If you’ve been following the saga of my experiences painting miniature figures, you may remember that a big incentive was to paint the elaborate miniatures that I knew would come with the game Tainted Grail.
It finally arrived last month. As a game, it’s a great experience; in fact, as I type this, I hope to share it with other gamers tonight. As for the minis, there were 29 of them!
Here’s how my painting turned out:
For the most part, I stuck to the style I discussed a few posts back: zenithal prime, following by a coat of contrast paint. For a couple of them, I used washes instead. In foreground of the above photo, on the right, I experimented with a “fire” style: a zenithal with yellow overall, orange sprayed at 60°, and red sprayed from the top. It turned out well enough.
I should add that I did zero research before choosing the colors for the minis. I looked at the mini, thought about what colors might suit it, and mostly made each mini’s color unique. If I knew then what I know now about the game, I might have made different choices.
The Last of the Dwarf Brewers
I had a mild problem with my color choices: Most of the minis depicted variations on natural creatures, and I didn’t have quite enough distinct colors of contrast paints that suited their design. I partly made up for this by using washes, as I noted above. But it left me with the desire for just a couple more shades of contrast paints. My next big mini-painting project after this will probably be Etherfields, with even more minis than Tainted Frail.
So I ordered a couple more colors. That, of course, meant I needed more Dwarf Brewers minis to be test subjects.
It was then I noticed that these Dwarves were among the last available on Amazon. After this order, there might be no more. I’d ordered them all!
No, not really. I’m sure that Reaper made hundreds of them. They just weren’t available via Amazon at this time. But it also suggested to me that it might be time to switch to a different test mini.
Before we get to that, let’s look at the last of the Dwarves:
Who should replace the Dwarf Brewers as a test model? I needed something inexpensive, and sculpted with lots of crinkly bits so contrast paints, washes, and the like would show their effects. I settled on the Bugbear Warrior, also from Reaper:
They are larger than the Dwarf Brewer mini, and I’m not sure how I’m going to store them long-term. (I keep the Dwarf Brewers samples in a Plano box.) But I felt I could deal with that later.
The reason why I wanted to get more test minis is to test Vallejo Colorshift paints. These are a kind of metallic paint whose reflected color shifts depending on the angle you view it:
In retrospect, the Bugbear Warrior mini might not have been the best choice to test such paint. We’ll get to that later.
According to Vallejo’s instructions, a surface to be painted with colorshift paint should be primed with gloss black:
After that, the instructions recommended using an airbrush rather than brushing the paint on. This suited me, since if my brush control were any good I’d be doing more than slopping contrast paint on minis.
The Vallejo colorshift paints are the thinnest I’ve ever worked with. I’ve worked with Vellejo metallic paints before, and those were thick and required a lot of thinning to get them through the airbrush. The colorshift paints were so thin that they didn’t need any flow improver or thinner.
They were also the first paint with which I’ve worked that required multiple coats. In general, you’re supposed to apply paint (especially with an airbrush) in multiple thin coats. I’ve never bothered; I could also do what I wanted to do with a single coat of whatever paint I used. Not this time. The first time I used to the airbrush to apply the paint I saw so little difference on the surface of the mini that I thought my airbrush was broken.
In the end, I had to apply six or seven coats to each mini to finally eliminate all signs of the black gloss primer. It was both labor- and time-intensive.
For all that work, I hoped for better results. The names of the paints are supposed to reflect (pardon the pun) the two colors between which the light is supposed to shift.
1) Pearl / Violet:
2) Gold / Pale Blue:
3) Gold Yellow / Burnt Orange
4) Silver / Pink
5) Old Silver / Pale Violet
6) Violet / Old Copper
As I noted above, in retrospect perhaps I should have chosen minis with large curved surfaces (a big helmet? a smooth curved shield?) to test these paints. However, I’ll note that this particular set of paints is labeled “Magic Dust” by Vallejo, so it’s clearly being marketed for fantasy miniatures (as opposed to Galaxy Dust and Space Dust which appear to be for space marines and the like).
The colorshift effect is hard to see in static images. I tried to make a short movie to hopefully show what it looks like. This is from paint test #3 in the above list:
If you’re having trouble seeing the effect, so do I. In fact, the color-shifting is really only visible in #2, #3, and #4 in the above list, with #3 being the best.
On a side note, these are also the first paints I’ve worked with for which the color of the bottle has little to do with the color of the paint after it’s applied:
A frustrating aspect of working with these paints is that, as a test, I used a brush and smeared a bit of the paint on a piece of plasticard. The colorshift effect was clearly visible. It just wasn’t showing up on airbrushed crinkly minis.
The reason why I wanted to test the colorshift paints is that Etherfields is set in a dream world. I thought the eerie effect of shifting colors would be appropriate for sculptures that represented dream creatures. The resulting colors are different that what I would have gotten if I purchased the Vallejo Metallic Colors set, but were they worth the additional effort? Maybe #3, perhaps #2 and #4. The rest look like different shades of metallic purple.
I should acknowledge: I might have gotten better results if I’d been willing to apply a few more coats. I may have gotten better results if I brushed the paints on instead of spraying them. I may very well be using the paints for a purpose for which they’re not intended.
For now, I have to say that I don’t plan to use them in the future.
It’s been two weeks since the party. I said it then, and I’ll say it again: It was the best party I ever hosted. I don’t think I’ll host a better one for the rest of my life.
This is one of my longer blog posts. I want to get all the details down so that if I ever do this again, I can learn from my successes and failures.
I’m mindful that people doing web searches on “Ravenwood Mystery Party” might find this post. I’ve done my best to avoid major spoilers.
Privacy note: I’m going to refer to individual guests by their characters’ names. This is to preserve their privacy in a public blog post. The exception will be the characters who were the victim and the murderer; I’ll refer to them as V and M.
Let’s back up a bit.
For my prior two birthday parties, I hosted a LARP. They were at best moderately successful; some people just didn’t get the hang of improvisational role-playing.
A few years ago a friend of mine hosted a professionally-written murder mystery party. She offered me the role of the murder victim, since it required someone who could role-play well. In the game as written, the murder victim could come back as a ghost. I decided to take it to excess (a typical pattern in my life) and use the murder as an excuse for a role switch.
Before the murder, I was a tough take-no-nonsense gangster:
After my character was murdered, I went into the bathroom, shaved my beard, changed my outfit, and became the victim’s older brother. He was a total milquetoast:
As my 60th birthday approached, I became more enamored of the idea of hosting a similar mystery party. There was no reason to suspect a LARP I wrote would be any more successful than what I’d done before. Let a professional do the writing!
When I searched for murder mystery parties one could purchase on-line, I found a different company from what my friend chose. On their front page was a masquerade party. I felt that was a concept everyone would understand.
I wanted to get some idea of how many people wanted to come. The mysteries from MyMysteryParty have three levels: the basic mystery with 18 or so characters, an expansion with 6 additional characters (who can also be team leaders to accommodate more guests), and a second expansion to accommodate up to 16 more characters.
I wrote an initial blog post to get an idea of how many people were interested. I got enough of a response that I knew I’d have to get the base mystery and expansion #1 immediately. I followed that post with another more formal invitation. I got enough RSVPs that I purchased the second expansion as well.
MyMysteryParty offers a web site that hosts can share with the guests to so the they can see what other characters might come to the party. I didn’t like it. Mystery parties of this sort have “key” or “required” characters who must be there for the story to work; every other character is optional. On that web site, it doesn’t take much insight to realize that the key characters were listed first. I didn’t want any of my guests to feel they were second-class citizens.
So I copied over the character information from the mystery’s list of characters, but put the characters in alphabetical order by last name, from Omari Black through Riley White. It was a bit of an effort, but it also acted as a bookkeeping device so I could see which roles were available as more people RSVPed.
After I knew who was playing which character, I sent out materials via postal mail. It included:
the party kit’s guest instructions so they’d know what to expect
for most of the guests, a copy of a ticket to the party
A couple of “uninvited” characters did not get tickets: John and Jane Doe. I knew they’d be there anyway.
I quickly discovered that I needed some way to keep track of all the guests, their characters, their email addresses, and their postal addresses. I used Microsoft Excel for that. For repetitive documents like the invitations, mailing labels, guest badges, and game envelopes, I used Swift Publisher 5. These tools showed their worth as I handled late-comers who asked to come after the RSVP deadline, and when I had to deal with a last-minute substitution.
To communicate with everyone, I set up both a Facebook event page and a mailing list. Every time I sent an email to the list, I also posted it on the FB page. This was to handle both those folks who were not on Facebook, and those who never check their email.
At its peak, the guest list had 37 people, more than any of my other parties! As we got closer to the date, 3 of them could not make it, leaving 34. That was a better attendance rate than my previous parties; typically a third didn’t show up. Thanks, folks!
One of the reason I chose a mystery set at a masquerade party is that it made costuming fun and simple. The characters all had last names based on colors (Mel Mauve, Izzy Maroon, and so on) so all you needed was a mask of the appropriate color. I knew better than to insist that everyone wear a mask, but as it happened everyone wore one anyway. (Again, thanks for that, folks!)
Most folks got or made their own masks. Ashton Jade went on a business trip to New Orleans, and offered to get masks for folks from the Land of Masks. She got some nice ones. Here are a couple:
There were people for whom finding a mask of the right color was a challenge; it’s not easy finding one for Furen Copper or Carney Cobalt. So I purchased a set of white masks and offered to airbrush them in an appropriate color. Several folks took me up on this offer.
The pictures above show the masks before they were decorated. The Guest Formerly Known as Robyn Teal (see below) came over and added details with glitter glue and metallic paint markers.
Like most mystery party games of this sort, the Ravenwood Masquerade had a series of cards for each character. Each card is revealed in three successive rounds.
I purchased the game as a set of PDFs. MyMysteryParty offers pre-packaged kits with all the cards printed out and rolled up with a ribbon. I chose not to use that, and went with something fancier: I printed out the cards and created sets of envelopes, one set for each round. Each round’s cards were in envelopes of a different color, so both the players and I could tell which envelope applied to which round. All the envelopes were labeled with the character’s name, player’s name, and round number; Swift Publisher was handy for this.
I created another set of “pre-game” envelopes that I gave to the guests as they arrived. Each envelope contained the character’s name badge and a starting amount of play money (more on that below).
The PDFs came with images to be used as name badges. They weren’t bad, but I chose to use my own. I created these with Swift Publisher:
In the PDFs from MyMysteryParty, they have suggestions for additional games to play along with the mystery. I took one of their suggestions, and offered an award for the player who had accumulated the most play money by the end of the evening. I told the players, “We shall be shocked (shocked, I tell you!) if this encourages bribery, blackmail, extortion, or illegal gambling.”
I had decks of cards and social tabletop games at the party just in case someone wanted to play poker or something to get money. In the end, no one touched the cards.
I also created a trivia contest. All the questions had to do with real-life lives of the people at the party; e.g., “How many have taken a martial arts class?”, “How many have been to Australia?”, “How many have fed a tiger?”, “How many have been in a shipwreck?”
I created a sheet with the trivia contest, instructions about the play money, and space for people to vote for various awards: Most Suspected, Most Amazing Costume, Best Role-Playing, and so on.
I’ll tell you how well the money and trivia games worked below.
Since I knew these questions and votes (and later on, notes on the mystery) would require writing, I purchased a couple of packs of pens, both black and colored. Getting clipboards for each guest would be expensive, so I went with getting a pack of chipboard. I even got some of the colored pens back at the end of the party. I’ll use those for my own art projects.
I also arranged for a photography station, since I knew a lot of folks would want to preserve the memories of their costumes. I got a photography backdrop. Wolfe Indigo was kind enough to set it up at the party. He warned me that a backdrop of that size would accommodate only two people at most. As you’ll see from the photos, he was right.
If you remember the start of this blog post, I did a complete costume change when I was a victim at my last murder-mystery party. I considered being the victim to do the same thing again, but after 15 seconds of thought I realized that as the host I couldn’t be away from the party long enough for a costume change.
I glanced through the cards in the PDFs just enough to determine which character was the victim. There was one potential guest who I knew was as into costuming as I was. When “V” RSVP’ed, I contacted them and asked if they’d consider playing the role of the victim. They enthusiastically consented.
V decided to play the victim role in the manner MyMysteryParty suggested: To come back as a non-speaking ghost. After V’s “body” was discovered, V changed into an all-white version of the same costume they’d been wearing. They then proceeded to creep out other guests through silent stares and body language.
I knew that I was going to end the evening with a drum circle, and told the guests in advance. To transition into it, I worked out a bit of theatrics with Peyton Pewter: At the end of the awards, I said, “And now, the final award, for the most persistent drummer goes to–“. Peyton didn’t let me finish the sentence; he just started drumming. He got the drumming started and won an award at the same moment!
There was one more fun surprise. This one involved Ashton Jade, and I’ll describe it below.
There was one unwelcome surprise: As I mentioned above, some roles in the mystery are “key” roles; the story can’t proceed without them. When casting the roles, I tried to be sure that the most reliable people I knew were given those roles. (I myself took a key role, to be sure.)
On the day of the party, one of people with a key role tole me they couldn’t make it. It was a health issue, and I wished them well, but it left me a slot to fill. The role was Reese Cerulean, so I started by looking at those guests who might have already purchased a blue costume. I contacted the first one I saw on my list, and she accepted.
That was how the Guest Formerly Known As Robyn Teal became Reese Cerulean. She only had a couple of hours to prepare, and she did an excellent job, really getting into the role!
There was an unexpected surprise: a stranger showed up. I was confused; I thought she might have come to dispute the hall rental. It turned out that she’d seen in the event in the hall’s rental list and decided to check it out.
I left it to others to describe what was going on. At one point I overheard her say with anticipation, “Is it possible that I could be the murderer?”
As it turned out, she could have been. Finn Burgundy had to leave just before we started read to the cards for Round Three. I asked the stranger to read Finn’s card in Finn’s stead.
During the drumming, the stranger danced with us.
In no way was this advertised as an open event. I’m not sure what she expected or if there might be consequences down the line. But she did leave her email address and asked to be notified of any future events like this.
She might have to wait ten years.
Before the mystery
Most of the guests arrived a bit early; I’d said they could if they wanted to help me set up. At my previous parties, many guests had a problem absorbing the idea of role-playing. At this party, to my delight, the guests got into their roles the moment they walked through the door.
The trivia contest went better than I hoped. I did not anticipate that the players would form teams and share whether the answers applied to them. It gave people something to do for first hour of the party, before the mystery started: “Yes, I’m taking Tae Kwon Do. How about the rest of you?”
Avery Lemon and Wolfe Indigo.
Wolfe won the award for gaining the most play money at the end of the night. It was a beautiful bluff: He walked up to everyone and said, “I don’t understand how we’re supposed to get more money.” So people handed him money to show him!
As the evening progressed, something fascinating happened: Whole new stories developed that had were not on players’ cards. Examples:
Charlie Perwinkle made a deal with Maria Lime to dump well-wrapped six-foot-long parcels out at sea and not ask any questions.
Riley White paid Furen Copper to tell Freddie Fuchsia that there was nothing wrong with her horse Dark Sail.
As Riley White, I made a deal with Danny Magenta to handle my social media presence for the next election.
I pointed out to Mel Mauve that if Omari Black got the lead anchor role at CBC news that she (Black) would have influence on what new shows got on the network.
With all the role-playing, I think few folks made a serious effort to solve the mystery. I shared the clues on my card to whomever asked. I remember Tele Taupe, Drew Golden, and Madison Scarlet trying to put the facts together.
As we sat down for Round Three, I asked for a vote for who people thought was the murderer. Most people picked me, but I declined the award since I was the host. I gave the award to the second-most suspected character, Logan Plum.
We then read the Round Three cards. Whodunnit? “M”, of course!
The big finish
There were some other awards, then we went over the trivia contest. The answers surprised me: It turned out there was more than one person who had fed a tiger. There was some friendly debate over what constituted a shipwreck; my final decision is that if someone made jokes about a three-hour tour, it was a shipwreck.
When we got to “how many at this party had LARPed” one of the guests (I believe it was Maria Lime) pointed out that everyone here had LARPed… at this party. I realized she was right. Brad Olive objected, saying that the question clearly was about the time before the contest. I had to reply, “You were role-playing at the moment you walked in through the door. You were LARPing! You are a LARPer! I call thee LARP!” He conceded the point.
But the trivia discussion was, in part, a smoke-screen. Its purpose was to give Ashton Jade a chance to sneak off and change into a belly-dancing costume. When the drumming started (remember the theatrics with Peyton Pewter?) Ashton Jade jumped into the circle and started dancing.
I pulled out my drums and other percussion instruments and started handing them to people. Some joined in the music, others in the dance, and others watched or talked or whatever. In other words, a typical finalé to a party, though a standard beginning to a pagan celebration.
I created award certificates using Microsoft Powerpoint. They came out fairly well, I thought.
After printing them all out, on the day before the party I realized I spelled the word as “EXCELLANCE” on the seal in the lower right. I quickly revised the certificates and used Staples to print them out on card stock. A couple of folks commented that misspelling “EXCELLENCE” was a cute joke, but I wanted it done right.
To the best of my recollection, here’s who won the various awards:
Celebration Dedication 
Portraying the Victim
Being the Murderer
Most Gentlemanly Costume
Most Ladylike Costume
Most Amazing Costume
Gaining the Most Money
Most Trivia Questions Answered Correctly
Cleaning Up After the Party
Too many to remember, but they all got awards
 “Dedication” in this case meant she was at my 40th, 50th, and 60th birthday parties. Such a long time putting up with me surely deserves an award.
It was in the rental hall contract to leave the place at least as clean as we found it. About 10 people stayed late and made sure everything was spic-and-span. (If any of those folks did not get a certificate, let me know.)
It was only when I got home that I discovered that the clean-up crew had put almost three trays of leftovers into my car. SO MUCH FOOD! I spooned it into plastic Chinese take-out containers I’d saved and put it in my freezer.
It’s almost two weeks later and I’m still having the leftovers for dinner. I’ve got at least another week’s worth to go.
One last thanks
I’ve thanked a lot of people for helping me out. It was an amazing experience, and it was my guests who made it so.
My final thanks goes to Dr. Bon Blossman, the author of the Ravenwood Masquerade Murder. We didn’t play the game the way you intended and we didn’t follow the solution to the mystery. We still had fun!
In my prior miniature-painting post, I said that my collection of contrast paints lacked lighter blues and purples. The last three paints listed above certainly satisfy that need. However, see my discussion of contrast medium below.
I didn’t expect much of an effect of Apothecary White over the gray zenithal. While the effect isn’t extraordinary, it is there. There are some spectral miniatures in both Tainted Grail and Etherfields, so I think I’ll find it useful.
The golden Dwarf
In that last post, I presented a Dwarf that I painted with a “silver zenithal.” I talked about doing this same thing with golden metallics. Here’s the result, using a base of Vallejo Tinny Tin, a 45° spray of Vallejo Bright Bronze, and a 0° spray of Vallejo Polished Gold:
Here’s the silver Dwarf from that last post:
In the photos these two show about the same amount of contrast, but in person the golden Dwarf looks almost too reflective. I felt a need to tone it down. So I experimented with contrast medium.
In painting, a “medium” is a color-neutral fluid you add to paint to change its characteristics in some way. Any acrylic paint can be thinned by adding water, but that might change the paint’s qualities: drying time, glossy vs. matte, viscosity, etc. For example, I frequently use both an airbrush thinner and a flow improver to help get my thick or metallic paints to spray smoothly through my airbrush. (For more on this topic, here are short and long explanations.)
That leads us to contrast medium. Mixing this with contrast paint will reduce the intensity of the color (since the pigment fragments will be farther apart) while leaving the flow characteristics unchanged. Here’s a video explanation of how it works.
As I looked at the golden Dwarf, I thought I’d try to use contrast medium to thin the color of one of my green contrast paints. I knew from the video that mixing medium and paint 1:1 would result in something like a wash or a glaze. My goal was to let the mixture flow over the gold and into the mini’s cracks and crevices, to give the effect of verdigris.
I chose to mix the medium with Creed Camo. Here’s the picture from my previous mini post of how that looks undiluted:
I mixed that shade with contrast medium in equal proportion, and brushed it over the golden Dwarf. I left the Dwarf’s barrel untouched so I could see the effect.
It wasn’t the result I expected, but I like what I got. It “aged” the gold in a way that made it look old copper or bronze. I might have achieved a similar effect with a green wash, but the green washes I’ve got have a brighter tone that I don’t think would have looked the same.
I could also use contrast medium to “lighten up” the very dark contrast paints I showed in my previous post. This is Leviadon Blue on the left and Shyish Purple on the right.
Mixing paint to medium in a 4:1 ratio would lighten these shades. I might test this effect eventually.
Now I’ve got a new technique in my “sloppy painting” toolbox. I’m now curious how it would look if I took the silver zenithal I show above and use a thinned contrast paint over that. If I used red, might it look rusty? If I used blue or purple, would it look like a magic aura?
I invite my friends (new and old, near and far) to my 60th birthday party.
Date: Saturday, December 7, 2019
Time: 6PM – 11PM
Location: This is a public blog post, so I’ll send the address separately. It’s the same place as my 40th and 50th birthday parties, and a few Yule celebrations.
The event: A professionally-published murder mystery, set during a masquerade ball.
If you’d like to come, please respond by Tuesday November 5 (Election Day!) with the information below. You can reach me via email, send me a message via Facebook, or text/call; my contact information hasn’t changed in 20 years. (I advise against replying directly to this WordPress blog post, as it’s visible to the public.)
Guests are welcome, especially those friends who did not see this invitation either via Facebook or email.
For each person who’s coming, I’d like to know the following information.
Your postal address, so I can send you game materials in advance.
An email address so your fellow players can contact you in-character before the party. If you only want to be contacted some other way, tell me; bear in mind that some of the other guests don’t use Facebook.
Your level of commitment to the mystery:
Category 1: “The show must go on! Neither daemons pouring from the gates of hell nor hosts of angels with flaming swords shall bar my way to Ravenwood Castle!”
People in Category 1 will receive key roles. One of them may be a tragic victim. One of them may be a foul murderer.
Category A: “Stuff happens. I plan to be there, but I can’t make a firm commitment.”
If you choose Category A, you’ll be in a role that offers clues to solving the mystery. You’ll be missed if you’re not there, but the other guests can forge on.
Category Alpha: “It’s hard for me to commit in advance. I might not even know if I can make it until a few hours before the party, or I could be late.”
Those in Category Alpha will have auxiliary characters. If you can make it, you’ll be able to participate and provide more clues. Who knows? Your character might even be innocent of any wrong-doing.
The characters have color-based names (e.g., Finn Burgundy, Reese Cerulean). The game suggests people wear costumes and masks of that color to identify themselves. Let me know if you’d like me to help out with your mask.
(You don’t have to come in costume, or even wear a mask. I’ll have name tags for everyone.)
We’ll coordinate food (it will be semi-potluck) and rides (e.g., more than one person may be coming from Philly) as we get closer to the date of the party.
Remember: NO PRESENTS! My response to any presents will be Shakespearean.
As I promised in an earlier post, here’s a set of photos of my test work on painting Dwarf Brewers. I ordered about twenty of these miniatures via Amazon, and I believe those orders had to be distributed among several different game stores. If those stores wondered what one person wanted with all those Dwarves, this post will show you.
I should acknowledge that there are better comparisons between the different colors of Citadel Contrast Paints; here’s my favorite. But I felt I needed to see the results in real life, painted in the way I’ll apply the colors to my own miniatures.
As a reminder, these are base zenithal primes over which I applied the contrast paints. (Also: The next planet I create for a science-fiction setting will be named “Zenithal Prime”.)
On the left is tan zenithal, on the right is gray zenithal.
First, the autumnal colors that I painted over tan zenithal.
I’ve got reds, browns, and green a-plenty. However, I should consider getting a light blue and a light purple. Leviadon Blue and Shyish Purple are so dark that they’re almost black. It makes them hard to distinguish from each other.
Contrast paints are meant to be “slopped on” over a white primer. All of the above show the effect of applying contrast paint over zenithal priming. It was only after I took the photographs that I noticed that the paint did not get into all the nooks and crannies of the miniatures; the region under the cap of the Dwarf’s ale mug was particularly problematic. This is a result of my sloppy painting, but it also indicates which paint colors did not flow as smoothly and will requires more attention on future models.
The Metal Dwarf (aka metal zenithal)
All of the above tests and the ones described in my other miniatures posts are fine for applying sundrop to player pieces, miniatures of living creatures, or monsters. But what if I wanted to paint a figure to suggest metal armor?
I was inspired by this video to consider “metallic zenithal”. All the paints were applied with an airbrush. Although the Vallejo metal paints were supposed to be able to be directly applied with airbrush, I found I had to mix an equal amount of flow improver to keep the airbrush from clogging.
Finally a coat of Vallejo Plate Silver sprayed from directly above.
Here’s a comparison between gray zenithal on the left with the silver metallic zenithal on the right.
In the Vince Venturella video I linked above, he continues to refine the metal zenithal with additional shading and highlights. For my part, I’m content to stick with what I’ve got.
I may experiment with a gold metallic zenithal in the future, if I get a miniature for which gold metal looks appropriate.
My miniatures painting tools are packed away in a couple of boxes, waiting for me to make room in a closet somewhere to store them. The next time I anticipate painting minis is when Tainted Grail arrives.
For my 20th, 30th, 40th, and 50th birthday parties, I organized events centered on gaming. As you’ll see if you click on the links in the first sentence, for my 40th and 50th I set up a LARP party. For my 60th birthday party, I’m going to take a simpler approach and host a murder mystery.
This is not an invitation to that party, at least not yet. This is to get a general idea of how many of my friends would like to come.
All I know right now is the date of the party: Saturday, December 7, 2019; the place is somewhere in the Rockland County/Bergen Country area. The exact location, the setting of the mystery, and other details depend on how many are coming. I’m leaning towards a masquerade party, but we’ll see.
If you’d like to come to my 60th birthday party, please let me know.
Please let me know before mid-October.
You can reach me via Facebook, or send me e-mail, or text me, or call. None of my contact information has changed in the past 20 years.
If you reply to this WordPress blog post, please leave your name. Otherwise the only thing I’ll see is the IP address, which won’t be enough for me to know who you are.
Guests are fine, but please let me know how many would be coming with you. The total number of people affects the location of the party and possibly the mystery’s setting as well.
I’m not asking for a commitment to attend, just general interest. I will ask for a commitment when I start assigning roles for the mystery.
Unlike the adventures of my last three birthday parties, which I wrote, the mystery will come from a professional publisher. Even I won’t know whodunnit.
I was a dick about this at my 40th. I was a total dick about this at my 50th. I’m prepared to go completely Richard III at my 60th.
I don’t want stuff. I have enough stuff. Friends and laughter and back rubs are what are important to me at this point in my life.
One more time:
I first met Geela Naiman in the early 1980s. There was an SF fan gathering at my house. Sherry Nehmer, an editor at Analog, was the featured speaker. Near the end of Nehmer’s talk, a friend of hers arrived to drive her home. That friend was Geela, though I didn’t hear her name at the time.
After he rose to fan prominence, I joked about Geela’s name: We had to keep Geela Naiman from ever meeting her anti-matter duplicate, Neil Gaiman. According to a Star Trek episode, if they ever met the universe would be destroyed. Since the universe still exists, I guess we dodged a bullet.
A few years later, in 1987, I was working on my thesis experiment at Fermilab near Chicago. One of my fellow grad students was Walter. After I moved to Nyack to perform the data analysis of my experiments, I met more of Walter’s friends and became a part of that circle: Geela, John, Deborah, and Jon. Typically we played D&D together and visited Ren Faires.
John and Geela got married. They held two wedding ceremonies, one for their family and friends in the NY/NJ area, and another for those in the Chicago area. I was one of the few who attended both ceremonies.
As an outgrowth of our D&D games, I suggested that we join a LARP. Here we are:
Geela played a Halfling Rogue, Periwinkle Pipe. For her role, Geela wore a gray hooded cloak and sneakers that she covered with fur. The fun thing about adventuring with Geela is that she didn’t need any special “rogue skills” for the game. When she walked through the woods dressed in her costume, you really couldn’t see her, even when she was part of our party and we knew where she was!
After a few years, the Bronze Rose group faded and they stopped coming to LAIRE.
Geela entered a more difficult time in her life. She’d had bouts of mental illness before, and they finally reached a point where she had to go on full disability. She occasionally stayed in hospitals during that time. John stood by her and did what he could.
Eventually Geela and John got divorced. It was not only mutual, it was better for both of them. In the years afterward, they’d describe themselves as “happily divorced” and say they were a much better couple now than they had been when they were married.
I hosted my 40th birthday party in 1999. It was a LARP party. Geela came dressed as her character from LAIRE, but in a more colorful outfit suitable for celebration. Here she is, dancing during a Bardic Circle we held:
A couple of weeks after that party, Geela invited me over to her place. John was there, but he left early and I was a bit surprised. Later, I achieved understanding when Geela made a pass at me. I joyfully intercepted.
We dated for a year or so. During that time she attended some Wiccan events with me. She liked the people and the mood, but there were elements of the rituals that bothered her; for example, everyone saluting the Quarters in unison. I accepted that Wicca was not for her. It surprised me in 2002 when she attended Free Spirit Gathering, but in short rations: she stayed with Sherry Nehmer (who lived nearby) overnight, and only attended the bonfire once. For her, the wild moment of the event was when Vann painted a few simple vines her arm.
She was the one who ended our relationship. She was growing closer to her family and community, and they were Orthodox Jews. They’d never accept her dating a Wiccan. Even if I’d been willing (and I was not) to pretend to be Orthodox in their presence, for years she’d told them stories about her friend Bill the Wiccan. A switch on my part would simply not be believable.
We remained friends, though.
With her LARP experience, I thought Geela would enjoy attending Mystic Realms. She attended an event and enjoyed it, though not enough to come back. What I remember most about her visit is her leaving early and getting into difficulty. She was in the parking lot and getting her car out, when she suddenly felt weak and disoriented. I went to her, and we raided the kitchen to get her something to eat. Presently she felt better and was able to drive home.
At a later visit to my place, she commented that what she experienced at MR was one of the symptoms of her mental illness. She said it most often occurred when she was in a supermarket. She’d be a food aisle and trying to make choices, and then gray out or feel disassociated.
I commented, “To a diabetic everything seems like diabetes, but what happened at MR and at the supermarket sounds an awful lot like low blood sugar. May I use my kit to measure it?” She consented, and I got a reading of 50. For comparison, 80 is normal for most people who haven’t eaten, and we had eaten a little while before. I strongly advised her to see a doctor.
She did. The doctor took her blood sugar, saw the reading, then immediately walked out of the office. He came back with a muffin and told her “Eat this now!” She was diagnosed with hypoglycemia and was given medication for it.
I was glad I was able to help her, but I was also furious. Geela had real mental problems, and I don’t mean to diminish them. But she was also being treated as if her physical problem of low blood sugar was a psychological disorder. She was in a hospital and being treated by doctors. Why didn’t they recognize the symptoms when Geela described them? Were they so focused on mental illness that they couldn’t recognize the obvious?
Let’s shift the focus back to Geela and her love of Judaism.
I’d invite Geela every year to my Passover seder. She came to my first one in 1994, but since then she attended the one given by her family. For some reason, she was available just once in the early 2000s. She came, and my seders forever changed.
My seders are based on the practices of my family that I learned in the 60s. Geela brought ideas with her that I’d never learned: Miriam’s Cup (an acknowledgement of women in Judaism), the orange on the seder tray (an acknowledgement of gays and lesbians in Judaism). But what made the greatest impression is what we later called the “Rocky Horror Plagues.” My family had solemnly listed the ten plagues and left it at that. Geela brought with her a “ten plagues kit” with props for us to play with and scripts for us to read.
Since then, I’ve had my own kit that I bring to each Passover. For a while the hosts of my seders could look forward to cleaning up plastic locusts for a few days after each ceremony. I’ve since graduated to ten-plagues finger puppets. None of that would have happened without Geela.
Going into the 2010s, I saw Geela less frequently. We’d make plans to visit, but most of the time she had to cancel due to illness, mental or physical. I got the impression that life was getting harder for her. The last time I saw her was when she and John paid me a visit during my medical convalescence.
Last Sunday, John wrote me to let me know that Geela passed away on the evening of Saturday, September 14, 2019. She will be buried in Israel on Tuesday, September 17.
So it goes.
One of my students learned a few years ago that they were technically Jewish through matrilineal descent, even though none of their family in that line practiced Judaism. That student had become more interested in their Jewish heritage.
On the night Geela passed away, there was a Wiccan gathering at my place. The discussion had turned to hamsas. I had a hamsa sitting on a cabinet. It had been a gift from my mother. It was pretty, with a ying-yang symbol in the palm and several pieces of colored glass around the base of the palm. It had a Hebrew inscription, which I did not know how to read. On the back was printed “Made in Israel.”
I picked it up. I told the student, “I’ve had this for years, and I’ve never used it or carried it. If you’d like to have it, to connect you with Judaism or for any other reason, please take it.” They did.
I think Geela would have been pleased. I am saddened that my student will never get a chance to meet Geela and share their heritage with each other.