MEPAcon – Shadowrun and Artemis

MEPAcon (Mid-Eastern Pennsylvania Convention) was a much needed relaxing getaway this past weekend. If you live anywhere near Scranton, and would like to have a weekend of laid back gaming, this is the place to go. They do it twice a year, and run a few benefits for charity while they’re at it.

On my part, I play the Shadowrun RPG almost the entire time. Though I did run a game of Star Trek Attack Wing, and got in a game of Artemis. Which was awesome. It’s always awesome. The Shadowrun mission for the weekend was really tough, but our group had a great time planning our heists and blowing things up. I really enjoy the whole flavor and setting of Shadowrun, but I don’t think I could ever run the game myself. It’s rather complex.

For Artemis we had a captain that actually tried to get the enemy to surrender, rather than just blowing them up. It’s a shame I was at the tactical station. It’s hard to get the controls to stop shooting in the split second between the shields going down and the enemy surrendering. And the enemy ships can usually only take a shot or two once their shields are down. I did try to not kill everyone. Really. I promise. What?

I had been hoping I would get a few more players for Attack Wing, but the one player who did show up enjoyed the game quite a bit. That beautiful DS9 model drew a lot of good attention as well. I will have to remember to bring it again next time. I may suck in a few more players.

Also, as a side note, my home gaming group got to try out a new RPG, Beyonder. The setting is amazing. I don’t know much about the mechanics other than the little we got to do during the game, but you can set up a character on their website. The initiative system was different, and great for planning tactically what you character should do.

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Just because they were cool. Here’s some fun t-shirt designs from DepressedDarth on TeePublic.

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New Books Coming

I got a lovely Amazon Gift Card for my birthday! And you know what that means? Books!

Latitude Hooks and Azimuth Rings, by Dennis Fisher

This guide shows how to make and use 18 different nautical navigational tools. I figured this would be a good next step in my astrolabe project. It includes things like the nocturnal and sundials, which I had hoped to work on next.

Doctor Illuminatus, by Eve Bonner

This book is all about Ramon Llull (remember my post about the crazy dials?) and includes the Ars Brevis, which is his abbreviated dial/doctrinal training system. I’m so curious about this guys its ridiculous.

If I can manage to find a good book about Tycho Brahe I will probably get that next. Not sure about the ones I’ve found so far.

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Women Conquistadors – Isabel de Guevara

I started down this research rabbit hole while looking for descriptions of proper ladies in 16th century Spain. While I didn’t find much along those lines (which I think proves the adage that well-behaved women rarely make history) I did discover that there were quite a few women who participated in the conquest of the Americas. And I don’t mean they were just dragged along by fathers, brothers, or husbands.

Isabel de Guevara is a famous case, because she has a letter on record with the Casa de Cotratación in Seville, wherein she petitions Princess Juana (no, that that one, this one) to grant her the encomienda she is due thanks to her exploring and hard work in the New World. She gives a description of how she and other women had to take over a good deal of the work of the men, as the men died off, mostly from starvation. According to her letter “suffered all the discomforts and dangers of the conquest.”

I will probably try and look more into the lives of these early conquistadoras. Though I sincerely doubt my current SCA persona (Lady Lianor de Matos) would have gone on such an adventure. I’m still just looking for support that a Lady would have financed such an expedition. But I imagine if women went on them, financing them was allowed as well.

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Fortune Teller’s Volvelle

Remember these things?


I used to make these all the time. They are silly fun. They covert words into numbers and numbers into a choice, and then you open it to reveal a pre-written fortune to the person who chose the words and numbers. I don’t remember anything about what the fortunes were now, but I do remember trying very hard to make them very gender neutral, so as not to embarrass myself if a boy asked for a fortune.


Apparently, in 11th century Maghreb, there was a similar (ok, much much more complicated) paper fortune teller, known as zā’irja. One would ask a question. The ruler and degree of the current sign were calculated for the moment of the asking of the question. Then the circular charts were consulted, converting letters into their numerical value, and then back into letters, and the finally, giving answers from a set of poetry lines. It’s very complex and mysterious.


Then, based on that above concept, a Mallorcan priest named Ramon Llull invented the dial-a-doctrine. Well, all right it wasn’t called that, but basically it was a way to discuss doctrine between Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, starting with a general principle (usually an attribute of God) that all three faiths agreed on, then dialing that on the device below, which would lead to a page in a book with the appropriate Christian doctrine on it to help Christians argue their point correctly. Many computer scientists and symbolic logicians are still puzzling over these things.

So, two more things to look into once I get done with this year’s plans.

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SCA Plans and Useful Pictures – Year for Astronomy

So mostly this is an update, and a looking forward to 2016 post.

Here are a few images of the mariner’s astrolabe in process. This is going to be my ‘practice and test’ astrolabe. I will see how happy I am with my engraving vs. how things look when acid etched, or a combination of both. So far this is just hand engraving. (Sorry, they are rather blurry images.)

I’m not happy with my engraving yet, but I am a beginner, so I hope to get better. I doubt though that I will ever be happy with how the circles show up. They are not very deep when done with the compass. So I may acid etch them to get them deeper.

I’m also parking this here, for future reference. Even if it doesn’t happen this year, I would love to have one of these devices set up at Pennsic for the observation of the stars . . . out where I can actually see more of them. (Philadelphia is not the best place for stargazing.)

Tycho Brahe’s Astronomical Instruments


I have a few ideas for projects to present at SCA events. One would be the prediction of fortuitous times to invest in a ship traveling to the new world, using the astrology of the time, and to actually research how that trip would go and what they might bring back.

Another is to keep track of astronomical observations using the instruments I make, and see how accurate they are, and what sorts of things I can calculate or learn from them.

And then, there are just so many cool things I would like to make. Like these adorable little boat-shaped not quite astrolabes known as naviculas.


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Astrology in Medieval Manuscripts


I picked this book up mostly because of the pretty pictures. But there really is a wealth of knowledge in here, at least, a wealth of jumping off points to knowledge. It has a handy glossary of astrological terms, a great bibliography, and a brief history of astrology in Western Europe.

It covered more than just astrological images in manuscripts, such as the personified moon on the cover, but also charts used for predicting things like the weather or the health of a patient.

There were also a few lovely images of horoscopes done up all fancy, in calligraphy with illuminations and such. I think I will have to be commissioning some scribes once I get the process of casting horoscopes down.

NEW THING: I learned a snazzy new thing as well. There were these volvelle things, charts with movable round parts, that were used for a variety of things. One of which was to find the current phase and sign of the moon, so that a physician could judge if it was a good or bad time to administer certain treatments. They are really pretty, and were insanely popular, even when much of the Roman Catholic culture decided that predictive astrology was sinful, naturalistic astrology like that relating to seasons or physical health was still allowed.


Click on the image above to see this thing in motion!

Searching for volvelles led me to another really awesome discovery, but I will save that for another post.

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