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Four Fantastic Places visited on my Vacation

18 December, 2017

On my most recent vacation, taken with my lovely wife, we headed up to the Washington DC area and then down to Williamsburg, VA, for a brief stay.  These are the places we went that were both new to me and a worthwhile visit for just about anyone.  In the order we visited them:

Unusual WeaponsThe National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia.  An amazing collection of weaponry and organized to tell how the firearm intertwines with the history of the United States, primarily through wars but also hunting, exploration, law enforcement and sports.  There is even a room with weapons that have shown up in movies and other media.  If you have any interest in guns, you will find things to interest you here, from Gatling guns to flintlocks, six-shooters to automatics, they are all in the collection.  Usual and unusual weapons, common and unique ones, a brilliant and fascinating collection.  Full disclosure, this museum is located in the NRA HQ but it is free, so visiting it is not a political statement (unless you want it to be).

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall which is impressive and still, a year after its opening, amazingly popular requiring reserved passes to get in (so check before you go, we only got in because someone else in line had spare passes).  We only had time to make it through the extensive history section (3+ floors!) before it was time to go, so we will be back.  The history section starts with the transport of enslaved Africans to the Americas and that is not a cheerful journey.  Then through the slave-holding era and the vast cruelty of that system and its end in the fires of the Civil War.  One ascends through the Jim Crow years to the triumphs (if still incomplete) of the Civil Rights era.  As mentioned, we did not even really even get to explore the culture section at all but we will.  The Restaurant here is quite excellent as well.

Filipino WeaponsThe National Museum of the Marine Corps covers the history of the US Marines from their founding during the Revolutionary War through the Vietnam War (later periods are in process).  A short movie introduces the Marines through the people who have served, we arrived at a quiet time, so it was just Laura and I in the theater  The earlier periods have lots of good historical artifacts and interesting history, naturally with a pro-American, pro-Marine basis, but that is expected.  Once you get to the Great War, they start really using technology to give you a feel of some of the major events; A mock clearing and a video loop of advancing across the field into German gunfire for the Great War.  The Korean War area has a literal cold room to step into when they are discussing the Chosin Reservoir and the retreat from there during the bitter winter.  In the Vietnam section, you get to exit from a “helicopter” into a fire base.  All very effective for helping to imagine what being there must have been like.  Their are a few pieces on display for the -in process- modern galleries for Iraq and Afghanistan and the number of fascinating artifacts from buttons to tanks, backpacks to aircraft is overwhelming.  The onsite restaurant (and bar) is the Tun Tavern, styled after the birthplace of the corps, and serves excellent food.

Old CapitalOur last stop was Colonial Williamsburg where we did not have nearly enough time but we still managed to visit quite a bit.  The idea behind Colonial Williamsburg is to recreate the past through restoring the historic building and having people, well, roleplay as people from the colonial period many of whom have mastered skills of the time: wig-maker, silversmith, weaver, tailor and in all cases are well versed in what role their persona would have played in the colonial period.  So much to learn and experience from Colonial-era hot chocolate to watching a cannon drill, meeting flocks of heritage sheep and seeing a wig being made, just fabulous.  The College of William and Mary works with Colonial Williamsburg to build and maintain the skills, history and physical structure of the place.  For anyone interested in history, well worth the journey but try to have more time than we did, two days is probably sufficient, one is not.

So, a wonderful history filled trip.  All photos by me unfortunately the ones I took in the Smithsonian did not come out well.

Have you visited any of the places above?  What were your impressions?

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Tuesday Magic Item – Fire-Eating Moth

12 December, 2017

Moth watches“It is buzzing again,” said Voddick, tapping at his pin.

“More elementals?  I am regretting taking this contract to root out these summoners,” said Gollaon, nocking another arrow.

“Well, the pay is very good,” said Voddick sighting along his crossbow.

“Agreed and they did give us some useful tools to help.”

Fire-Eating Moth

These metallic pins are in fact bound elementals tasked with detecting other elementals and protecting the wearer.

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History Resources for your Game [2]

9 December, 2017

A variety of interesting articles and sites about history I have found recently and wish to share:

Ever wonder what the medieval Europeans called their pets?  Well, wonder no longer!  Certainly an interesting snipped of history.

Travel times from England in 1914 (before the war, obviously) measured in blocks of days.  Very interesting and thought provoking and this is an era of steam ship and railways.  With horses and wind powered ships, it it going to take even longer.

International Station

Canfranc

And opened just after the Great War was the “Titanic of the Mountains”, the Canfranc railroad station linking France and Spain was massive and became at center of espionage during the Second World War and falls into disrepair in the 1970, but is being restored now.  Seems like the sort of place to inspire adventures.

There is a surviving secret pagan temple under Rome and you can now visit it.  Apparently built by a wealthy Roman family who were followers of Neopythagoreanism.

How easy it is to fight in Victorian dress?  One brave author tries to find out.

Any news of a historical nature catch your eye lately?

Notes: Photo By WikiPrisma (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Tuesday Magic Item – Snow Kettle

5 December, 2017

Cup of tea?Voddick looked down the snow covered hillside.  “I have always liked the snow but not the cold.  Why can it not snow when it is warm and we could enjoy it?”

“Well, at least we have hot tea,” said Gollaon, shoveling snow into the kettle.

“I am so glad you found that,” said Voddick rubbing his hands together.  “It makes guard duty much more pleasant.”

“Agreed.”

Snow Kettle

These kettle are made of metal, usually copper, and are rarely decorated.  They are practical items and often show signs of hard use.

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Dark Future Ahead 24 – News from the ‘Net of a Cyberpunk bent

4 December, 2017

As you start a new week, let us look to the future and share some inspiration for cyberpunk gaming culled from my expeditions into the matrix.  Enjoy the news:

A supervillain's deightWhat better vehicle for a evil corporate CEO or power player than a private submarine?  Yes, Migaloo Private Submersible Yachts can provide what you are looking for!  Along with customized artificial islands!  Not that they have actually built either yet, but the are both technically possible and make great setting for an adventure.

The army is looking into replacing its heavy lift helicopters with tilt-rotor aircraft that fly further and faster like the Bell V-280 Valor.  Helicopters may be becoming a thing of the past at least for the military.

Troubled by pesky drones?  Use a laser-armed Polaris MRZR ATV to burn them from the sky!  Constructed by Raytheon from commercially available technologies assembled into a usable package.

Grow plants to trap carbon, brilliant idea, who would want to stop it?

A mission gone right or gone very wrong?  Missing Russian helicopter found in Norway Arctic sea.

And more anti-surveillance tech for you urban punks under the eye of the Man.

What visions of the coming dark future have you seen recently?


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Step into December! Waving goodbye to November

1 December, 2017

Enjoy the feasts of the seasonDecember is the tenth month of the Roman calendar and today is the meteorological start of Winter, though we have a sudden warm spell here.   December is also a month filled with holidays.  So, the themes for this month on the Sea of Stars design journal will be Winter, festivals and gift: cursed gifts, divine gifts, magical gifts or whatever else we can think up.

If there is a particular idea inspired by the themes that you would like to see expanded upon, let me know and I will try to realize it.

As November was consumed by a trade show, working PAX Unplugged, Thanksgiving and more work,  the posts on the Design Journal were few, sorry about that.  But November, 2017, saw the following posts: Read the rest of this entry »

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Tuesday Magic Item – Martin’s Dispatch Bag

28 November, 2017

Dispatches to deliverVoddick shot another pursuer and worked to reload his crossbow.  “This is easier when one is not mounted.”

Gollaon twisted and released an arrow.  “True.  At least who are out of the siege.”

“And being hunted by half their cavalry!”

“It would not be fun otherwise.  Now we had best catch up with that courier we are escorting.”

Martin’s Dispatch Bag

These dispatch bag are made of tough and worn leather, sometime decorated with the symbol of organization that made it, other times with the mark of its owner.

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