print, we have to check one of these boxes–we’ll go for the second one, as we found at least one problem–and where it says customer signature, Rick Loomis, CEO of Flying Buffalo, Inc. has to sign and authorize the printing.
This is the back cover. If you look in the center right at the bottom, you will see: PRINTED IN THE USA. It may cost a little more to print the books here, but we want the world to know Tunnels and Trolls is an American product.
This picture shows the major error that we found, and I’m the one who spotted it first. The spine, as planned, is not wide enough to hold all the pages in the book. It actually needs to be about half an inch wider to accommodate our contents. Steve measured the thickness of all the pages and compared it to the width of the spine. He will have to get back on his computer and redo the spine to make it wide enough for the book.
This should be a treat for fans of Liz Danforth’s art, a forgotten illustration from 1992 rescued and inserted into the rules.
Portrait of an artist at work–not the fun part of the work drawing pictures, but the crucial part before publishing, making sure that the job is being done right–checking every detail. (Note: this doesn’t mean the book will be perfect from cover to cover–it’s amazing how many errors creep through, no matter how often you proofread something, but nothing major will be allowed to mar this work.)
I want to set the record straight here. Tunnels and Trolls is my game (and your game, too, players). None of this happens without me getting things started, stirring things up, running Trollhalla.com for over a decade, and gathering an amazing team of friends to help me with all this. I’m the one who first got Liz Danforth to do some illos for Tunnels and Trolls. I’m the one who brought Steve in on some T & T projects back in 2012 that resulted in us deciding to do a deluxe edition. I’m the one who thought up the saving roll system, the character attributes and layout, the use of talents, the numbers for the weapons and armor, the monster rating system. I did all that.
But this man, Steven S. Crompton, is the one who made the project happen. He’s the one with the master plan for the work. He’s the one who kept us on target over the course of more than two years. He’s the one who fixed the details, set the type, chose and approved the illustrations, dealt with printers and artists, created title pages, quietly fixed the small errors that popped up. Steve is the indispensable man for Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls. If I got it started, Steve made damn sure it got finished. He is still working on that–making things come out right for fans and players, authors and publishers.
I don’t mean to downplay the prodigious efforts of editor/author/artist Liz Danforth. She worked harder and suffered more than any human being should ever to have to work on a book projects. Publisher Rick Loomis provided the business acumen that makes the project possible. My friend, James “Bear” Peters added color and interest and help with the weapons. It truly was a Fellowship for us. Without the five of us working together, Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls simply would not happen.
But, Steven S. Crompton, is the key figure in this project. If any of the others in the fellowship had dropped dead, they could have been replaced. Nobody could replace Steve’s contributions and dedication. (Side note: Steve has frequently been the magic that made Flying Buffalo publishing projects happen–he’s the one that finally finished Ace of Aces for FBI last year, and he’s the main artistic force behind the 50th Anniversary Nuclear War project currently in the works.) Steve is a gifted storyteller and artist in his own right, but I’m not going to talk about his stuff here. I just want the world to know that he is the go-to man for Deluxe, and a great friend/ally/asset to have when push comes to crunch and you have to get something finished.
This shows how thick Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls is really going to be.
Deluxe will combine the best features of the classic 5th edition and my 21st century update of the 7th edition.
And here you have at the end of the book one of the oldest existing jokes in fantasy role-playing gaming, the original illustration by Rob Carver, the first T & T artist, who did the “missed all my vital spots” cartoon showing a troll with an arrow through his head. This joke dates back to 1975 when T & T was first produced. I was running an adventure for Rob and Bear and some other friends one night, when a giant cave lion attacked the party. As it leaped into them Rob’s character shot it with a heavy arbalest and did 40 points of damage to it. But the cave lion had a monster rating of 100. It did not die. It attacked and mauled the party severely before they finished it off. Rob was upset. “I shoulda killed it before it ever touched us,” he argued. “You missed all its vital spots,” I answered. The next day Rob presented me with this cartoon.
So, I’m fairly satisfied with the day. I think it was a morning well spent, and you can see, dear reader, what actually goes on in the production of those game books you like so much.
If you’ve ever helped with the production of a book, why not leave a comment?