Rotterdam Comic Con 2017

So - quick update. I quit my job at Speldorado per September 1st 2016, both because I needed to be able to put more time into Jack of Dice, but also because working for Roeland was becoming very stressful to me. The best thing I could say is that he and I have very different work styles, so let's leave it at that.

Since I became a full-time entrepreneur, I decided to set up store at a lot more events than before. Last year saw my first foreign Con (FACTS in Gent - very much worth it and I will be going again) and my first boardgame event (Spellenspektakel in Eindhoven, ditto).

January and February have been quiet. Very few cons which seemed worth while, but this gave me plenty of time to prepare a better setup. A central table with three-tiered 'wings' on either side. The setup can fit in a 2x6m spot and allows a good amount of behind-the-stall space for personal belongings and to retreat from serving customers, while still allowing you to peer between the shelves to watch all the pretty costumes. We're calling that part the Bunker.

And now March has arrived, and the Con season has kicked off! First con of the year: the Rotterdam Comic Con in Ahoy! went allright for me. Not spectacular, but I'm pretty happy with the result. As the event goes, it could do much better. Not enough publicity, not enough visitors, not enough to do FOR the visitors, both in their selection of merchants and in actual activities. Some interesting guests - actors from Game of Thrones, Sylvester McCoy, and others - but yeah...not much to do.

One major gripe for me would be that they sold Early Bird tickets. Bad for the merchants - we would prefer not to have to leave home an hour early, TYVM - but the visitors who paid extra for them did not get much benefit from them either. The event was not busy at all, and most of the visitors were pretty much done after a few hours. It just adds to the general vibe that the event is mostly trying to make money rather than offering a memorable experience for the visitors.

Personally, I would not choose this event over others, neither as a standholder or as a visitor.


Hobbies and interests

Once, while job-seeking several years ago, I wrote down a list of hobbies and interests so I could get a feel for what I would like to do. Though it did not help me narrow down my interests to a single related group of things I would do well in, it did put into view for me how many things appeal to me.

Some of these things are probably boring to a lot of people (organizing, coming up with systems), others are more exciting (archery, swordfighting). Some mundane (cooking, reading), while others are pretty exotic (making chainmail, costume design).

This list was handwritten, using concise terms to describe my hobbies and interests. It filled nearly two columns on a sheet of A4 paper before I ran out of immediate ideas. I realized I could probably easily double that amount in a month if I were to keep the list around and add to it as I went along. I'll keep adding things to that list like a kid picking up pretty rocks to add to their collection.

Now I run two webshops and work a parttime job in a toy and game store, where I get to be a know-it-all on the subject of boardgames; am chairman to a Larp organising events for up to 90 people and occasionally cook for groups of up to 75. Life seems to have come to a place where most of my many interests can finally be expressed. It feels pretty damn good.

Lentil burgers

This recipe yields about four firm, filling burgers.

1/2 cup dry lentils (I use red split lentils as these cook more quickly)
1 onion
1 slice of old bread blitzed into breadcrumbs
1 clove of garlic
1 1/2 tsp of cumin
1/2 tsp of smoked paprika powder
1/2 tbsp of mustard (or 1 tsp of mustard powder)
3 tbsp of tomato ketchup

Soak the lentils in water overnight. Drain, then blend the lentils, onion and garlic using a food processor. Combine with the rest of the ingredients and form into patties. Pan-fry the patties in oil for a few minutes on each side until golden brown.

These are great either as hamburgers or with a side of wedges and salad.

Goblin Surprise: Post-post-apocalyptic oatmeal cookies

During Larps, I'll sometimes make meals out of leftovers. Reheat stuff, add leftover ingredients; chuck pantry stock together into a meal...surprise! When I started doing this I played Wicks the Goblin, servant and general handyman for the Mage Guild. The surprise is that it usually still tastes great, since I do try to make the flavours work together after all. Hence, the name, and it has stuck.

Last weekend I cooked at Xenophobia II together with woran. The setting is post-post-apocalyptic. Society has collapsed and a new order is established. The players all hail from a group of compounds protected by a forcefield where they have been safe from the outside world for generations, where they have built a meritocratic society. Everyone is expected to Contribute, and when they no longer can, they must leave (and almost certainly die in the outside world, a place filled with bloodthirsty cannibals and who knows what else). But now the forcefield has failed, and they are forced to leave.

The setting calls for relatively simple food, certainly not any kind of excess. But in this case, there were lots of supplies which we might as well use up before they would be left behind. All in all we cooked about 25-30 dishes.

These sweet, crunchy, chewy and very filling cookies were the last item, served after time-out. Several people have asked for the recipe. The original recipe for these cookies came from here, but we tweaked it to make it fit our ingredients. Here goes:

  • 60 g butter (room temperature)

  • 100 g caster sugar

  • 100 g brown muscovado sugar

  • -> 200 g powdered sugar and caster sugar (leftovers). Less might be better, see below.

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 vanilla pod Scratched, we had none.

  • 120 g flour

  • 130 g rolled oats

  • 4 g baking powder

  • 4 g cinnamon (added a bit more, both to replace the flavor of the vanilla and because we had lots of it)

  • 6 g salt

  • 75 g pecan nuts Crunchy muesli breakfast mix (leftover from breakfast)

One more challenge: we had no oven at this location. After a bit of tweaking we found a setup which worked: a lightly greased frying pan covered with a lid, on a simmer plate on the smallest burner turned low.

Mix all the ingredients together, adding the eggs last. Take about a tablespoon of the mixture per cookie and flatten it onto the bottom of the pan. Leave the cookies a bit of room to expand - I could make about 6 cookies per batch in the pan I had. Bake for about 7 minutes until the bottom is golden brown, turn, and bake the other side for another 7.

For a final tweak, I'd use less sugar (probably about 100 grams), since the crunchy muesli adds a lot of sweetness as well. Instead of crunchy muesli you could also use trail mix or any other dried fruit (chopped small if necessary) and nuts for filling.


Jack of Dice

So, last year I started a business:

Selling, as the name might imply, dice. Polyhedral dice for D&D and Pathfinder, 10d10 sets for White Wolf games, six-sided dice for the usual games, odd dice such as the Seven virtues/Seven Sins die, and so on. And I'm finding more interesting, cool, pretty and weird dice all the time.

Besides dice, you'll find accessories directly connected to dice and the games that employ them: leather dice bags and dice jewelry hand-crafted by me, dice towers, gaming mats, etcetera.

So far, things are running really well. Some things are amazing, others briefly frustrating, but overall this adventure is teaching me a lot and I find it thoroughly enjoyable.

Lextalionis X: Meet Prophet

Lextalionis! Never played there, not very well-versed in WoD either, but had so! much! fun! High points:

Carpool from Janestarz. Thank you so much!
Exploring the old, rundown derelict farm with medieval parts which lay next to the castle.
Exploring the old, rundown derelict 'other' half of the castle (and outbuildings).

Stick out like a sore thumb dressed all in white amongst all the Vampire characters during the pre-IC brief. Have the SL's declare during the brief that I have, for all intents and purposes, a carte blanche regarding powers.

It took toggling a switch to get into the Prophet char. The first parts (at the 'stakehouse') where we freed the younglings from torpor I was still somewhat unsure, and kept to the background. Vera, my bodyguard (played by Janestarz) took the lead and kept the momentum going. Then I had to introduce myself, and became Prophet. After a bit of stumbling over my words I was fine for the rest of the event.

"I am Prophet. I speak as the voice of God. Know that these are the end days, and that the final judgment will come soon".

Getting to know the characters. Joining in their victories over the Elders. Being asked to bless their missions.

Negotiating an exchange of prisoners over IM. Prophet had until then been a voice on a video and a name under some Hunternet posts, so this was my first direct contact with my adversaries. "Spiegel, Oriana, and a supply of blood in exchange for Sigurd. The exchange will take place in the courtyard, one minute from now."

Slapping down the Tremere suggestion that they Diablerize a volunteer to gather enough power to break the ward. Even better, the bemused reaction from the Kindred at his complete lack of opposition to the plan of a modified Valderie ritual.

The breaking of Project Nimrod (a brainwashed Malkavian supersoldier) to free the soul beneath. Prophet didn't do much, honestly. Carl Bakker did the actual work, but him asking Prophet to see what the state of Nimrod's soul was made it seem possible. He succeeded and freed a soul which had been suppressed in that body since WW2.

The entrance of Prophet and his closest trustees to the final battle, commanding the fighting Kindred onto their knees. Getting staked, puling out the stake, dropping it, and repeating the command. Presence 5.

Judgement. Prophet walks down the corridor first before the Kindred, toward the light, praying to the Lord to forgive him. His steps falter. He has been found lacking "Please Lord. Help ... me". He dies, and is destroyed.

The Nosferatu gang. Heartwarming until the very end, always looking out for each other. At the end of the event, they went together, clinging together like a group of rats crossing a river, stepping around the bodies of the Kindred who had been found lacking. Four of the six were saved. Prophet's spirit would have been proud, if it hadn't been too busy burning in eternal agony in pools of fire and brimstone.

A lot of the players, or at least of the 'Younger' group did not seem to realize that Prophet was not Kindred, and even more surprised that he was a Hunter. The reactions when they found out OC were priceless :D

One big downside of the weekend: the food. The location required it to be catered by their staff, and the food was...blah. Blah upon blah piled high with blah. Boring broth for the first dinner (served 18:00 sharp, don't be late or you don't get fed), followed by rice, cooked chicken breast and 1980's style 'curry' sauce straight from the packet. Oh, and slices of canned pineapple. Also, they hadn't cooked enough and ran out.

Breakfast on day 2 (served 12:00 sharp, don't be late or you don't get fed. Incidentally, many didn't get to sleep until 07:00 that morning): mildly overcooked spaghetti with crime-against-food tomato and mincemeat sauce. No vegetarian option. Forensics revealed traces of onion in the sauce, but no other herbs or spices appeared to have been added.

Dinner on day 3 (served 18:00 sharp, don't be late or you don't get fed): fries with rancid-tasting mayo, letuce, and meatballs (still shaped like the plastic packaging they has been extruded into) warmed up in sauce. And a cup of ice cream for dessert. The ice cream was decent, mind you, as was the lettuce.

Breakfast on the last day was better, but the theme of 'cheap and made with minimal effort' continued.

X-power Blaster 200 - Revenge of the Modding

Aha! Success! By adding a ridge of superglue around the inner front edge of the launch tube, it now forms a perfect seal with N-strike standard darts. Just shot a whistler dart over 7 meters.

Solved the rattling spring by delving into my other interest: chainmail. I needed washers with an outer diameter of less than 15 mm and an inner diameter of at least 10 mm.Four aluminium rings with an inner diameter of 10,0 mm and a wire thickness of 2 mm did the job. No more rattling, and more kick out of my spring.

Nerf clone: X-power Blaster 200

Ran into Nerf-clone blasters, of the brand I posted about in my last post, in our local Marskramer, including some models not in the Intertoys ad. I picked up the cheapest one (a one-shot blaster the same length as a Hasbro Nerf Nite Finder, but smaller in all other dimensions) to poke at it.

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Nerf gun heads up

For anyone not getting advertisement folders in the mail: Intertoys is having a sale of Nerf-clone guns. Two types of rotating barrel guns, both for 8 darts, for EUR 13,- (35 cm.) and EUR 7,- (22 cm.) ; and a set of two 22 cm. single-shot blasters for EUR 9,-.