One Saturday, our driveway became an apam balik station. Many visitors came to obtain free apam balik as dessert to go with their meal.
The driveway had been converted because of the wedding feast held by our neighbour to commemorate the wedding between his son and daughter-in-law, and his daughter and son-in-law.
The previous day both Ain and I helped out with the preparing of the food. I helped cut up the beef into small pieces while Ain had her fingertips chemically seared off when she attempted to remove the skin out of a million metric tonnes (or so it seemed) of garlic.
Apparently deskinning a large amount of garlic can be painful to your fingers.
There was a meeting some weeks back and we had given them permission to set up the apam balik station here.
Across the street where the food was being served, an ais batu campur station had also been set up. But we are here today to talk about the apam balik station.
Despite this photo, Irfan was not as enthusiastic about consuming the apam balik as Yong and I were and we both enjoyed the little things greatly.
During the feast, our friends from the nearby who were invited to the wedding also visited our house. It was a pleasant day for everyone.
The second Eid of the year has come and gone. For Hari Raya Haji, we took the bus back to Pasir Mas. But for this Aidiladha post, we focus on games played by Irfan, Aiman and Zara when the cousins rendezvous at their grandparents house in Pondok Lubok Tapah.
Irfan could not wait to meet up with Aiman once again...
...although Irfan had some trouble getting the sand out of his eye at mornings.
The first game they played was one Aiman brought: Monopoly. However I don't think they found any monopole ores.
And now the first week of teaching is over.
What do I have to report?
The students are well-behaved (so far) and are very disciplined, most wearing their dark engineering jacket uniforms. They adhere to procedure quite well to, even if registering for classes seemed to be a haphazard affair. They spent little time appointing a class representative among themselves. And the class reps were easy to communicate with via smartphone messaging apps.
I was quite apprehensive of presenting the module to the students, especially in trying to get the lessons delivered relevant to each class's course as each class belonged to a different engineering or business course, and I had to customise the delivery and how I presented examples to each class. And my gamemastering experience also helped, I believe.
Ultimately I discovered that the key to a good lesson presentation is to brush up one's stand up comedy skills.
When you were a child, you always imagined - no, been compelled to believe - that life is a series of consequent acts that scales up as you experience it. You would expect pieces of your future would fall into place like a linear jigsaw puzzle that solves itself as you grow older.
For example if you started out as a young technician perhaps you would advance into becoming an engineer and perhaps end your professional career as a top level manager or even a CEO of an engineering consultant firm. But on the other hand here I am at 43 and my jigsaw puzzle consists of a collection of discarded pieces from a hundred totally different puzzles.
Throughout my four decades (plus change) of life I have been a extremely short-lived manufacturer and seller of bookmarks, a helicopter technician, a translation company executive, an IT company marketer, a freelance writer, a research assistant, a freelance proofreader, a children books' illustrator, an IT executive, a freelance illustrator, an avionics company techincal manager, a graphic designer, a university translator, a comic artist, a photographer and a language instructor.
Two things: Firstly, my professional life is apparently a series of unfortunate, unconnected, unresolved events, much like a number of the RPG campaigns I have run. And secondly, two of the jobs in the list above are a lie as I have never worked in any of these two job titles. Can you guess which?
Instead of having to ride a bike on a remote road in the early hours of the morning only to face off with a entire family of wild boars once upon a time, I am faced with the following view en route to work now:
Instead of driving all over town in the middle of the night to get a piece of tech repaired by an engineer who is only in the country for a single night before I had to fly to another country with the tech, I have to meet these humans now and try to teach them stuff:
I am still insanely vexed at how I have arrived here, teaching these university students English. Will I succeed? Will I instead produce a new generation of twisted thinkers?
We'll find out if they come for me with a straitjacket before the semester is done.
Update: The report at the end of the first week of teaching has been posted.
Presenting the second Across the Stars commission of the year, made last night: an Impereporter for the Technopapacy.
The caption as written by Christopher Mennell reads: An impereporter prepares to film a congressional sermon lead by the senators of the technopapacy.
The illustration above began as a quick doodle I made during a meeting on Tuesday:
Someone cosplay this!
My latest Hishgraphics Patreon Papermini set has been released!
Download the PDF files at the link above for use in espionage tabletop role-playing games, from Night's Black Agents to Covert Ops! This series of paper miniatures display a group of secret agents in high society (or what I think is high society based on a miasma of movies that merge together in a single mass in my mind) trying to schmooze it up with guns and high tech devices.
As per the previous releases, the Pioneer-class file (with flat colours) is free for download. The Mariner-class (with shaded and highlighted illustrations) and the Voyager-class files (like the Mariner, plus full-sized character artwork!) are also available for patrons.
If I have some time in the next couple of weeks, I will create and release paperminis of mooks for these guys to fight it out with. A follow-up release to this in the future will be spies... in tactical gear!
Can't wait to use this for Covert Ops!
Across the Stars RPG artwork commissions have begun again! Below is the first illustration I made this year for this science fiction project:
According to the caption: A Garçon organizes appropriation documents for Hish, who is worried how much he'll pay in fines for the robot, a crashed starship, and insta-evac from the jungles of newly discovered Xanth.
Episode 08: Doublecross
After their mission to Driscall, bouny hunters Shanna Toarinar and Ace Browning Crossfire along with the pirate Phoenix Avalon were assigned a new pilot, the Quarren hot dogger ace Dorniekke Nels and a temporary member, the elderly former Imperial Star Destroyer Captain Robetre.
Their commander Drew Greyhelm informed them that one of their spies Cal Tynblade had discovered the location of the Imperial transport Rectifier packed with weapons and supplies which had been lost in the Kolben Asteroid Field. They were to commandeer it to the rebel outpost on Liesson for Alliance use.
The Ambush at Kolben
The Nexus Point, piloted by Dorniekke, entered the Kolben field while Ace scanned for the location of the Rectifier. It had been parked in a cave in a large asteroid. Ace and Phoenix donned spacesuits, cycled the airlock and pushed out toward the asteroid in space.
As they close in on the asteroid, three Zero-G stormtroopers a.k.a. spacetroopers, Imperial troops in powered armour, broke cover and began firing at them with their suit cannons. Under fire, Ace and Phoenix fell back to the Point. Four TIE fighters appeared from behind the asteroid. Dorniekke turned and piloted the Point out of the field, evading rocks and cannon fire.
Once they had cleared the asteroids, Shanna pulled the hyperdrive lever and the ship jumped into hyperspace.
Episode 07 Battle Among the Clouds
A CRY FOR HELP FROM IGMALAR! Drew Greyhelm received a signal from Rebel spy Ooogle Flutzgle at the swamp planet of Igmalar in the Enteague Sector. He had important information for the Alliance. Fresh from their mission to Belderone, Shanna Toarninar the bounty hunter and Viveede Briylle Colore the star pilot were assigned to meet the spy in Igmalar City to assess how dire this information was.
The Igmalar City Imperative
Viveede set the Nexus Point down in Igmalar City under a false ship ID. The city administrated the harvesting and processing of pharmaceutical materiel from the swamps of the planet and was crawling with Imperials. The local sapient species were the Grenben, who once built thie city on a mesa that towered over the rest of the swamp and had been reduced to slaves by the Empire.
In the map above, Flutzgle City is the new post-Endor name for Igmalar City.
Their spy and informer Ooogle Flutzgle was a Grenben, a tangle of prehensile vines, leaves and nodules that had been bunched up and shaped into a humanoid containment suit. Like most Grenbens, he wore a macrobinocular sight enhancer fitted onto sensory nodules his hooded mask, photosensitive plant cells enhanced to be their eyes.
Shanna and Viveede found Ooogle in the dark and dingy Blixx Alley, flustered and distressed. The Igmalar native had intercepted a transmission from the Imperial Star Destroyer Detonator, which had been sent to the Driscall system to attack the floating Rebel outpost in the skies of the gas giant there. The outpost was not prepared from the attack and their databanks held many classified information of Rebel activity here in the Enteague Sector. If the databanks fell into Imperial hands, many Rebel cells, cache and safeworlds, and major outposts like their own on Enteague Minor would be discovered and destroyed!
They would not have time to relay the data to Enteague Outpost so Shanna and Viveede had to warn Driscall outpost themselves.
They thanked Ooogle and headed back to the Nexus Point.
En route, a stormtrooper accosted them at the landing bay. The trooper attempted to test his own perception by searching the Point for illegal weapons. Fortunately for the two Rebels, his senses were just as bad as a Sljee with a flu.
Once the Nexus Point soared out into space, leaving Igmalar behind them, the Imperial Customs Frigate Tormentor made a move to intercept them in orbit. A crummy random inspection! Viveede feigned compliance, but as soon as calculations were made, Shanna pulled the hyperdrive levers and the Nexus Point launched itself into hyperspace.
The Ghost Town on Driscall!
The Nexus Point, upon detecting no Imperial Star Destroyer in orbit, glided between the blue skies above and the pinkish-white clouds below. The gas giant Driscall was primarily a tion and petroleum mining world. The planet's "life zone" was a naturally formed nitrogen-oxygen atmospheric strata with a depth of fifty kilometres. Viveede detected the Rebel outpost and flew towards it.
The outpost, substantially smaller than the ones on Enteague Minor and Kendell, was an abandoned and converted tion gas mine floating steadily above the clouds. No twin-pod cloud cars came forth to greet them despite them transmitting the proper greeting codes. Videede did a flyby and noted that the floating city was devoid of any visible occupants. It was empty.
Episode 06 Betrayal
After their little bounty hunting side job, the team returned to Enteague Minor to discover that Commander Drew Greyhelm had added a new member to their ranks, the human star pilot Viveede Briylle Colore.
Commander Greyhelm assigned Shanna Toarinar and Phoenix Avalon a new mission. Viveede would pilot them to the Belderone system to extract a person named Derin Heightson, who happened to be Phoenix's best friend from when they were both seven until they went their separate ways at fifteen. Phoenix lost track on Derin. It appeared when Phoenix began his career as a space pirate, Derin had built a life for himself on Belderone.
In hyperspace, they wondered what the semi-disassembled assassin droid with a riot gun doing in a heap beside the doorway in the Nexus Point's common room. Viveede told them Drew ordered the dangerous machine to be scrapped. For some reason, if it heard the words, "Sic 'em!" the inert droid would still fire its riot gun at whatever it was pointing at.
Old sketch of Viveede Briylle Colore
They decided that they would dispose of it after the upcoming mission.
The Plight of a Childhood Friend
They flew through Belderone customs and security easily with the Nexus Point, landing at the city of Thirse.
Disguised as civilians, the trio travelled through Thirse and found the residence of Derin Heightson, a small single-story house with a medium-sized yard surrounded by a three-metre tall wall. They broke in and found the overturned furniture and blaster scoring on the walls in the house. Searching the bedroom, Phoenix found a well-hidden keycard that activated Heightson's personal computer terminal. The last file recorded was a voice log clearly made during a blaster fight.
Heightson's voice told them that if he was captured, he would be taken to the Thirse security detention centre.
The sound of a stun blast cut off his voice, ending the file.
Outside, a speeder truck pulled over and a stormtrooper heavy weapons squad filed out of it. Shanna spotted them from the living room, alerted the other and laid covering fire. Phoenix pried open the back door and the trio ran out to the back yard, climb a ladder to the kitchen roof which connected with the south yard wall, and climbed down the arien vines to the alleyway.
They sprinted out the alley right into the sights of the trooper manning the heavy repeating blaster on the back of the speeder truck. The trio evaded the first volley and Phoenix threw a grenade that destroyed the truck.
They fled into the night.
After their previous adventure to the "illusory" planet of Zarligrenor, the strikeforce decided to take a week off at the Ginuvar system located also in the Enteague Sector.
Episode 05 The Rogue Lieutenant
Moonlighting at Ginuvar
Ginuvar was a patchwork of territories belonging to galactic and local corporations such as Industrial Automaton, SoroSuub, BlasTech, Neurosaav and Koensayr. Ginuvar's seas were a broth of toxic compounds and most of her land were a plethora of factory complexes, power generation stations, arcologies and atmosphere scrubbers.
The Nexus Point however landed in the planetary capital of Porzohal, a city built in the Green Zone, the only territory on Ginuvar still with a green and natural ecosystem, jungles and grasslands and all in the planet's equatorial zone.
The planet log above was made after the Second Edition rulebook was released.
Phoenix Avalon and Jon Dean thought that they should let their bounty hunting team-mates Shanna Toarinar and Ace Browning Crossfire take the lead and get them some credits hunting for bounty. They headed to a local security centre and discovered that Enteague's Imperial Governor Jannor had placed a bounty of 3,000 credits on Imperial Army officer Lieutenant Shade Anghor, dead or alive, for murder, desertion and the theft of thirty million credits.
Some seedy characters on the street sent them instead to a closed cantina named "Jaillor's Place" if they were interested in the bounty.
They were met there by the most powerful person on Ginuvar, the crime lord Harv Ironfist. Every corporation on the planet paid his organisation for the permission to set up their territories on the planet while Ironfist ensured the trains ran on time and planetary security protected their business enterprises.
Knowing Shanna and Ace to be bounty hunters, he offered them double the Imperial bounty if Lieutenant Anghor was delivered to him strictly alive. Ironfist informed them that Anghor is hiding in his secret manor on Tark's Plains at the neighbouring Kreane system.
The team agree to the job and return to the Nexus Point.
The Kreane Showdown
The Point set down in a clearing among the sagebrushes of Portgont Forest. Kreane was an arid world, full of deserts, rocky plains and tall dry cold mesas. Some regions were inhospitable to Human life. Although the town of Flogrosh was nearby, they followed Ironfist's directions and began hiking north toward Tark's Plains.
They soon arrived at a ring of mountains surrounding a small freshwater lake. On the island upon the lake was Anghor's manor.
They observed five visible Imperial troops guarding the manor, allied with Anghor no doubt. They sneaked towards the only bridge to the island and disposed of the lone scout trooper guarding it.
They discovered an underground hideout in the dusty yard across the way from the T-47 airspeeders parked beside the manor. They descended into the tunnels and made short work of a pair of stormtroopers waiting for them at the doors to Anghor's subterranean operations room.
They rushed into the room. Anghor defended himself with his SoroSuub Q2 holdout blaster. His determination to be protective of his three-million-credit stash was cut short by a blue stun bolt from Shanna's blaster rifle.
The commandeered the T-47s to return to the Nexus Point with the unconscious Anghor secured.
But the two surviving scout troopers - who had been within the manor - discovered that their boss had been apprehended and hopped into the remaining T-47s to pursue the team. Upon being beset by cannonfire, Ace did a 180 degrees turn and succeeded in taking the airspeeders out of the Kreane skies himself. Then he flew back towards the manor, cracked open his canopy and demolished the building with a well-placed thermal detonator.
The team noticed that there were armed men waiting for them at the Nexus Point as they landed their airspeeders.
Shanna drew her blaster to protect her bounty, but the crowd parted to reveal the authoritative figure of Harv Ironfist in their midst. He revealed to them that Shade Anghor used to be Shade Ironfist, their marauding younger brother who had left their family business and had joined the Empire, and he went rogue there as well.
Anghor's officers gave Shanna their 6,000-credit reward in hard cash. The last thing they heard before Ironfist's group left was that "it was time for Shade to be punished by mama."
With that, the team returned to Enteague Minor.
To be continued.
- The first bounty hunter adventure I ran for the campaign.
- I also made detailed local maps of the areas of Ginuvar and Kreane which have all been lost.
- Why were these stormtroopers corruptible? No idea. Should have explored that fact more in future sessions, but I did not.
Click here for The Test of Truth Part 1!
On their transport mission, the Nexus Point has crashed on an uncharted planet! Passenger Trace Traverse has disappeared! Their weapons are disabled! Unknown forces are closing in on the party!
Episode 04B The Test of Truth Part 2
Page 13: I could have done a better job showing the party exiting the ship from the Nexus Point's top hatch and then jumping onto the ground.
Page 13: All the fancy schmancy alien names here are made up years later, except for the name "Jorann".
Page 15: "The Forbidden Notch". Hur hur hur.
After the last aborted attempt at FESS at the hospital, I have been waiting for five months for the next scheduled surgery, spraying mometasone furoate up my nose almost daily. Finally it was time to get this pair of nasal polyps out of my sinus cavity.
It should have been an easy in-and-out surgery.
Of course there were complications from all sides.
- My application for a job as a Language Tutor here was accepted and I had been scheduled to report for duty the day before the surgery. I had to call the right person at work to find out the proper procedure. Thankfully postponing reporting for duty is allowed.
- The Guarantee Letter (GL) that would allow me to be admitted to the hospital wards under the workplace was rejected by hospital admissions because the printout did not include my pay grade. So we had to pay first for a Second Class Ward. Because I was warded Saturday, I waited for two days before I was able to get them to fax a newer GL.
- My blood pressure, although it fluctuated up and down, appeared to be on the higher side. (It was the reason why they admitted me two days early: to monitor my blood pressure.)
- On my second night, I develop a bad cough with a lot of phlegm and its cousin sputum. Their colour over the night was yellow. The anaesthetist who consulted with the ENT department recommended postponing the surgery.
- Finally, according to the blood taken from me earlier, my white blood cell count was high, probably caused by the infected upper respiratory tract - why I was coughing.
The view at night from the Second Class Ward bathroom is nice.
So, I have been discharged for the hospital with no surgery done. More wasted time. I eagerly await the next date of my surgery to remove this polypoidal mucosa.
Far Afield: Episode 01
The Man From Counter Possession
On this slow lazy Sunday afternoon, after binge watching the new series Stranger Things which I had described elsewhere as "totally a Laundry RPG scenario set in America, where Black Chamber operatives in the Department of Energy attempt to contain their screw up in a small town in Ohio", I thought I would sit down with Irfan to generate a Laundry RPG character. And if I had the time, then I would run a short, simple scenario for him.
The Laundry RPG is based on Charles Stross's The Laundry Files novel series, which is a delightful mashup of unspeakable horror and droll British humour, where the world of espionage meets the Cthulhu Mythos. It uses the Basic Role Playing (BRP) system used by Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest, Pendragon and Stormbringer RPGs.
Irfan created a 25-year-old British grad student named Dustin Hopkins, a Capital Laundry Services operative from their Counter-possession Department, who is also a "thinker". Without a proper character sheet, we wrote everything with a pencil on a blank piece of paper, and will transfer the stats to a charsheet proper once I have one printed out.
The Taxi Ride to a Gate
Dusty Hopkins, a recently trained and appointed Laundry field agent, was travelling in a taxi near midnight when his Necronomiphone rang. He had been authorised to investigate a sudden burst of thaumic energy in the outskirts of London. He was given a GPS location on his phone.
Later, he was deposited by the cab several hundred metres away from a closed and locked gate. The gate was located along a fence that surrounded the grounds of a computer software company. A cargo container, converted into a security office, had been planted within the fenced area right beside the gate.
Hopkins drew his standard issue Glock-17 and made sure that the GPS had put him at the correct location. He sneaked up to the security office and peered into the windows facing him. It was dark within, and he could see nothing.
Before heading home, word circulated of a pot luck Hari Raya dinner at Iskandar's house on the first night of Aidilfitri.
I had not seen Iskandar since I was in school, so it felt like a great time to meet up with the entire crew, some I'd lost contact with when I transferred away from school when I was 16.
We brought the last of Ain's nasi dagang. The nasi lemak (contributed by the house) was delicious. Irfan, as per his modus operandi, attacked the pizza.
So we spent the night consuming organic matter and catching up while Irfan corralled and looked after the little children as he is wont to do.
The next day, Gnana and his eldest son came to visit and then we all went to Nazri's home where Iskandar had just arrived.
Apart from having some Hari Raya spaghetti which Irfan loved a little too much and a little too late, we were there to visit Nazri's newborn child. We would spend next Aidilfitri in Pasir Mas, so we might not see them altogether in Sitiawan next year.
On the day of our arrival in Sitiawan, we played some Coup.
By the end of the session, we were quite evenly matched. It's Tyrion. The ambassador is Tyrion.
The morning of Aidilfitri, Ain had her galaxy-famous nasi dagang prepared for eating and stuff.
Yada, yada, yada... Maaf Zahir Batin.
Atok and Opah pose for a photograph with their plants.
As usual, photographs such as this need more Adik, Yaya, Sila and Vin to make it complete.
Early Saturday morning we got into the car and headed out into the darkness towards Kelantan to avoid the festive season interstate traffic jam.
As usual when even when the sun began to rise we were thick in the middle of mountain mist.
The roads after Baling had pockets of very thick water particles which we had to dive into.
Meanwhile, Rania and her parents got in front of us and reached Pasir Mas first. For two days, we played with her. She liked to hold conversations with us. I even babysat a couple of times her parents had to go downtown.
Early Monday morning, we headed for Sitiawan. After sahur at Ayer Lanas, we stopped for Subuh at the last village after Jeli before the road went up the mountains again. The surau and its adjoining public restrooms seemed to be uninhabited and no other travellers stopped while we were there...
...except for some kitties.
At the top of the mountains, we took a photo of the surroundings. Although there was a gigantic prehistoric tree fern there, we failed to spot any spinosaurid theropods in the vicinity. Neither were there any squadrons of flying elephants.
All too soon, we had arrived in Sitiawan two days before Aidilfitri.
Like last year I drew the workplace's Aidilfitri card again!
Click on the cropped picture below to see the full image:
Thankfully I did not have to draw every single personnel like last year. Whew.
David Schwarz, a Star Wars D6 gamemaster and player, recently tweeted some homebrewed illustrations and stats of a droid he made before a game many, many years ago.
This inspired me to draw a quick sketch of this ancient Mandalorian battle droid using GIMP.
Here are its stats:
Model: Grenadier 2A-1D
Type: Ancient Mandalorian battle droid
Mini missile ops: 7D+2 (damage: 7D+2)
The fourth session of the campaign was run in 1989 but I drew a comic of it some time in the mid 1990s. Because of the references in the first page, I would say this was pencilled some time after I got Galaxy Guide 9: Fragments From The Rim. (Perhaps in 1994 or 1995.)
Besides the first page, which is my attempt to establish that stuff happens all over the Galactic Empire, everything else should have happened more or less according to the game. The script is, obviously, not 100% as spoken by the players.
Because the comic has 24 pages, it will be divided between two blog entries with 12 pages each entry to minimise bandwidth strain, because graphics or something.
Episode 04A The Test of Truth Part 1
Last time on Strikeforce Enteague, a number of handpicked fringer-type agents were assembled and then transferred to the moon Enteague Minor in the Enteague Sector. The former commando Drew Greyhelm intention to form his strikeforce was coming to pass.
Page 01: There are references to Noval Garaint and Elshandruu Pica from Galaxy Guide 9, and Wenny Boggs from the Star Wars Sourcebook on this page.
Page 02: Enteague Minor establishing shot and the first pic of the team (so to speak). This was before Aurebesh, so "FIREBIRD" is in Latin alphabet.