Grognarok’s Transformation and Mine.

Let me please introduce myself…
My name is Daniel W. Cisek and I’m a gamer. I’ve been a musician and a Disc Jockey on a top-rated Connecticut radio station. I’ve been playing games and enjoying comics and music all my life, starting with the Holmes version of Dungeons & Dragons I bought at some long ago Pennsic War (IX maybe?) with money I made selling daggers and knives for my father. I enjoy all aspects of the hobby, collecting, playing, Gamemastering (which is my main role) and even owned my own game store. I’ve wormed my way into some of my favorite settings, getting myself into the Deadlands Noir core book (Savage Worlds) and the upcoming Death and Taxes by Lesser Gnome. I had a love letter to one of my favorite games, Hackmaster, published in the letters column of KODT. I own the original painting for the DCC Wizard cover. I designed a tile for the board game The Duke by Catalyst Game Labs that was given out as a prize at Gen Con for the first tournament held at a major convention for the game. I’ve played with some of the greats at cons, including Clint Black, Ernie Gygax, Merle Rasmussen, David R. Megarry and Jeff Combos. I’ve played more game systems and in more game worlds than I can even count.

I love this hobby and I’ve wanted to find a way to give something meaningful back to the community I’ve been a part of all my life. I originally started this blog as a way to do that. It was my “Gen Con” blog. I reported on the convention as I attended, moving on to Gary Con as well. But for reasons I didn’t understand until recently, the blog had been stagnant for a while, to the point where the podcast I was developing at Gary Con (“Grognarok” – named in tribute to those old school gamers I admire most) has become months late and still has yet to see the light of day (the interviews I conducted with John Harris of Prolific Games along with Zach Glazar and Lloyd Metcalf of Lesser Gnome fame at Gary Con will still appear here in the future).

What I haven’t mentioned, is that in addition to gaming for decades, I’ve also been morbidly obese for decades. Growing up “the fat kid,” I was wearing a size 36 jean in fifth grade eventually graduating to the whopping size 58 pant and size 5X shirt I wore until just recently.

We need change and we need it fast…
Recently, the term Grognarok has taken on a new meaning to me…still a tribute, just a different kind. I love this hobby with all my heart, but I fear for its future and our mass extinction. Grognarok is coming. Grognards are getting older, fatter and doing very little to keep themselves healthy. I know this because I’ve been guilty of that myself for most of my 44 years here on Earth.

If we don’t do something now, treat ourselves better and collectively find a way to get healthier, we are going to see major problems and chasms within our community. The recent plights of James M. Ward and Tom Wham are on my mind. And myself? I was almost a quarter ton a few months ago. A. Quarter. Ton. That number puts things into perspective, as did the reality that my doctor’s scale couldn’t even register my weight beyond three dashes, “- – -.” I’ve always known that I’ve needed to lose weight, going on several diets over the decades with the same result. The diet would end and I would gain back even more weight than I had lost. I knew if I did that one more time, I would be 500 pounds and sure to die in a horrible manner, so I wasn’t willing to even consider it. I had looked into surgery, but was deathly afraid of it. I had some problems with my blood a couple years ago that caused me to walk around with a hemoglobin of 7. That’s about half the blood needed in your body. That almost wiped me out. (Guys, don’t be embarrassed to tell your doctor you have a bleeding hemorrhoid, it could save your life.) I was in a dark, dark place with no light at the end of the tunnel. Stinkin’ thinkin’ as someone I know once put it.

Overkill…
I remember a few months ago standing in line at a CVS with some “groceries.” Butter, half and half, soda and Swedish Fish. I wasn’t standing more than 2 minutes in line and my legs were shaking, I was pouring sweat, I was about to pass out. I knew it wasn’t the problem I had with my blood, although it still causes me issues. I knew it was because I was fat. Not just fat, morbidly obese. I also had a pretty ugly incident with fat shaming I won’t go into here. I was fat, dying and I needed to fix it. The problem was, I was petrified of rebounding diets that would only undo themselves to even greater consequence, I was afraid of surgery and I was too damn stubborn to listen to people.

I was eating a lot of food, although I always convinced myself I wasn’t. For breakfast, I’d make some eggs with processed American cheese dripping off of them, cooked in a bunch of butter, along with four pieces of toast. I’d drink my coffee with half the mug being half and half and four scoops of sugar. At lunch I’d get a steak and cheese or cheeseburger with a Coke and fries. To which I would usually add a grilled cheese to help “tide me over.” On the way home from work, I’d stop at Wendy’s and grab some of those dollar menu items, two chicken sandwiches and two cheeseburgers. Small price, small consequence, right? For dinner, I’d usually get some form of Italian fare including an appetizer, entree and a grinder “for lunch tomorrow,” which never made it to the next day. And dessert. All the while never touching water and only drinking things like Coca-Cola and Gatorade. I would never drink diet soda because when I was young and had it for the first time, it left a horrible aftertaste. “Only real sugar for me from now on” was my proud, youthful, ignorant mantra. Although I was right that ingesting those chemicals isn’t any good for you.

The chase is better than the catch…
Enter my family, my wonderful wife and her parents. In a desperate plea for my life they offered to send me to a nutritionist. I didn’t think it would help, I didn’t want to change my life (although I desperately desired to change), I didn’t want to work at it, I didn’t want to use the DDP Yoga program I had bought a couple years prior, I didn’t want to give up my Coca-Cola and candy. And pizza. And cheeseburgers. And chicken parmesan. And pasta. And tiramisu.

But I called one. She didn’t get back to me right away and I thought, “Hey, I called.” A few weeks went by and she got back to me, explaining that she wasn’t taking new clients and offered to suggest someone else. “Yeah, sure.” I replied sarcastically. She gave me a number, which I called to once again go through the motions, and left a message. “I tried. At least I can get everyone off my back. It’s not my fault they won’t contact me. I didn’t want to do it anyway. I don’t like being forced to do things.” But she did call me back, and that call turned out to be one of the most important things I have ever done in my life. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Victory or die…
That first meeting with my nutritionist was a real eye opener. My wife tells me that my body language said it all. Arms crossed, ready for a fight. She said she wanted to begin with a “food interview,” whatever that meant. “What do you eat for breakfast?” she asked. I explained the breakfast I previously mentioned, ready to have to defend it. “Okay, keep the three eggs, but lose the cheese, cook them in oil instead of butter, and add veggies, ok?” I was floored. I could still eat three eggs? I didn’t have to fight for them? My wife tells me that here, my body language transformed – my position to defend morphed into one of cautious negotiation. Hmmm. “What about lunch?” I explained. “Ok, have a sandwich if you want, just make it turkey, ham, or something unprocessed, add veggies and have a salad.” I can eat bread? I decided to push it. “Can I have a hard boiled egg with my salad too?” “Yes, have a hard boiled egg with your salad.” This wasn’t starting to sound too bad…in fact it seemed manageable. “Dinner?” I left out the part about Wendy’s – that’s a secret between you and me. “You can still eat pizza if you want but instead have two slices. Not half a large pie.” I can still eat pizza? Now I’m thinking this has to be a joke. She went through various other suggestions, like no more soda and drink water, which I knew was going to be said, so I didn’t fight that. Frankly, knowing I could still eat my eggs in the morning and still eat pizza trumped the soda worries.

She explained that our taste buds change, and that what would seem good to me now wouldn’t taste the same as it once did. That’s an important concept – if my tastebuds were still capable of change, maybe I was too. The most important thing she taught me that first day was that I wouldn’t be on a diet. I couldn’t be on a diet. If I was going to do this I needed to change my life, my whole way of eating. “Diets end,” she said, “and you can never stop eating well. You can never diet.” This was the key I needed to learn. The key that would unlock the entire conundrum of obesity. I needed information and here was someone willing to give me that knowledge so I could learn to eat like a damn human being should. For the past three months, I have listened to her. I go back and see her every two weeks and guess what? I’m down over one hundred pounds. One. Hundred. In. Three. Months. I now know my place in our community. I need to share this information. I need all who read it to understand that change needs to happen now. Grognarok is coming, and it won’t be pretty. Arm yourselves. Call a nutritionist, listen to the advice. Seek support from your loved ones and friends at your gaming table. Learn to eat again. Do it together.

Next time: What the hell do I actually eat now? My recipes and…giveaways! (Thanks Lesser Gnome!)

Currently listening to: Bad Magic – Motörhead, The Book of Souls – Iron Maiden and Golgotha – W.A.S.P.

GP Adventures Website Goes Live

If you have read Gygax Magazine #3, you would have seen part of the Hobby Shop Dungeon with the finely crafted THE MARMOREAL TOMB OF GARN PAT’UUL. If you liked what you saw there, this next one is a no-brainer. With the official opening of the GP Adventures website you can finally get your hands on the Halls of the Beggar King, “This 38-page digital offering presents an inside look into GP’s design process. Once an exclusive preview for the Gary Con VI convention in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, it features a single, complete level detailing 117 areas of the Beggar King’s hideout on the coast of the Duinnsmere and north of Nester’s Folly, the Hobby Shop Dungeon.”

Also on sale is “a Child’s Tale by Ernest Gary Gygax Jr., Nerissa Montie and Simon Todd.”, Sammi-Zowa Versus the Dueling Dragons.

I missed out on getting Halls of the Beggar King at Gary Con VI in print, so I was jazzed to see the .pdf up on the site. I saw Sammi-Zowa at Gary Con, but I failed to pick it up there as well.

Thankfully you can now navigate your browser over to the GP Adventures website, and grab them up for yourself.

Sammi

Also got my Free RPG Day shirt in!

Gary Con VI Recap.

I got back from Gary Con VI just a few days ago and I have to say, it was an absolutely amazing Con and experience.

I left Connecticut in the morning on Tuesday March 25, 2014. We drove up to I-84 to cross New York State near Newburgh and the Hamilton Fish, it’s then a nice, pleasant drive down to Scranton and then to I-80. We stopped for the night near Toledo, OH, which was my goal for a solid day of driving. The next day, it was wake up and drive the 4 or so short hours to the Lake Geneva Ridge Resort and Gary Con VI!

GC038 GC051

We got there around 1 p.m. on Wednesday and settled in our Lake-View room. Great room, lovely view and overall, a very, very nice place to stay (great bathrooms!). After a quick nap, we went to get some food from the bar. I can’t say how amazing it was for me to sit in this hallowed hall and stare out at the Lake while having some bourbon. I ordered a fantastic grilled cheese and some beer and cheese soup made with a local brew, Spotted Cow. Both were glorious to behold and ingest. (Next time I bring back some Spotted Cow!) That evening, I was scheduled to play a Newbie Night game of Star Frontiers, which was cool as it was all people playing and running it who were making this their first trip to Gary Con.

GC016

Photo by Mark CMG.

It was nice to finally be able to play Star Frontiers, as I have never played nor owned it and it’s one of my “gotta own it someday” games. We played the classic scenario Crash on Volturnus. I played a human military guy and was able to take out a few baddies. Driving/travel fatigue got to a few of us while we were doing the Hex-Crawl portion of the module (nice to refresh myself on Hex-Crawls) and when I got back from bringing the wife some food, the game had disbanded. Our generous GM offered to give the box set he used for the adventure to one of us. It was down to two of us who wanted it. An epic percentile roll-off ensued with my opponent rolling a 47, which I then promptly followed up with a 46! Only at Gary Con. There was no other way this could/should have gone down, other than me actually winning of course. I was *this* close!

I got settled for bed because I knew the next day was the start of the Con itself and my game of the Hobby Shop Dungeon with Ernie Gygax DMing was at Noon!

Thursday. After waking up and hitting the modest Dealer’s Room, I was able to procure my copy of the Whisper and Venom Compendium Hardcover from Lesser Gnome’s Zach Glazar and I finally met Thopas himself, John Hammerle! Both great guys with an excellent product that you should give them money for. Also in the Dealer’s Room were Jeff Easley and Larry Elmore, amazing artists I don’t need to tell you about, it was great to see their paintings and prints. I was able to snag a copy of the 1981 AD & D DM Screen that I have been wanting to replace for years, the one with the Dave A. Trampier art adorning it. Later in the day the news broke of his death at the Con, I’ll cherish this screen even more now.

After a bit more poking around, I set off for my Hobby Shop Dungeon game. We assembled in the VIP room and quickly found out the game had been moved upstairs. With 12 people playing, my table space was at a minimum (none of that stuff was even mine!) so I kept my books and dice on the TV stand next to me.

It was refreshing to have a DM ask who the Caller would be and who would be the Mapper. We were all admonished when Ernie realized none of us brought graph paper to the table. I was going to pack some too, dang-it!

I chose to play with a Gnome Illusionist/Thief and we decided to start on Level 6 and work our way up and out of the Dungeon. The very first room we walked into, we encountered a Basilisk, which promptly turned two of our party to stone (one poor fellow was never revived from his statue state). I luckily had memorized Gaze Reflection, so I figured I was going to be the Hero of the Day. I walked into the room with confidence and threw my spell, only to have it essentially miss the Basilisk’s gaze and dissipate in one round. Oh well, time to try a Wall of Fog on my next turn, which was much more effective, allowing us to slay the beast with no more players being tuned to stone. The beast was slain but I was able to get one final attack on its corpse, digging my blade into the vile creature, I declared that I had in fact slain the beast, even though it was already dead. Gnome technicality.

GC048 GC049

GC056

Photo by Mark CMG.

During the game, I kept freaking out because I wanted a Gary Con Challenge Coin and I was worried I would miss out on them since I was playing in this game until after the Dealer’s Room closed. My stupendous wife went down and got me one during the game. I love it sooo much!

GC035

We ended up with a bit over 20,000 Victory Points, as we only made it up to the 5th Level. All in all a great game I was honored to be a part of.

Things I learned during this session: Bring graph and hex paper. We fought a monster that Ernie said he has never fought in all his years of playing, and I forgot to ask what it was :/  Edit: From Ernie “Wind Walkers a mated pair!”  When faced with a task that seemed we would not accomplish, opening a door, Ernie said “It must be insurmountable!” Then, someone promptly made the roll and we succeeded. What a great line. There is nothing like old-school playing. Paladins need to take off their helmets when Detecting Evil. ALWAYS take Read Magic. Ernie missed a door in describing a room, instead of backpedaling, he just said the door was covered in cobwebs in a dark corner of the room so we must have missed it. Great save. When using a shield to block falling debris, the DM rolls damage as normal and then the player gets to roll a d6 for each die the DM rolled. A player getting a 5 or 6 on the roll meant 1 or 2 points of damage were negated by the shield. Good call.

Friday: Goodman Games Seminar, The Ride of the Black Eagle with Doug Kovacs, Whisper and Venom with Zach Glazar.

The “What’s New with Goodman Games” Seminar ended up being quite the forum for announcements. New DCC DPG module Kickstarters, a Judges Screen and the big news: The Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition Kickstarter. It’s always great to see Doug Kovacs art upclose as well.

The Ride of the Black Eagle DCC RPG game with Doug Kovacs as Judge was really fun. We were a little slow to get started as we were eating and chatting, but once we got rolling, it was a blast. Doug blew my mind with a creature he had created (which I won’t spoil here) that was really a treat to interact with. I played a cleric of Ronnie James Dio and my wife played a fortune teller thief. Great game with great people. It was a pleasure to meet them all.

Photo by Mark CMG.

Photo by Mark CMG.

Photo by Mark CMG.

Photo by Mark CMG.

Friday Night it was time for Whisper and Venom. It’s no secret I love this setting, also I’m running Labyrinth Lord for my weekly group, so this was a perfect fit. This was another fun game with a light-hearted group of players. It turns out Thopas is exactly the kind of jerk I expected him to be, so I have plenty of first hand knowledge to use against my players as we enter Whisper and Venom in the next week or so. I was excited to meet and play with the guys from Lesser Gnome, hanging out with them was a highlight of the Con for me.

Photo by Mark CMG.

Photo by Mark CMG.

Photo by Mark CMG.

Photo by Mark CMG.

GC014

 

Saturday, I was booked for a game of DCC RPG at 10a.m. (The Second Phantasmagoria) with Michael Curtis Judging, but I awoke with a pounder of a headache and decided to just take it easy for my last day of the Con, as I was going to be driving another 12 hours the next day and I didn’t want to be a less than decent player. We spent some time walking around the Resort and grabbing photos.

 

I enjoyed a nice Maduro Padron outside by the fire. My wife bought me a piece of original art from Pete, of a really cool Dwarf (Hammerfist the Rightous), which she said reminded her of me. It will look great on our wall! We also went to Anthony’s Steak & Seafood House so we could branch away from the Gary Con menu and get a nice steak.

GC025

Got in a game of Uncle Chestnut’s Table Gype as well.

GC024

Sunday morning, we checked out and I had my last walk around the Resort. I’ll tell you this, I’ll take Gary Con any day over Gen Con at this point. It’s like the Four Best Days in Shopping Vs. The Four Best Days in Gaming…guess which is which.

Monday, on the way home, I decided we would stop off in Orange County, New York and see the Orange County Choppers building and get some lunch at the OCC Cafe. I watched the show for years and never made the one-hour trip to check it out, so we went for it on Monday. We also stopped by Paul Jr. Designs, but a cop was busting someone right in front of the entrance, so we kept on driving by.

I WILL see you next year!

I think I’ll shoot for NTRPG Con as well next year, we’ll see…

Things to do next year: Try to get in on Circus Maximus somehow, play a game of Dungeon! on Dave Arneson’s ping pong table, drink more Spotted Cow, remember my business cards so I can promote my dang blog.

Disclaimer: Some photos were taken by Mark CMG of Creative Mountain Games, and borrowed from his postings in the GaryCon Facebook Group (these photos say “Photo by Mark CMG.” in the comments of the appropriate photos). Please purchase the module Fighting Fire, the proceeds go towards helping Ernie Gygax recover from a devastating fire earlier last year. I proudly own a copy, you should too.   🙂

 

GenCon Recap Part 4: The Finale.

So there I was. GenCon is happening all around me. I’m getting some good gaming in. I’m walking back from playing Super Dungeon Explore and I see…The Dungeon Bastard! That dude produces some pretty cool web videos. You should check them out.

Over at the Who North America Booth, they had a nice life-size Dalek that was moving and talking. I grabbed a bunch of great stuff there. The Eleven Doctor Set that has all eleven Doctors Micro Figures, a Weeping Angels Playset, also got some stuffed Talking Daleks signed by the current voice actor for the Daleks, Nicholas Briggs (on the left in the photo).

Stayed at the JW Marriott again this year. While I had a great time last year and really enjoyed my stay. This year was much better. I had Trade Day and most of my games in the JW. It is a great place to stay and if the gaming tables occupy available space as much as they did this year, I will be staying there again next year. Top-Notch hotel.

Every year I see Nigel Sade at the Con. Every year we buy stuff from him, bandannas, prints and what have you. He’s a really talented artist and I suggest you check out his work.

This is a statue right in front of the Convention Center. Something about it appeals to me, so I share it here with you.

One of the games I learned about from my time at Trade Day, was this little gem called Pajaggle. We played it while discussing good games for libraries and I fell in love with it. I searched out the booth and grabbed a copy while I was there. Great family game.

This year saw the addition of food trucks outside the Convention Center. Food trucks are all the rage lately and I’ve been wanting to dig into some since I watch The Great Food Truck Race on Food Network. There is also a grilled cheese truck I saw turn in front of me a few months ago and I have been trying to get a sample ever since. I know it’s the Melt Mobile, I know where it hangs out, I just haven’t gone yet. So, at the Con I tried to sample some of the various Trucks’ wares. This picture was taken while waiting for food from Der Pretzel Wagen, I got a Big Helga, I also had some decent pizza from The NY Slice Truck (Pizza is tough for me to like out of state, Connecticut has some of the best pizza in the world Sally’s, Pepe’s, Letizia’s, Colony) and got a nice Glass Bottle Coca-Cola and some cheese popcorn from Scout’s. Lot’s of others I wanted to try, but they were either sold out, or I didn’t have enough time to wait in between games. I hope the food trucks will be back next year, I thought it was a great idea and I’d love to sample more. I followed @IndyFoodTruck on Twitter and was able to find out what trucks were there each day.

  

Next, it looks like I’ll hit Anoycon in December and then GaryCon in March and before ya know it, it will be time to buy badges for GenCon again!

Tomorrow: DCC RPG

Tomorrow nights game is DCC RPG, a game of which I have become increasingly fond of. After playing the game with Harley Stroh at GenCon, I’ve gotten a better feel for running the game for sure. The game flows nicely and has a wonderful Old-School feel. What are they calling this? OSR? Old-School Renaissance? (Ah, Revival, had to look it up) (Update: Nope. Renaissance according to the DCC book) Whatever it is, it just reminds me of playing the game in years long gone by. I started playing in the late seventies and have never forgotten the Basic Rulebook (2nd print). I had been introduced to D and D by then, but this was the first set I bought with my own money (earned selling knives at an early Pennsic War) and it holds a special place in my heart. DCC has this feel, this air about it that lends itself to my style of play more than some others. In any case, we should finish up Doom of the Savage Kings and then be ready for either The People of the Pit, or The Emerald Enchanter. Depends if I level them at the end of Savage Kings or not.

By the way, if you are enjoying Goodman-Games‘ DCC RPG, then you should also check out Crawl! I won a set of the first three issues at GenCon and got a subscription as soon as I got home. I just have to figure out how to order more of the reference sheet pack I also won, I don’t see it on the Crawl! website (Just saw a comment that said they were a GenCon only thing, at least I got one!). But give it a shot, subscribe for under $25, you’ve probably spent that much getting BBQ sauce on Kickstarter that you haven’t even tasted yet.

GaryCon is in my sights…I wanna go just to play with Harley again, we’ll see!

Update: I just booked my room!