Thursday, August 28, 2014

No Honey


Here are my bees. The photos were taken two weeks ago when I wanted to harvest honey and found out that they didn’t have nearly enough to get them over the winter, let alone any to spare. The year was a bad one for honey all around and many beekeepers had the same problem.


I don’t mind, I just hope they will make it. They are getting sugar water now so they can build up their reserves. The comb lying on the bottom, that was my fault. It still has brood in it, so I leave it there until its empty, then I’ll take it out. You can see in the next photo that the honey combs are empty and really light in colour, compared to the reddish yellow of the brood comb.


In the two weeks since I took those photos, they have built more honey combs and have started filling them with honey made from the sugar water I give them.

I don’t know if I mentioned it, the swarm is named Ygramul. I am amazed every time I look at the hive, all those tiny animals working together, neatly building their home. Just look at those honeycombs, it’s just so perfect.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What I did on my holiday

I got myself some spectacular bruises all over my body by doing my not very best at letting other people not hit me with a wooden sword.

Medusa from Ludus Nemesis, a gladiator reenactment group I joined a couple of months ago. The archeological museum in Meppen does a reenactors festival every year and the group is a regular there. We do show fights (as in: no blood, but the fights themselves are not staged) and gladiator training for kids:
junior gladiator
junior gladiators

The festival spanned a time from 2nd century CE to the 18th century.

spinning with a newel
Vada, our slave - she's spinning wool with a newel here

blacksmith at work
blacksmith at work

another showfight

hunting party, 18th century
and the 18th century hunting party

I got to shoot a crossbow and this musket, a Brown Bess (not a replica, by the way), and I am so going to get a licence that allows me to own, load and fire a musket (the law is that anyone can shoot, but loading requires a licence)
firing a musket

and then this guy walked into the Roman camp (after hours, with the visitors gone)


Websites for some of the groups:
Vex Vet Leg XIX
Ludus Nemesis

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Shadowrun: Ravens of Doom

My group is currently on a roadtrip through the NAN/UCAS (the US in 2071) from Seattle to Boston, driving a ton of chocolate for the Irish mob. They are pretty much all street kids and none of them have spent any significant time outside Seattle. So they are not sure what to expect, but they have heard stories of the trouble outsiders have in the Native American Nations and about awakened (magical) animals and plants.

In real life, one of my players is an old hand at Shadowrun and he has been verbosely paranoid about all the bad things that can happen when you mess with Nature in the NAN. Normally, dark hints would have been my job as the GM, but all I had to do was let him talk.

The group decided to make camp at the side of the road somewhere and hunted down a porcupine (plus its three babies) for dinner. Three of the characters were busy in the woods and two were left in the camp, making a porcupine BBQ. The sight attracted two ravens - they were big birds and they just sat there, watching. The characters start to get nervous and throw them some meat, in the hope that they will go away.

That cunning plan failed, you will be surprised to hear. More ravens appeared, just sitting there, behind the characters. Who grabbed the big porcupine and ran to their truck, locking themselves in, waiting for enforcements. The ravens were left to enjoy their meal more or less in peace and to crap all over the campsite. Oh, and they stole the cookset.

I had originally planned to confront them with Stormcrows, the awakened raven species. These are even more intelligent and can influence the weather. But I quickly realised that this would have been a total waste, my players were absolutely freaking out about a couple of ravens. Alfred Hitchcock would have been proud. It was a lesson in keeping things simple for me and in relying on the fact that characters, given the opportunity, will get themselves into trouble. That's no reason to get lazy with the session planning, but it doesn't always need to be the big monster.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Nobody Expects Plants

I got my hands on a really evil Shadowrun sourcebook: Parabotany. Yes, it's all plants, mutated, awakened/magical and fairly normal ones. And no-one ever expects plants to be anything else than scenery. Most of the plants are fairly harmless or even useful, especially for an awakened character. But some can get characters in serious trouble. Most plants I have seen used by GMs (mostly in fantasy games) are half-sentient and I'm not a fan of this.

Plants are quite awesome the way they are, not intelligent but well-prepared for survival with a bag of tricks we ignore at our own risk. Plants communicate. Plants fight and plants move. So you pick some salad for a meal and suddenly the rest of the salad turns poisonous because the first plants gives off a chemical signal 'I'm being attacked!'? Plants that use you as an unwilling seed carrier, maybe by lodging sharp seeds in your skin, all the plants in the area at once? Plants that can call animals that protect them when they are being picked or trampled? Plants do all that. Now let's ramp it up, add some magic to the mix and the lush meadow your character is walking through suddenly is a battlefield.

I have some favourites from the Parabotany and State of the Art sourcebooks, like the giant tumbleweed and the perfectly harmless looking grass with seeds that will shatter on contact, capable of sandblasting a car or person. My players are already a bit paranoid about the animals they encounter during their roadtrip. By the time they reach Boston, they will probably twitch nervously at the sight of a tuft of grass.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Something Went Wrong

We were a GM short for our last Deadlands session and so we played Something Went Wrong instead. It's a short, fast game, very light on rules: a group of experienced adventurers go on a last dungeon crawl to set themselves up for life. They have seen and done it all, so what could go wrong?

Character creations is done after assigning a class, an alignment and four stats. Oh, and a piece of loot, like the Jet-Black Dagger of Masterful Stabbing our group favoured. The GM sets up the encounter with the help of a random table and after one round of combat, passes the job of GM off to the player on her left. And just when everything is going really well, the GM has access to some more random tables with creative mishaps for everyone.

Our groupd had characters like Lootina the Thief, Cohen the Barbarian and the Great Fumblerado and fought against four dragons, four koalas and four tiny giants. People were roasted, tiny giants crawled up pants legs, koalas were clubbed to death with other koalas and a dwarf appearing out of nowhere served beer for everyone in an unexpected interlude. Somehow, everyone but two characters survived. One was killed, revived and then killed again when Cohen's axe slipped. Sorry about that.

If you're ever in need of a game for one evening that doesn't take a lot of explaining, is playable by a large group (we were six) and doesn't take itself seriously at all, check out Something Went Wrong. You can download it for free (or pay what you want) at Drive Thru RPG or at

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Deadlands: Ghouls

Cast of Characters:
Alan Trehorn: Half-Apsalooke/Crow scout who might be taken for a greenhorn, but at your own risk.
Etienne DuMont: Texas Ranger. He used to be dead, but he got better.
Kenneth Lake: Professional poker player and reluctant participant in these events.
Dr. Frances Gray: Doctor and a strong believer in science and natural explanations.
Sister Elisabeth: A nun of maybe questionable past, but unquestionable faith.
Eliah Davis: Black cowboy who has seen some weird shit in his life. He spins this tale for you, somewhere at a camp fire on the prairie.

last time

You'd think that we would have been getting the hell out of Dodge after last time, but Etienne had new orders and those were to clean up the mess Miss Graves made. In an open fight we didn't stand a chance and we came up with some sort of plan: burn them out.

Why don't I just mind my own business and let someone else deal with this crap? Hm. I'm not sure I rightly know. I've spent a good deal of my life keeping my head down and listening to other people tell stories around the campfire, only half believing it. I've seen a thing or two myself, no-one gets as old as I around here and doesn't, not when you spend most of your time outside, far from any town. There's some weird stuff and it's everywhere. For the longest time it was enough that I made it through, didn't give much thought to other people. Most of them didn't give a damn about me, after all. But now - I've come to care about these people, I won't abandon them. And seeing to it that those monsters are taken care of, it's a purpose. And it's a damn sight better than being told that I'm too old and no more use to anyone.

Right. Burn them out. We bought up three huge barrels of petroleum and all the sticks of dynamite and bottles of nitroglycerin the town had to offer. And we packed our stuff and got the horses because there was no way this was going to be quiet and we better be ready to get away quickly. I don't know how, but Etienne even got the doctor to come along. We found the entrance to the ghouls' lair and they had tunnels all over the place. I got right up to their, I don't know what to call it, a big hall where they were all together, talking about how they were going to stay. Or rather getting told by their...king? The biggest and strongest of them all in any case, I wouldn't have liked to get on his wrong side.

We put some smaller barrels of petroleum in the tunnels. I had seen a crack in the ceiling of the hall that they used as a chimney and Elisabeth and me went to look for it topside, took a big barrel and some dynamite with us. Etienne, Kenneth and Alan stayed below to clean up any ghouls that might survive. It took some searching, but we found the crack. The soil was loose and if we had tried to get too close with the huge barrel, it probably would have collapsed. So we took a bundle of dynamite, lit the fuse and lowered it on a piece of rope, then dropped it when it was clear of soil and roots and ran like hell.

The explosion threw us even further, dropped what felt like a whole tree on me, but it rolled off then the soil started to slide beneath us. Somehow, we got a hold of some roots and pulled out of the hole. I could hear screaming and yelling from below - not all the ghouls were dead, but it didn't sound like they were going to make trouble any longer.

When we got back to the hole, we could see black smoke coming from it and the doctor said she could hear shots. I didn't hear much but the ringing in my ears. Kenneth was already topside, a bit singed around the edges. Alan and Etienne had been busy cleaning up the rest of the mess, but by the time we got to them, they were all done. Alan had been clawed and bitten and he blacked out while the doc was treating him. Etienne was, well, Etienne. I think he'd probably shrug it off if someone took an arm or leg. Elisabeth offered to heal Alan and me. He agreed and with a prayer, she healed all his wounds. I give her that, her faith can do good things. I still didn't want it, I would have felt like a liar if I did.

The good people of Dodge were already on their way to see what had happened and we made ourselves scarce. Etienne still had something to do in town, so we met up a few miles west. Over breakfast, we talked and Elisabeth made a joke to Etienne about laying on hands. He asked if she maybe wanted to lose her hand and made a grab for her. He didn't mean nothing by it, but I still flinched, almost punching him because I wasn't sure who was doing the grabbing, Etienne or the other guy. Etienne took me aside later and said that I would notice if the other guy took over, but I'm not going to rely on that. I've seen what can happen and I'm won't do any guessing and maybe guess wrong. I told him as much and he took it as the warning I meant it to be.

We're going West now. Etienne has been ordered to California and we're going with him. It's going to be quite a trek, especially this late in the year. But I'm looking forward to it. I'm not used to staying in one place too long and I'm restless after the months spend with the tribe, although I felt right at home there.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Deadlands: Berserk

last time

Cast of Characters:
Alan Trehorn: Half-Apsalooke/Crow scout who might be taken for a greenhorn, but at your own risk.
Etienne DuMont: Texas Ranger. He used to be dead, but he got better.
Kenneth Lake: Professional poker player and reluctant participant in these events.
Dr. Frances Gray: Doctor and a strong believer in science and natural explanations.
Sister Elisabeth: A nun of maybe questionable past, but unquestionable faith.
Eliah Davis: Black cowboy who has seen some weird shit in his life. He spins this tale for you, somewhere at a camp fire on the prairie.

We decided to check on Miss Graves and her compaion, but met only Mr Frakes who asked us to come back later and we didn't press the issue. On our way back to the saloon, I spotted footprints walking through an alley. Just footprints, not a person in sight. Etienne didn't see anything and when we took a closer look, there was just a cat. But the footprints were still there, small ones, form someone who didn't weigh all that much. My money was on Miss Graves, just a suspicion. It didn't get any better when we caught up with her later at the hotel and she lied every time she opened her mouth.

Elisabeht talked with Anna Morgan, the wife of the minister, who was somehow involved in the whole story around Garret, a Northener spy Graves and Frakes had been trying to catch. Anna admitted to being a spy for the South, right before she was dragged into a hole opening in her own kitchen floor by a monster. We were too slow to help her, especially since the tunnel caved in. So we took to knocking on doors and asking people to let us check their cellar and we did find a trace, followed it to the US Signal office. There, Kenneth and me walked into the cellar with just a candle and I couldn't blame you if you called us stupid.

The floor broke away under Kenneth and something grabbed him. I dropped the candle, held onto him, pulled him back and we stumbled out of the cellar, Kenneth bleeding from deep wounds, just in time to run into Frakes. Who just turns on his heel when he noticed the smell coming from the open door, like something long dead frying in the sun, and says he has to go. Alan and me followed him back to the hotel and pushed out way into his room, demanding answers. Yeah, this wasn't the day for clever decisions.

By now it was pretty clear that Graves was behind this, that the monster was probably Garret and things didn't get any better when Frajes had his guns trained on us. I could hear Badger growling, he wasn't happy about the idea of just letting Frakes push us around and probably putting a bullet in our heads. I turned and attacked, not what Frakes expected and I got my hands on his gun. I also got a bullet in my leg and that was when I lost it. I can't really remember what happened. No. That's a lie. I can remember it, it's just that...I never was a violent man. I can hold my own in a fight, but I never fought like this, fought to kill. And kill I did, I beat Frakes to death with his own gun. Alan later told me that he didn't dare get into my way and I guess that was a wise decision. There's a price I pay for the help Badger gives me.

We tried to grab Miss Graves, but she attacked us with some kind of spell, a blue ball of fire that went clean through the wall. And she turned invisible, didn't I say she could? So she escaped us and when we were alone, I finally calmed down. Frakes had managed to put some more bullets in me and with the fury gone, the pain hit me. I collapsed and I woke up only a day later. In jail, together with Alan because the law doesn't look kindly on people who murder citizens in good standing.

While I was out, Etienne went to Boot Hill with Kenneth and Elisabeth and there, they found Miss Graves, doing some kind of spell to raise the dead. Elisabeth blinded her and she lost control of the ghuls who killed her. Etienne came face to face with Garret who told him that he had to the count of ten to get as far away as possible. Of course Etienne just walked away slowly, if there's one thing he never did even when he was alive it was run away. Garret attacked and got killed by Etienne and Kenneth, who had brought Masterton and his deputies along.

We were in luck - since Frakes and Graves were spies, the judge didn't see the need to do more than recommend that we leave Dodge City as soon as possible. We didn't need telling, to be honest.

next time