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I need to say something about 2016. A lot of people have been dumping on this year–saying they can’t wait for it to be over and so on, claiming it has been a horrible year. 2016 has certainly been eventful, and yes, it has been hard on many people, but the year has brought plenty of blessings too. So, let’s be fair–let’s see if we can match good stuff with bad stuff, and remember that what we consider good or bad is all point of view. Others may consider it just the opposite, or somewhere in between.
Bad thing number 1: The Syrian Civil War has devastated the Middle East and created millions of refugees. God only knows how many people have died and the suffering involved has been incredible.
Good thing number 1: The world has responded with incredible efforts to help those refugees. The spirit of human kindness is not dead. My admiration to those who engage directly in this struggle against the greatest darkness of our time.
Bad thing number 2: Terrorism has increased all around the world. Virtually every country is being hit by something. A list of major strikes would be quite long.
Good thing number 2: We are not terrorized. The struggle against terrorism continues and they will lose in the end.
Bad thing number 3: Donald Trump won the race for President of the United States.
Good thing number 3: Donald Trump won the race for President of the United States. It all depends on your point-of-view, doesn’t it?
From here on I’ll use numbers. You realize the first one is the bad thing, the second is the good thing.
4. Britain voted to leave the European Union. Arguably one of the strongest European nations left. The whole thing may fall apart in the next few years.
4, Brexit as it’s called. Again, it all depends on your point of view. A majority of British citizens saw the EU as dragging them down to doom. They say rats flee a sinking ship. So do people. It makes good sense to get off a sinking ship before it goes under.
5. There were many natural disasters, but then again, there are always many natural disasters. This becomes a personal thing. If you were affected by a natural disaster, you have my sympathy, but although hundreds of millions of people were harmed by disasters, most of the 8 billion people in the world were not.
5. It was a year of plenty. More food, more consumer goods, more inventions. Over all, the world got better in 2016 instead of worse.
6. A lot of our favorite celebrities died in 2016. A lot of celebrities die every year. As the world population increases, the number of celebrities in the world also increases, so the number that die each year will also increase. Although we may be saddened by the deaths of our heroes and idols, we can live with it.
6. On the other hand, it was an incredible year for entertainment. The amount of new movies, music, art, games, sports, has never been greater. Personally, I went to see more movies this year than I have ever seen in any previous year of my long life.
7. It was an incredible year for Science. Amazing developments in astronomy alone: the Pluto flyby, the Ceres flyby and orbits, the Cassini mission to Saturn, the verification of gravity waves, all kinds of news from Mars. Closer to home: breakthroughs in virtual reality, self-driving vehicles, medicine, geology. The pace of scientific progress has become too fast for an ordinary citizen like me to actually monitor. It all seems to just fly by. Yet, I know I am benefitting from progress.
That concludes my list of general universal Goods and Bads. From there we step down to the personal level. On that level we have all had our defeats and victories. Perhaps your year has been more negative; but perhaps it has been more positive. Have you counted your blessings every day? When I think of all the pain I have suffered and or perhaps caused in the last year, it makes me sad and depressed, but when I remember all the good things that have come my way, it makes me grateful and happy, and I wonder why I should be so blessed. Look at your own life. Certainly there are people who have had things better than you. But there are so many people in the world who have had it worse.
In conclusion, 2016 was just another year. If we are fair about our analysis, it was probably a better year than you think. It’s easy to remember the things that made us cry; harder to remember the things that made us laugh, but then again, pleasure does not cause traumas that scar our minds and hearts. Personally, I’m a bit of a pessimist. I think 2017 is going to be a worse year than 2016 has been. And yet, if we live through it, 2017 will also be a year of net good over evil.
When I started this essay I thought I might also go through and list all my personal failures and triumphs, but you know what, that’s just too damn much to think about. I could probably write all day and night, and not finish that list. I suffered through the bad times and rejoiced in the good times. They followed each other with lows and highs alternating like some kind of sine wave or stock market chart. Everybody has had some bad times, and I hope, some good times last year. The point is to live through the bad times, and live for the good times.Think about it! Did you have good times last year? Did you smile at all? Did you laugh? Did you eat something delicious? Did you see a new place? Did you make anyone happy? Did you make a new friend? Did you create something? Did you write or paint or craft something? Did you give and get love from a pet? Did you feel God in your life? (Yeah, I know, God should come first, and She came last in my list. I am so self-centered. But, all you religious nuts (smile), I did remember God, and I thank Her/Him/It/Them every day.)
In conclusion 2016 was a very good year for me. It wasn’t my best year ever, but it was not my worst either. Over all, it was a better than average year, and I will not revile it. I hope you can see my point, and say the same.
Ken St. Andre, Christmas Day, 2016.
Today is December 7, 2016. It seems unlikely that I will get anything else written and published this year, so let this be my record for the year. This is something I probably should have done every year for the last decade or more, but you can’t do something before you think of it.
Many people have done many wonderful things this year. I’m only documenting my own work, and only that which was good enough to merit professional publication of some sort. If you have done work you’re proud of this year, let me urge you to document it somewhere, just for the historical record if nothing else.
I found while I was trying to recall what I had accomplished this year that some of what I thought I had done was actually done back in 2015. Time flies when you’re having fun.
It turns out that I wrote and published 6 small manuscripts this year. There are 4 others that have not seen publication yet. (and may never, grrrr). There were a few blogs that I’m not counting, and thousands of tweets and poems and posts on Facebook–all just thrown off on a daily basis. I think I’d like to recover the poems, at least, not that they were any good, but they amused me at the time, and they might amuse others.
Published Works: You can buy these if you try real hard (and I would like that)
1. Grimtina’s Guard. Flying Buffalo. July 2016.
This is a T & T solo adventure in which you try to protect Grimtooth’s little sister, Grimtina, as she journeys through the Forest of Doom. The adventure features Grimtina as a very active NPC and has a few other tricks in it that I’m very proud of. Story and text by me; art by S.S. Crompton. Right now (December 2016) it is only available as a prize from MetaArcade.com and from me directly for $5 in the USA and $10 anywhere else in the world.
2. The Fairy Spell Book. Trollhalla Press. November 2016.
This small book contains the origin story of both fairies and pixies in Trollworld along with a sampling of the spells that both kindreds cast. It is similar to, but not the same as the magic system used in the regular Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls rules. Art by Nicole Bresner who shows a lot of her stuff on Twitter.com. Available as a pdf from drivethrurpg.com and directly from me for $6 in the USA. $10 for the rest of the world.
- Trollhammer: Quest for the Crown. Rev. 2nd Trollhalla Press. October 2016.
Slightly reworked version of a mini-solitaire for Tunnels and Trolls to be compatible with the Deluxe T & T rules. You set off to explore a large cavern complex and recover the magical Trollcrown that gives mastery over all trolls. Completely re-illustrated by David Ullery. New map by S.S. Crompton. Available on drivethrurpg.com and directly from me for $6 in the U.S.A. and $10 in the rest of the world.
4. The Last Adventure of Big Jack Brass. Trollhalla Press. March 2016.
This is Tunnels and Trolls fiction based on an actual adventure played out by mail between Jon Hancock (creator of Big Jack Brass and Tom the Whelp) and me as the Game Master and Gristlegrim, the dungeon owner. It’s funny–the Abbott and Costello of fantasy gaming fiction, but the roles reversed. It is also the only current look at the inside of my Gristlegrim dungeon. I wrote up the story and got Darrenn Canton to illustrate it. This is currently only available from drivethrurpg.com.
5. Capture the Troll. Trollhalla Press. July 2016.
This is a game master’s adventure for a small group of adventurers sent to capture a troll for a mad wizard’s zoo. Art by Darrenn E. Canton. Available from drivethrurpg.com. Hard copy version is not currently available.
6. Grimtooth’s Tomb of the Warhammer by Ken St. Andre and S.S. Crompton. Goodman Games. August 2016.
This is a Game Master’s adventure written for the Dungeon Crawl Classic system owned by Goodman Games, but easily adaptable to almost any fantasy role-playing system. Adventure design and text by Ken St. Andre, original art by S.S. Crompton. This adventure is available from Goodman Games and other game sellers online.
Written but not published.
I’ve had some other writing projects during 2016. I hope to see this material published in 2017.
- Naked Doom, rev. 2nd
- Deathtrap Equalizer Dungeon, rev. 2nd
- Trapsylvania with S.S. Crompton.
- Mongoni Island; a 7th Sea Adventure
A Few Words About Trollhalla Press on DriveThruRpg.com.
Much of my work this year (not that I ever work very hard) has been devoted to setting up and managing my own publishing house on drivethrurpg.com. I called it Trollhalla Press. It is an extension of the independent work I’ve been doing since 2011, and it now has about 10 items included. Steve Crompton and I designed a simple logo for it, and my intention is to make it a continuing small publisher for works related to Tunnels and Trolls. Please check it out here: Trollhalla Press.
Trollhalla Press has published 2 things that I did not write, one last year and one this year. Last year I did Stefan Jones’ The Spell Book of the Gremlins. Text by Stefan E. Jones, art by Gilead.
This year I did Stuart Lloyd’s Alone But Not Afraid, a booklet of rules to help the player do better in T & T solo adventures. Text by Stuart Lloyd, art by David Ullery.
Both books tie into my work to continue promoting and publishing worthy items for Tunnels and Trolls. I’m sure there will be others in the future. Both books involved a little work on my part to make them happen, but credit for creating them really belongs to the individual authors.
Everything I do has more than one purpose. This blog was written to document my work for 2016 so that I can promote it and try to earn some sales. It was also written as a challenge to you, dear reader, to look back and evaluate what you have done in the last year. Have you done great things? If so, please tell the world about it. If you haven’t done anything that you’re proud of in the last year, then let this be your wake-up call to do better next year. My friends and readers are, for the most part, amazingly creative people. I want to encourage all of you to express yourselves–make things and do things. Make the world better!
While I’m at it, I’d like to express my gratitude toward all the people who helped me do things in 2016. I’m only talking about writing and publishing here, but I recognize that is not my entire life, so know that my life would be empty without the friends and family who help me get things done. In publishing, the main forces this year have been Steve Crompton, David Ullery, Darrenn Canton, Nicole Bresner. Thank you all.
This year I wasn’t going to go to GenCon. I went to Origins. I’ve done my part to sell Flying Buffalo games and to fly the flag, but a funny thing happened in June. A guy named David Reid started a new computer gaming company called MetaArcade, and he wanted to license Tunnels and Trolls as his first app. He backed up that plan with real money, a dedicated team of computer professionals, and boundless energy, and he planned to debut his first prototype at GenCon. I talked him into using my Naked Doom solo from 1977 instead of Rick Lo0mis’s Buffalo Castle–mainly because B.C. has been used so many times already as the intro adventure for T & T. I still wasn’t planning to go to GenCon, but a month before the show, David got in touch with me, offered to pay my expenses, and argued that he needed me there for publicity. So I went.
And that is why, just for fun, I found myself running for my life at GenCon . . .
Help! There’s a yeti after me!
Help! Bumblebee the Transformer is after me!
Help! He’s still after me!
Help! I’m lost in the City of Night!
Help! There’s a crazy robot after me!
Help! There’s a cyclops after me!
Help! There’s a Warhammer Space Marine after me!
Help! There’s a stinky blue troll after me!
Help, There’s a giant bloodthirsty teddy bear after me!
Help! There’s a giant pikachu after me!
Heh! I had fun taking this terrorized tour of the GenCon Dealers’ Hall. There were many other great props and banners but, imho, these were the best. You’ll be happy to know that I did escape from all of those monsters. And you won’t be surprised if you don’t see me at GenCon next year.
If you were at GenCon this year, and saw some of these monsters, or took your own pix of them, why not leave a comment?
–Ken St. Andre, Aug. 10, 2016
April 29, 2016. I am on Long Island, headed for a beach with my oldest friend, who is now a distinguished college librarian and author of library-related books. His name is Terry Lee Ballard, and he’s the man who first got me into fandom and introduced me to Robert E. Howard and Conan the Barbarian long long ago, in a previous century when i was young. I am taking a week and staying with him in his comfy home in Merrick, New York. Terry was named after the title character in the old Milton Caniff newspaper comic strip, TERRY AND THE PIRATES.
As my native guide Terry took me to places I would never find on my own. Today he took me and my son James to Freeport to walk a nautical mile–it seemed shorter than a land mile. Before that we went to a beach. It was cold and a brisk breeze made things worse, but Atroll loves to explore beaches and so we went. The pictures that follow show my beachcombing adventure.
Strange mushrooms apparently grow on eastern Atlantic beaches. I did not see anythPing like them on the west coach last year. People go inside to have beach parties during inclement beach weather–that may just mean too much sun for eastern trolls in the summer, or it could be rain or high winds.
James and Terry posed at the first beach we visited. It was just an inlet, not real ocean. James is wearing Terry’s World Series Mets jacket.
James and I are here at the same place. I am balancing on a flat rock that wobbled underfoot, and using James to be sure I don’t fall. He is on solid ground. We left this rocky shore and went to a better place.
Selfy with me and Terry on the Mushroom beach.
Atlantic Ocean beach, tide receding–this is a rare sight for a troll from Arizona.
After admiring sky and water for a few minutes, picking up and discarding clam shells–I kept 2 of the best for my return to the desert–I decided to go exploring along the water line.
After going about 20 feet I encountered this strange creature well above the water line. I thought at first it was a sea turtle because all I saw was shell, but Terry told me it was a horseshoe crab. We thought it might be dead, but when I nudged it with my foot, the tail moved. THE THING WAS ALIVE. Terry told me I had to pick it up and put it back in the ocean. No way! Crabs have claws, and I was not about to put my fingers in danger. Instead, Terry and I moved it with our feet back down into the waves.
After it reached the water it became livelier, and soon scuttled and swam away. I felt good. A life had been saved. Terry told me that in years of walking on New York beaches he had never seen a live horseshoe crab before. Dead ones, yes.Alive no.
After that I continued along the beach toward some wading birds. I wanted to see how close I could get to them.
As I moved closer, they moved away. Just as I got close enough for a good picture, these 4 took off and flew away from me.
I tried to get a selfy of me with birds behind me, but as you see the light washed out everything behind me.
I never did get a good close picture of the gulls.
As I walked I searched for shells. This was the best I found. Both halves were still attached to each other by ligament, but there was no clam inside. I think the gulls ate it a little earlier. The shell was too large to carry off, being a good 9 inches in length, so I left it on the beach.
After the shell I headed back to the car and left the beach behind. It was time to walk a nautical mile and have lunch, but that adventure will have to wait for the next blog.
If you have ever found anything weird, prehistoric, or interesting on a beach, why not leave a comment?
(When I got some pizza and a can of Coke, I jokingly asked John where the rum was. What kind of a pirate party has no rum? So John showed me the bottle of run he brought–Captain Morgan, of course. And yes, I had a shot of it in my Coke. So did he.)
I have amazing friends. I hope you can all say that, but most of you are not going to have the same level of amazing that I have. This blog isn’t about me. It’s about my friend John Wick who has just finished a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign to publish a new second edition of his 7th Sea role-playing game.
On Feb. 9, 2016 John started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to do a new edition of the 7th Sea rpg. On March 13, 2016 that campaign ended, and in the month and 4 days he raised over 1.3 million dollars–the most ever raised for an rpg on Kickstarter. In the process, he broke every previous funding record for this type of game.
I had the pleasure to attend his victory party last night at Imperial Outpost. I went as a participant, not a reporter, so I didn’t get a lot of photos. But I thought it might be fun to share with you all the ones that I did get. The party started at 7 p.m. and ended at 10 p.m. It took place at Imperial Outpost, Darren Johnson’s game store on West Thunderbird Avenue at 49th Avenue. There was pizza and chips and soda pop and a chocolate covered peanut brittle for all. Half the attendees came in costume as pirates or other 17th century types. We gamed, and we schmoozed, and we ate, and we drank, and we all had a great time. John stood up on a table and told us a “trick the devil story”. I have to tell you that he is a great storyteller, and that was the high point of the evening for me.
The man in red, waving to us, is Darren Johnson. It’s his game store–Imperial Outpost. It is the biggest and best game store in the Phoenix area located in northern Glendale at 49th Ave. and Thunderbird road.
Don’t all parties look kind of like this?
Mark and John showing off the grand total their KS brought in. They joked that if you took the 1 off the front of the number you’d see what they thought they were likely to get.
The other man in the photo is Mark Diaz Truman, a game creator in his own right, and the man who orchestrated John’s successful Kickstarter project. Much of the credit for this accomplishment should go to Mark, and I tip my trollish hat to him. I got them to ham it up a little bit when the kickstarter closed. Were they happy? Yeah, I think so.
Here are the final totals. 11, 483 backers. (Yes, I’m one of them.) $1,316,813 raised for the project which includes 11 new sourcebooks and maps and other goodies.
No, I didn’t pledge $130. That was Darren’s pledge. I’m in at a rather basic level for $65.
Excellent party! Stupendous project! Now comes the fun part, actually creating all the game material promised. Good luck, John and Mark!
If you attended this party, or other kickstarter funding parties, why not leave a comment?
Some of you may know that I do a lot of walking in an effort to preserve/strengthen my health. Being old sucks as you get sick & hurt more easily. Walking is very pleasant when one has a companion to walk with. Usually, I do not have that companion. So, to gain my revenge upon all those walking companions who failed to show up, I create these walking blogs to take you, dear reader, along on a mental journey with me, and show you just how much you missed by not going with me when I invited you. Heh, it’s a kind of trollish revenge that doesn’t actually hurt anyone, but gives me a good justification for inflicting all my amateur photography on the world.
So, on Friday, Feb. 19, 2016 I drove some 45 miles from my home in north central Phoenix to take my walk in the town of Wickenburg, Arizona. Wickenburg was once the gold-mining capital of the territory (before Arizona became a state). Now it is a kind of dude-ranch pseudo-western tourist destination, full of antique shops and boutiques designed to separate the tourist from their money. Mixed in with all the cowboy kitsch are some good authentic things if you know how to recognize and find them, and care about that sort of thing–I recognize them, but I don’t care about them for the most part. Pointing out the touristy crap made in China and the authentic stuff made in the west (including Mexico) would be a totally different blog. If you have your walking shoes on, then let’s take a hike. For the most part I will just show you pictures and let you make your own mental commentary.
(Unwanted) “improvements” in the way WordPress constructs its blogs for us has made it more difficult for me to achieve the effects I actually want in these little travel essays, including making it more difficult to insert individual comments. So, the pictures are not in the sequence that I took them, nor is there space to make individual comments. All I can say is that I saw all this during my walk in Wickenburg. Biggest surprise, the railroad stuff. I had no idea it was even there. My thanks to Conductor Jim for showing me around the rather Spartan facilities inside the caboose. This place didn’t allow me to climb into the engine like I did when I was in Washington last year–still it is a magnificent piece of machinery.
If you’ve ever been to Wickenburg, or if you have a question about any of these pix, why not leave a comment?
–Ken, Feb. 21, 2016