Category Archives: playing with toys

NPC’s (Non-Player Characters)

In Dungeons and Dragons games you are trying to bring characters to imaginary life by getting into their deformed, powerful, or magic-filled heads and walking around in a very dangerous imaginary world.  You have to be them.  You have to think like them and talk like them.  You have to love what they love, decide what they do, and live and die for them.  They become real people to you.  Well… as real as imaginary people can ever become.

But there are actually two distinct types of characters.

These, remember, are the Player Characters.  My two sons and my daughter provide them with their persona, personality, and personhood.   They are the primary actors in the stage play in the theater of the mind which is D & D.

But there are other characters too.  In fact, a whole complex magical world full of other characters.  And as the Dungeon Master, I am the one who steps into their weird and wacky imaginary skins to walk around and be them at least until the Player Characters decide to fireball them, abandon them to hungry trolls, or bonk them on the top of their little horned heads.  I get to inhabit an entire zoo of strange and wonderful creatures and people.

Besides the fact that these Non-Player Characters can easily lead you to develop multiple personality disorder, they are useful in telling the story in many different ways.  Some are friendly characters that may even become trusted travel companions for the Player Characters.

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D & D has a battle system based on controlling the outcomes of the roll of the dice with complex math and gained experience.  In simpler terms, there is a lot of bloody whacking with swords and axes that has to take place.  You need characters like that both to help you whack your enemies and to be the enemies you get to whack.  There is a certain joy to solving your problems with mindless whacking with a sword.  And yet, the story is helped when the sword-whackers begin to develop personalities.

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Crazy Mervin, for example, began life as a whackable monster that could easily have been murdered by the Player Characters in passing while they were battling the evil shape-changing Emerald Claw leader, Brother Garrow.

But Gandy befriended him and turned him from the evil side by feeding him and sparing him when it really counted.  He became a massively powerful ax-whacker for good because Gandy got on his good side.  And stupid creatures like Mervin possess simple loyalties.  He helped the players escape the Dark Continent of Xendrick with their lives and is now relied upon heavily to help with combat.  He was one of the leaders of the charge on the gate when the Players conquered the enthralled Castle Evernight.

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Not every NPC is a whackable monster, however.  In the early stages of the campaign the Players needed a magic-user who could read magic writing, use detection spells and shielding spells and magic missiles, and eventually lob fireballs on the bigger problems… like dragons.

Druaelia was the wizard I chose to give the group of heroes to fulfill these magical tasks.  Every D & D campaign requires wizarding somewhere along the way.  And Dru was a complex character from the start.  Her fire spells often went awry.  When Fate used a magic flaming crossbow bolt to sink a ship he was defending, killing the good guys right along with the bad guys, it was with a magic crossbow bolt crafted by Druaelia.  Her fire spells went nuclear-bad more than once.  She had to learn along the way that her magical abilities tended more towards ice and snow than fire.  She learned to become a powerful wielder of cold powers.  And while she was comfortable in a bikini-like dress that drove the boys wild because she grew to love the cold, she didn’t particularly like the attentions of men and male creatures that went along with that.  More than one random bandit or bad guy learned the hard way not leer at Dru.  There are just certain parts of the anatomy you really don’t want frozen.

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The Player Characters will need all sorts of help along the way, through travels and adventures and dangerous situations.  They will meet and need to make use of many different people and creatures.  And as Dungeon Master I try hard to make the stories lean more towards solving the problems of the story with means other than mere whacking with swords.   Sometimes that need for help from others can even lead you into more trouble.

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But as I am now nearing the 800 word mark on a 500 word essay, I  will have to draw it all to a close.  There is a lot more to say about NPC’s from our game.  They are all me and probably are proof of impending insanity.  But maybe I will tell you about that the next time we sit down together at the D & D table.

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Filed under characters, Dungeons and Dragons, family, goofy thoughts, heroes, humor, Paffooney, photo paffoonies, playing with toys

Troll Time at the Local Doll House

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You know that old doll house that my wife rescued for me?  You don’t?  Well, about six or seven years ago she spotted it on the sidewalk with a pile of other trash waiting for the city garbage collectors.  She asked the homeowner about it.  It was a kit they had bought at Michael’s but never finished, so my wife immediately thought, “My goofy old husband collects dolls all the time, so he will love this.”

“Take it,” said the homeowner, “It’s a shame to have to throw it out.”

So she brought it home and gave it to me.  I of course, collect twelve inch dolls and action figures, none of which fit in a doll house of this particular scale.  So it had to sit practically empty for a space of about four years.  Then my daughter got tired of some of the small Happy Meal dolls that she had gotten from McDonald’s when she was a wee gamin.  (Yes, that’s a real thing… you can look it up.)  I acquired two mostly naked Mini-Barbies, and four other doll-house size dolls, two baseball players and a Lullaby League Girl from Oz, along with a small Winkie Soldier.  Then Dreamworks did the Trolls movie.

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They began moving in by two different routes, these trolls.  Teacher Troll and Baby Troll and Big Troll, whose hair in the back is the only visible part of him… or possibly her, moved in from where I found them in kids’ bedrooms and the garage while cleaning.  I used to keep a stash of them to give out as classroom prizes back in the 90’s.  I bought the movie Trolls from Walmart at $5 a shot over a bunch of weeks between Thanksgiving and last weekend.  The empty spaces where I didn’t even have appropriate doll furniture were now being filled by Trolls.

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In the downstairs bedroom you can see the little yellow Troll has joined Naked Mini-Barbie, the Lullaby-Leaguer, Ceramic Book-Lovin’ Bear and the Angel who used to hold my wedding ring.  (I could never wear it due to arthritis, and it eventually got lost in the move from South Texas to Dallas.)  (Yes, I know it is not a good thing to lose your wedding ring, but it is possible my wife sold it so she could shop for a better husband.  At least, that’s what she told me while she was really angry.)  (And yes, I know I’m supposed to be talking about Trolls taking over my doll house, but I actually like bird-walking while telling such stories.  It lends such every-day Mickey-ness to the story.)

c360_2017-02-24-13-18-52-533The baseball player in the upstairs sitting room where nobody sits, once spent an entire winter at the bottom of the swimming pool.  That’s why his blue uniform turned a bit putrid green.  He stays in this room with my Wish-nik Troll from 1967 and the Winkie Soldier from Oz, who is naturally green in the face and never took a swim.

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Also upstairs are my Troll-topped Pez dispensers, two more movie Trolls, and the former Teacher Troll who lost her apple and my daughter gave a modelling clay diaper to for modesty’s sake which has long since melted a bit (the diaper, not the modesty).

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And at the top of it all, in the attic, are the two movie Trolls that I bought first and started this whole Troll-collection nonsense.  So now the doll house is no longer empty.  But the Trolls are beginning to complain that there is no paint on the walls, and I really ought to do something about that before they take matters into their own hands.  You never know what they might do in the middle of the night when nobody is looking.

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Filed under action figures, doll collecting, goofiness, humor, playing with toys

Don’t Think Too Much

These days my head works overtime, filling itself up with memories, fears, complicated notions, and problems that need to be solved.

Today I need to uncomplicate the clutter in the entryway to the thinking room (what you might call a study) in the quaint little labyrinth of my stupidly dense and moronic, overworked little mind.

Today I am simply going to re-compose my 1965 letter to Santa to ask for things I should’ve wanted, rather than the junk I asked for.

Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots! Yes! Those would help me relieve that 9-year-old’s stress I earned by a foolish insistance on spelling words the way they sounded instead of the way that would get it right on Miss Mennenga’s spelling tests.

Punching things more might’ve made it easier to cope with a 9-year-old life.

But there are things in the 1965 Monkey Ward’s Christmas Catalog I saw, and maybe would’ve played with more than the G.I. Joe junk I was obsessed with, and would’ve been better for me in the long run. The rubber G.I. Joe scuba suit I got that Christmas melted a couple of years later in the box I was keeping it in when I left it on the back window ledge of the 1961 Ford Fairlane. I could’ve tried…

Gumby, dammit!

He wouldn’t have melted. He would’ve simply galvanized into a brick-hard substance that would never bend again, the way my little sister’s red Gumby did a couple of years later. Maybe a brick hard green Gumby couldn’t have been played with either. But it would’ve been useful for throwing at sisters when I was mad.

And I could’ve gotten my own Barbie and Ken.

Then I wouldn’t have had to borrow my sister’s dolls to look at them naked and marvel at how much they didn’t look like real people naked. Or practice making hangmen’s nooses from bright-colored yarn, sentence them to hang by the neck from the bottom rails of the upper bunk, and blame it all on my little brother. (Really he should get all the credit anyway, since he and my littlest sister actually got caught doing it the first time by my other sister, and I just stole the whole idea from him.)

I definitely could’ve learned more about the world of 3-D cartoon characters if I’d gotten one of these. In fact, we, the four of us kids, did get one two Christmases later. I know a heckuva lot about 3-D Woody Woodpecker, looking at those six discs a thousand times each.

And building toys like these kept us fascinated for hours.

And we argued for hours more whenever Mickey built a helicopter or a submarine or a windmill that he didn’t want the other three to take apart again to build something else.

This thing was great at teaching patience and focus. You wouldn’t believe how easily the pen would slip, or the little gear teeth wouldn’t mesh properly. The few bad words I actually knew in 1967 got practiced too often for these very reasons. It would be two more years in the future that we got one of these to share too.

In 1965, Dear Santa, you should’ve thought more about how to train an evil little mind than how to make a little G.I. Joe-obsessed boy happy.

Although, you sure did get it right in 1966 with that Mercury Capsule for G.I. Joe.

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Filed under autobiography, nostalgia, oldies, playing with toys

Rise of the Bargain Bin Goon – Part 2

The vile Greek God of computer malfunctions, Sparkensputter Failtolodicuss, put his curse on this post yesterday as I almost had it completed.  He waved his dead skunk, the symbol of his unique power, and made WordPress delete my work and instantly save the changes.  I did some cussing and vowed to try and reassemble the post today.  It was intended to be a continuation of Action Figure Cartoons, starring Captain Action.  We shall see if Sparkensputter manages to thwart me again today.  He is hell at thwarting.

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So here is a brief and goofy explanation of what has happened so far.  Captain Carl Action and the Action Guy Action Team defeated the evil Dr. Evil as he tried to take over Mickey’s library.  You can find that whole mess in Mickey’s vault by clicking here.

Captain Carl Action not only defeated the evil Dr. Evil, he removed and stole Dr. Evil’s evil removable brain.  So Emperor Ming of Mongo, an evil incarnation of the evil Dr. Evil, came up with a plan to retrieve the brain by un-boxing one of Mickey’s mint-in-box bargain bin dolls… er, action figures.  You can review that whole mess here.

So, that brings us to today’s episode in the seemingly endless story of the sequel of a seemingly endless story.

Captain Carl Action has taken the evil brain of the evil Dr. Evil to the Action Guy Action Team Headquarters in the Fortress of Ineptitude, located on top of a useless computer in Mickey’s studio.

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As seen in this dramatic scene, you can probably tell that the Action Guy Action Team Headquarters is run by the Captain Action Council, made up of Captain Action in his Flash Gordon costume, the mint-in-box Captain Victor Action, and the vintage Captain Action in his Steve Canyon costume.  You can also probably tell by Steve Canyon’s goofy brain-eating bug comment that none of them are any brighter than Captain Carl Action.  They have all decided to rely on the dolls of Mickey’s big-headed dolls collection.  That decision also reeks of lack of brightness.

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Captain Carl Action has once again delegated primary responsibility for the situation to a group of dolls who are very good at guarding Crackerjacks.  It was fortunate that DC Comics recently released a new set of DC Super Hero Girls to attract Mickey’s collecting OCD.  It meant that big-headed Supergirl was available now to be an actual super-powered guardian.  Still, she had to find a strategy that would succeed.  So she turned to her crackerjack team for advice.

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Now, I hate to second-guess Supergirl, but why is she asking an evil bunny for advice?  And how did an evil bunny even get on to a gig like being part of the big-headed dolls’ crackerjack team?

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Shelf of Severed Heads?!!!?  That doesn’t sound right.

 

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Oh, my!  This is really not looking good for our heroes.  Stay tuned until next time… whenever the heck that is… same batty time, same batty channel.  And phooey on you,  Sparkensputter Failtolodicuss!

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Filed under action figures, cartoons, collecting, doll collecting, goofiness, humor, playing with toys

This is What Happens When You Leave a Crazy Old Retired Guy Alone With a Doll Collection and a Camera

Yes, I know this is supposed to be a Saturday Art Day Post, but you can make art in many different ways. That can include pictures made with a camera while I play with dolls… er… action figures and try horrifically to be funny. There is an art to that, right? Maybe?

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Filed under action figures, artwork, cartoony Paffooney, comic book heroes, comic strips, doll collecting, humor, Paffooney, photo paffoonies, playing with toys

Don’t Think Too Much

These days my head works overtime, filling itself up with memories, fears, complicated notions, and problems that need to be solved.

Today I need to uncomplicate the clutter in the entryway to the thinking room (what you might call a study) in the quaint little labyrinth of my stupidly dense and moronic, overworked little mind.

Today I am simply going to re-compose my 1965 letter to Santa to ask for things I should’ve wanted, rather than the junk I asked for.

Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots! Yes! Those would help me relieve that 9-year-old’s stress I earned by a foolish insistance on spelling words the way they sounded instead of the way that would get it right on Miss Mennenga’s spelling tests.

Punching things more might’ve made it easier to cope with a 9-year-old life.

But there are things in the 1965 Monkey Ward’s Christmas Catalog I saw, and maybe would’ve played with more than the G.I. Joe junk I was obsessed with, and would’ve been better for me in the long run. The rubber G.I. Joe scuba suit I got that Christmas melted a couple of years later in the box I was keeping it in when I left it on the back window ledge of the 1961 Ford Fairlane. I could’ve tried…

Gumby, dammit!

He wouldn’t have melted. He would’ve simply galvanized into a brick-hard substance that would never bend again, the way my little sister’s red Gumby did a couple of years later. Maybe a brick hard green Gumby couldn’t have been played with either. But it would’ve been useful for throwing at sisters when I was mad.

And I could’ve gotten my own Barbie and Ken.

Then I wouldn’t have had to borrow my sister’s dolls to look at them naked and marvel at how much they didn’t look like real people naked. Or practice making hangmen’s nooses from bright-colored yarn, sentence them to hang by the neck from the bottom rails of the upper bunk, and blame it all on my little brother. (Really he should get all the credit anyway, since he and my littlest sister actually got caught doing it the first time by my other sister, and I just stole the whole idea from him.)

I definitely could’ve learned more about the world of 3-D cartoon characters if I’d gotten one of these. In fact, we, the four of us kids, did get one two Christmases later. I know a heckuva lot about 3-D Woody Woodpecker, looking at those six discs a thousand times each.

And building toys like these kept us fascinated for hours.

And we argued for hours more whenever Mickey built a helicopter or a submarine or a windmill that he didn’t want the other three to take apart again to build something else.

This thing was great at teaching patience and focus. You wouldn’t believe how easily the pen would slip, or the little gear teeth wouldn’t mesh properly. The few bad words I actually knew in 1967 got practiced too often for these very reasons. It would be two more years in the future that we got one of these to share too.

In 1965, Dear Santa, you should’ve thought more about how to train an evil little mind than how to make a little G.I. Joe-obsessed boy happy.

Although, you sure did get it right in 1966 with that Mercury Capsule for G.I. Joe.

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Filed under autobiography, nostalgia, oldies, playing with toys

Cardboard Castle Art

Slaying a blue dragon wasn’t the biggest event at the cardboard castle, but it was among the most memorable.
All sorts of people show up to parties I hold there. Of course, the guests don’t really have a choice in the matter.
Celebrities make an appearance if I can afford them. Mickey and Minnie cost me less than five dollars.
The place isn’t actually Hogwarts. It’s made of cardboard. I believe Hogwarts was made of polystyrene.
All sorts of heroes try to save the day in the cardboard castle.
Heroes at the cardboard castle are made, not born.
Sometimes the cast is a bit crazy.’
It is possible to take the Snowball Express from the castle to Toonerville. Mickey and Minnie are always ready to jump in front of the camera.
Of course, a few evil wizards are essential to the game.
Voldemort may have mistaken the place for Hogwarts too.
Sometimes I question the prevailing religion at cardboard castle. But Princess Jasmine seems to be fine with it.
But the old castle is a bit run down in parts of it. Maybe Princess Aurora can convince the Prince to invest in a few wall repairs.

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Filed under artwork, humor, making cardboard castles, Paffooney, photo paffoonies, playing with toys

Art Day – Book-shelf Town

My model railroad layout used to feature a model town I called Toonerville. The town continues to exist as models I have built and/or painted sitting on book shelves and tables.
The streets of Toonerville are narrow, but basically book-shelf straight.
Some folks who live there are poor. The old woman who lives in a shoe is one of those.
The residents of the big house on Mel Gibson Street are relatively rich.
But all the residents of Toonerville are plastic people.
The plastic people of Toonerville have a movie theater to go to, but The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart is the only movie that plays there. It hasn’t changed in 40 years.
There’s also a theater in what used to be Chester Wizenut’s barn, but it is closed for winter and winter has lasted for twenty years in Toonerville.
In downtown Toonerville, the clocks never move, and they aren’t even correct twice a day.
The Congregational Church was moved downstairs for repairs.
Grandma Wortle’s house, Lemon-Sucker Manor, is large and wealthy-looking, but the old lady who lives there is such a miser, she makes Scrooge look like Santa Claus.
But Toonerville is a happy place with more than one trolley car, and it makes me smile to go there and chill for a while.

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Filed under artwork, humor, photo paffoonies, playing with toys

Christmas Catalogs of the 60s

They came in the mail every November in the 1960’s. Particularly important was the Monkey Ward’s catalog because there was a Montgomery Ward Catalog Store in Belmond on Main Street. Mom and Dad could order, pay for, and pick up things there, particularly Christmas and birthday gifts. The four of us; my little brother, my two younger sisters, and I would argue about who would get to look at it next for hours at a time (the catalog, not the store… although the man who ran the store sold tropical fish in the back, so I could look at that for hours).

I, of course, dog-eared different pages than my sisters Nancy and Mary did. And David was eight years younger than me and was into baby toys, blocks, and books.

Nancy owned the three on the left.
I was nutty about model trains… and so was Dad.

I am amazed at how cheap things were back then compared to now. Of course, things were more easily destroyed because of the cheaper plastics and simpler ingredients and materials common in the 1960’s. So, it is truly amazing how many of those toys I still have. And how many survived me only to be destroyed by my own children.

And it often wasn’t enough to look at just the Monkey Ward’s catalog. (Grandpa Aldrich always called it “Monkey” instead of “Montgomery”, a pretty standard old-farmer joke in the 60’s). Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich always got a copy of the Sears catalog. And we would pour over that to find treasures that Monkey Ward’s didn’t have. That was inconvenient for Mom and Dad. The nearest Sears store was in Mason City, 50 miles northeast.

I was 10 years old in ’66.
Mary Poppins was a 60’s Disney hit.

Just the mention of Christmas catalogs of old when discussing with sisters flashes me back to the time when I was in grade school and Christmas time was all about being good for Santa because… well, toys.

And old Christmas catalogs still fascinate me. I love to look back through ten-year-old Mickey-eyes at a simpler, kinder time. Although, if I’m honest with myself, it probably wasn’t really any better than now. I just choose to believe that it was.

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Filed under autobiography, Barbie and Ken, birthdays, family, humor, nostalgia, playing with toys, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Goofing Along at High Speed

Kong captures a cheerleader to eat and falls in love instead.

There is so much I need to get done. I need to finish mending my yard’s retaining wall before the city decides they can no longer put up with my old-man, do-it-yourself stubbornness.

I need to do my taxes. My wife insists we do them separately now because Trump’s new tax policy costs retired people so much more than previous years that she can no longer put up with my crippling tax burden. I need to know how much Uber-slavery I will have to do to make the IRS less miserly.

Action-Figure Gandalf is upset with wimpy-wizard Mickey.

My status as a wizard is called into question. A wizard should be able to solve problems and overcome anything.

A dragon is ravaging the suburbs? No problem. I can imprison it in a fire-proof giant soap bubble. Aliens invading the DFW metroplex? No problem. I just show them my psoriasis sores and they will worry about getting infected from eating Earth people so they will run back to Zeta Reticuli as fast as their spaceships can fold space.

The Cowardly Lion and Student Witch Hermoine steal the last of my pretzels.

The problem is, it is raining. My old diabetic and arthritic bones are aching from the cold Texas rain. I can’t Uber-drive today. I can’t work on the wall, or let my son work on it either (wet bricks are too easy to drop). I can’t even eat pretzels and write blog posts. My pretzel jar is mysteriously empty. So, you can see, I have no choice but to stay in the nice warm bedroom and play with my dolls… er, action figures. They like posing for photographs and are really good at holding still while I snap the pictures.

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Filed under action figures, doll collecting, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, humor, illness, photo paffoonies, playing with toys