Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My speed painting minis

I'm still fighting the flu or whatever that I picked up at Gen Con, so I'm still only running at about half steam right now. Rather than just keep sleeping all day, though, I figured I better do some writing to pass the time.

Lately I've had miniatures on the brain a lot. I'm eagerly anticipating the upcoming release of Fanticide. I've been working on editing and playtesting a couple of new games, including my dinosaurs and army men game. I need to get back to posting my thoughts about Chainmail. I've got a pile of 1/72 scale plastic figures to paint. I have a couple old commissions to finish. I got a ton of models at Gen Con to add to the painting stack. And I managed to win and place in a couple of speed painting rounds at the con. I've always had a lot of painting going on, but now it's coming back to a fever pitch (pardon the pun).

Rather than do something that requires a lot of thought, I'm going to show off my figs from the speed painting.

I should note that I generally don't enter painting competitions. I have had people urge me to do so for years. Outside of a few local competitions, though, I haven't done so. My main reason is that I don't want to spend the time to focus on a single model for long enough to paint it to competition standard. I like to paint and detail my models, but I prefer to take them to what I call gaming standard - they look good from a distance, but there are some noticeable errors if you look closely. That way I can get the models on the table and game, rather than spending all my time with a brush in my hand. Eventually I may change my mind and do some more models for competition, but for now I'm happy just painting. I entered the speed painting contest at Gen Con by accident, got lucky enough to win the first round and placed in the finals.

In speed painting, the first limitation you have is time. You only have so long to get your model painted to the highest quality you can. Obviously, the better you know how to quickly perform painting techniques, the faster you can do things. If you know how to thin paints, mix colors, base coat, blend, highlight, etc. without thinking and spending time making decisions or considering the next steps, you save precious time in the round. It also helps to have enough experience to be able to make good choices and plan the model quickly. You need to know what colors work together and how to break a mini down for painting quickly to be successful. If you have no time limit, you can experiment and redo parts of a model that don't work. With a time limit, you have to make a decision and stick with it. For the first round, I had 45 minutes to paint. For the finals, I had an hour.

Another limitation of speed painting is that you generally have a limited number of paints and brushes you can work with. In this case, there were a dozen different paints, 10 flat colors and two metallics, and two brushes, a small flat brush and a detail brush. Part of the challenge is in using these limited materials to produce good effects. You don't have lots of colors to do fine gradations and shading, and you don't have a lot of brushes to use to vary techniques or paint in a lot of fine details. You have to make do with what you have and make it work.

The final limitation of speed painting is that you don't know what you're painting ahead of time. If you know the figures that a particular manufacturer produces ahead of the competition, you may be able to make some decisions and get an idea of how you would paint a particular figure. If you paint a lot of figures from a particular manufacturer, you may find that you're painting a figure you've already done before. The minis for the competition I was in came from the upcoming Puppet Wars game from Wyrd Miniatures. I was barely aware of Wyrd before the convention, and the models we had were not previously available. Some people might have painted one in the Paint and Take area at the con, but I had never seen them before. Having painted a couple, though, I'm anxious to check out Puppet Wars when it comes out!

The figure I got to paint in the first round is called Judge. He's a rag-man puppet with a couple of swords and a few pins and metal bits. I decided quickly that I would paint the rags to look like old potato sacks. For the swords, I went with plain white metal. For the pins and other metalwork, I wanted an old-fashioned brass look.

The model was primed white, so I gave it a thin wash of purple to get some shading on the whole piece. I started working up the cloth from a medium brown (wet blended on the model with the purple wash) up to a bone color. I blended as much as I could and then used lighter and lighter browns (mixes of the brown and white paints supplied) to add stripes to highlight the various ridges in the cloth. For the face, I added a little yellow to the mix to make the color warmer and highlighted up using the same technique.

I gave the swords a quick coat of black and then drybrushed them with a bit of silver. Then I highlighted the edges with thin lines of bright silver. For the other metal, I base coated the areas dark brown (the brown paint with a dot of black mixed in). Then I traced out the details in gold and added a few light highlights with silver. I painted the stick legs with the orange paint (it looks more red-brown than orange to me) and painted the base green.

Painting this figure reminded me of a couple of important techniques to keep in mind while you're painting, especially if you're painting quickly. First, keep your paint wet. Wet paint flows better and is easier to work with. It makes it easier to cover areas with color and blend colors together. Also, as you work on a model, make sure you paint all sides of the mini evenly. Keep turning the model to make sure that the highlights are similar front to back. This is especially true if you're working on blending on the model. Make sure that the blending looks consistent, regardless of the angle at which you look at the figure. Turning the model while you work eliminates color inconsistencies.

Overall, this fig came out almost exactly the way I wanted it to. I'll probably texture the base, pick out a couple details and seal it as is.

For the finals, I got to paint Pokey Victoria - a puppet with scissor blades for hands, a couple of knives in her shoulder, some armor plates, and mechanical wings. She has a lot more detail than Judge, and I decided to use more color on her. For the most part I stuck with a blue color scheme with orange, copperish metal and bright orange hair. I stuck with dark, white metal for the blades and pale wood for the handles on the knives.

The model was primed white, and I used the same purple wash to shade the model. I then built up the clothing and wings using lighter and lighter shades of blue. I painted the metal on the masks, forearms, and wings with orange, followed by a thin coat of gold. I highlighted the metal with tiny highlights of silver on edges. I painted the blade hands with a thin coat of black, followed by a drybrush and highlight with silver. The handles on the knives and the straps on the body were base coated with brown and highlighted with brown mixed with a bit of white.

For the finals, I used too much time working on the wings and not enough time on the body and face. I could have highlighted the wings faster and moved on to other areas of the model. I also probably should have differentiated the wings from the rest of the model better.

Going back to it, I'd probably repaint most of the model, especially the body. The Puppet Wars website shows Pokey Victoria with a mostly red color scheme with blonde hair and white wings. I'm thinking of redoing her with a dark blue color scheme, dark hair, and white wings. For now, she and Judge are hanging out on the shelf of my painting desk.

Friday, August 24, 2012

That's a big show!

The news is out, so I can finally talk about another reason this was the best Gen Con ever. This was the 45th Gen Con, and there were 134,775 turnstile and over 41,000 individual attendees that made it to the show. That's 12% more than last year and 30% more than two years ago. Pretty impressive! Hopefully next year we can get even more people there.

Something else from Gen Con

Apparently I didn't sleep nearly enough at Gen Con, since I am now terribly sick. I'll get back to posting more when I recover a bit.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Another Twenty Questions

I have about twenty projects that have gotten behind because of Gen Con. So, of course, I'm going to answer this set of questions posted by Ray at Don't Throw a '1'.

1) Favourite wargaming period and why?

I've got a couple competing for the top spot - mostly World War I, Dark Ages Britain, and various fantasy and sci-fi settings. At the moment, Dark Ages Britain is leading in preference because of the Saxons I picked up at Gen Con.

2) Next period, money no object?

I've got quite a few projects on the painting table right now that cover a huge number of periods. If money is no object and I'm limiting myself to historicals, I'd love to do a lot more World War I, with huge forces on each side to get the feel of the big charges over the top.

Otherwise, I'd like to do some ancient and medieval naval; Greek and Persian, Roman and Carathaginian, and Roman and Gallic Ancients; Early Crusades; Hundred Years War; Warring States Samurai; English Civil War; and Inter-war period and World War II.

I'd also like to do more Victorian science fiction, pulp, near-future science fiction, and fantasy gaming. Fanticide, Tomorrow's War, and Puppet Wars are heading the list for these. All Things Zombie is heading the list for horror minis, but that's liable to be a smaller project. Eventually I'll add some more post-apocalyptic stuff to the mix, too.

3) Favourite 5 films?

I have a ton of films that I love, but I have a hard time not sitting and watching these five when I catch even a bit of them.

Breakfast at Tiffany's
Star Wars
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

4) Favourite 5 TV series?

I have different TV shows that I like depending on my mood. Normally, lacking something else to watch, I default to cop shows and cooking shows as background noise. These are shows I actually watch and give attention. I'm listing six because I can't decide between Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy.

Doctor Who
Battlestar Galactica
Arrested Development
Sons of Anarchy
Breaking Bad

5) Favourite book and author?

If I have to keep mysef to one book, it's going to be Le Morte D'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory.

6) Greatest general? Can’t count yourself!!

I've got to go with Alexander the Great.

7) Favourite wargames rules?

That all depends on the period, really. At the moment, the set I have with the broadest range and playability is probably Warmaster.

8) Favourite sport and team?

American football and the Indianapolis Colts. They're my home team again. When I can't root for the Colts, I go with my other home team, the Chicago Bears.

9) If you had a only use once time machine, when and where would you go?

My top three possibilities would be Paris in the 1920s, the Midwestern US in the 1830s or 1840s, or the Columbia Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

10) Last meal on Death Row?

A traditional Canadian tourtiere, garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, roasted brussels sprouts, and lemon tarts.

11) Fantasy relationship and why?

No idea on this one. I've had plenty of crushes, but I'm pretty happy being single.

12) If your life were a movie, who would play you?

James Spader

13) Favourite comic superhero?

Captain America, hands down.

14) Favourite military quote?

"Iacta alea est." ("The die has been cast") This was attributed to Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon at the head of his legions. It's the best military quote I know for a wargamer.

15) Historical destination to visit?

There are way too many places I'd like to visit to study the history there. At the top of the list are some of the places my great grandfather fought in World War I - Amiens, Vimy, and Ypres.

16) Biggest wargaming regret?

Waiting so long to get started playing historical games.

17) Favourite fantasy job?

Making sculpted terrain boards for wargames and conventions. I've built a few boards for clubs and conventions, but I'd love to be able to do it full time.

18) Favourite song - Top 5?

My music tastes shift too much with my mood to have a static top five list. Some of my favorites are:

Get Me Out of Here - Billy Pilgrim
Pure Imagination - Gene Wilder (from the Willy Wonka soundtrack)
Celluloid Heroes - The Kinks
Little Boxes - various (I love Pete Seeger's version, even though it's not the original)
Rainbow Connection - Jim Henson as Kermit the Frog (from the Muppet Movie soundtrack)
Come Sail Away - Styx
Rich Fantasy Lives - Tom Smith and Rob Balder
Paint It Black - Rolling Stones
Lover's Cross - Jim Croce

Add lots of songs from AC-DC, Iron Maiden, Dead Kennedys, Queen, Styx, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Blue Oyster Cult, the Who, Tom Waits, and quite a few others to the list.

19) Favourite wargaming moment?

My favorite moment recently was playing a game of Land Ironclads with Nick that came down to the last roll of the game. The Germans were invading Britain, and I had to hold a strategic town and slow the German advance. The British were expected to lose, but I held my own and got lucky with some good rolls. On the last roll of the game I managed to stall the advance and force a draw.

20) The miserable git question; what upsets you?

I have a lot of pet peeves that annoy me. I don't have a lot of things that really upset me though. The big ones would be intolerance, inflexibility, and generally unreasonable behavior.

Having to deal with a lot of health issues and having worked with people with disabilities, anyone who deliberately discriminates against people with disabilities is at the top of the list.

Following them are people that use religion as an excuse for bigotry.

And here's the original questions if you choose to answer them yourself:

1. Favourite Wargaming period and why?
2. Next period, money no object?
3. Favourite 5 films?
4. Favourite 5 TV series?
5. Favourite book and author?
6. Greatest General? Can’t count yourself!!
7. Favourite Wargames rules?
8. Favourite Sport and team?
9. If you had a only use once time machine, when and where would you go?
10. Last meal on Death Row?
11. Fantasy relationship and why?
12. If your life were a movie, who would play you?
13. Favourite Comic  Superhero?
14. Favourite Military quote?
15. Historical destination to visit?
16. Biggest Wargaming regret?
17. Favourite Fantasy job?
18. Favourite Song Top 5?
19. Favourite Wargaming Moment?
20. The miserable Git question, what upsets you?

Gen Con stuff

I spent a ton of time in the Exhibit Hall at Gen Con this year. That, combined with the normal swag I get and a few gifts from friends, resulted in a huge haul this year. Everything I got (except one small item) is pictured above. Here's the take:

1. 2 boxes of Saxon Fyrd and one box of Saxon Thegns from Wargames Factory. My friend Nick sprung for these so we can start doing some Dark Ages skirmish gaming. He ended up with a few boxes of Vikings. We're looking at a couple of rule sets to use these with, including classic Chainmail and the new Dux Bellorum rules from Osprey. I'll be doing some work in progress posts as I paint these guys.

2. A double height World of Warcraft card tin. Somebody got this and only wanted the signature cards inside. I figure I can use the tin to organize the cards I'm working with for inspiration on the blog or to keep some of the things on my desk organized.

3. A ton of bases from Gale Force 9. They had bins at their booth full of laser-cut bases of various types and sizes. You could fill a pint container for $10 or a quart container for $15. When they ran out of the quart containers, they let you fill a couple pint containers and get a free movement tray for $15. I ended up with hundreds of 20mm square bases for my saxons and some of the 1/72 scale figures I have to play Chainmail with, a bunch of 20x40mm bases for Warmaster, and some 40mm square bases and 40x80mm bases for other wargame projects. I also got a pint each of 25mm and 28mm hexes for a different project I'll be talking about soon.

4. At the end of the con, I got a big box of swag that included a scratch and dent copy of Level 7 from Privateer Press. The box had a couple of sprung corners that I patched with heavy paper, but everything else was intact. I'm looking forward to getting this on the table and seeing how it plays. I heard good things about it from several people during the con.

5. The Pathfinder Player Character Folio came in my swag box. I've only got one Pathfinder character right now, but that game is currently on hiatus. Fortunately, I got an invitation to join another Pathfinder game at the con, so I'll probably get to use this fairly soon. If nothing else, it may help me keep organized as I start working with some Pathfinder stuff for other projects.

6. The swag box had a few novels, just like last year. In this case, it included Plague of Shadows by Howard Andrew Jones, City of the Fallen Sky by Tim Pratt, and The Captive Flame by Richard Lee Byers. I've added them to the read and release stack for now. I'll see if they make it into the keep shelf.

7. Mow and Le Boomb were both in the swag box this year. The former is a card game, and the latter is a dice game that I also got last year. I'll check out Mow and most likely toss it into my small games box. Le Boomb I'll either give away or keep as a backup copy in case I lose my other one.

8. The Fight On! Foliated Folio +8 includes issues 5-8 of the magazine. I already had the compilation of the first four issues, and I was pleasantly surprised to find this one at the OSR booth. Now I just need compilations of the rest of the issues.

9. The swag box only had a few card-related things this year. I got a few starter decks for Legend of the Five Rings and a couple of Magic boosters and bonus cards. I'll use these like I have other cards in the past - mainly for inspiration for my games and the blog.

10. I got a total of 21 True Dungeon Gen Con tokens. I've got some friends that already laid claim to a couple of these. The rest I'll toss in the box with my ones from previous years or give out sometime as prizes.

11. Gen Con 2012 pilsner glass. I'll add this to the cabinet along with my other Gen Con glassware. So far, I have an oversize Ram beer mug from years ago, a small Gen Con beer mug, a Gen Con pint glass, a Gen Con double shot glass, and this. A few more years, and I'll have all the glassware I need!

12. Dice! I got an old set of Gamescience dice from Lou Zocchi himself for $2! I also picked up a couple of emotion dice from Chessex. I'll use these to replace the reaction tables in my game sessions. One of my players gave me a half dozen of the old low-impact dice from the Holmes/Gamma World days. Two of these are d20s that have been colored on half of their faces. I'm definitely putting these in with my other old-school dice that i use for play.

The rest of the dice I got are all commemorative dice: one of the Scotty's Brewhouse dice, three Gen Con 2012 dice, and 22 Gen Con 2010 dice. These all go into my big dice bag.

13. A Pathfinder button from Paizo. I didn't get a lot of buttons this year, so I won't be adding much to my gamer scale mail. I did make it to the Paizo booth to get one of their buttons this year, though.

14. A roll of 1" hex Gaming Paper. I got this to test with some Lemax water rolls as a board for playing scaled-up Trireme and Wooden Ships and Iron Men. I was hoping for a roll with white paper and dark blue or black squares, so I'm not sure if this will be visible under the vinyl. I'll report back on how it works.

15. A set of 25x50mm decorative Chaos bases from Micro Art Studio. These are cast in resin and look really nice. They would be great for bases for Chaos Knights for Warhammer. I may use them to paint some custom character figs, but otherwise I'm thinking of giving them away.

16. Four blisters of bases and base toppers from Wyrd miniatures. I won these as the prize for third place in the Wyrd speed painting competition. I plan to use them for some character models or otherwise to add to the bits box.

17. Lenny and Blessed of December blisters for Malifaux by Wyrd Miniatures. I have no idea what Malifaux is all about. I looked at a lot of the miniatures, but I don't have any idea what the game is like. I won a $10 gift certificate to the Wyrd booth in the first round of the speed painting contest and used it to cut the cost on these minis. Lenny is a big orc-like guy carrying a pig and a big log. The Blessed of December looks like a female wendigo or werewolf. I'm going to paint these for fun and possibly use them in a warband for Fanticide later.

18. My speed painting models. I got two models from Wyrd's upcoming Puppet Wars game. Looking at their site, I got Pokey Victoria in the final round and Judge in the first. I'm going to check out this game when it is released, but for now I'm going to finish these models to add to a Fanticide band.

19. A bunch of turrets from Ral Partha/Iron Wind Metals. I picked up a mix of Battletech turrets to add to some Hot Wheels cars for use in either a scaled up Car Wars or some other post-apocalyptic game. I'll do some WIP posts about this project as well.

20. A few characters to use for a zombie game. These came from Iron Wind as well and will definitely get some WIP posts, but suffice to say this is soon to be one of my favorite character groups - a giant gunslinger with a big knife, a revolver, and a HUGE sumbrero, a dwarf with a longcoat and shotgun, and another dwarf wearing a pickelhaube and carrying a flamethrower. These will probably be for an All Things Zombie game.

21. Seven dime store plastic robots. I got these in the care package from one of my players. I'm going to repaint them and incorporate them into my cowboys and dinosaurs game.

22. A sprue of Zombie Vixens from Wargames Factory. Nick got a couple of these sprues, so he gave me one to paint. I'll do a WIP on these as well.

23. A Gen Con Volunteer shirt. I didn't get a regular Gen Con shirt this year, so this is the only shirt I got. I hate the color, but it will make a good shirt for painting and laundry day.

24. A graph paper notebook and a pair of graph paper notepads. The notepads are like post-it notes, so they'll be ideal for a project I have in mind. The notebook is gridded at six squares per inch and is probably going to quickly become one of my go-to map sketchbooks.

25. My Captain's pin. I didn't include this in the picture. It's a nice enameled pin that was given to all of the Captain level volunteers this year.

Looking back through the list, I got a ton of stuff! Most of the things I got are for various projects in the works, so expect to start seeing a lot more project posts coming soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I won at Gen Con

I got home from Gen Con about 5 am Monday morning. I got back to the hotel after the dead dog party and decided to just grab my luggage and take a cab home so I could sleep in my own bed and not have to wake up for check out. That turned out to be a great idea, since I ended up sleeping until afternoon, waking up for a few hours, and then sleeping most of the night. I'm still not completely caught up on sleep, but I'm getting there. At least I'm starting to be able to walk again!

This year was one of the busiest for me, and one of the few that I have actually gotten to really explore the exhibit hall and do some events. Even with a lot of volunteer work in the Fulfillment office, I was able to get away and do a ton of fun stuff. This made it the best year ever for me!

Obviously, being a volunteer Captain, that determined a lot of my schedule. My work week started on Monday afternoon, printing tickets and badges and overseeing the people that were stuffing the packets for Will Call. I ended up working about thirty or so hours from Monday to Wednesday. Thursday was the crunch day. I started printing at 4 am and worked through into the evening helping keep Will Call sorted and making sure that problems got addressed as well and as quickly as possible. Friday and Saturday were also 4 am starts, but they were much easier to handle. This year it seemed like Will Call worked well getting people through the line and delivering things in a timely fashion. That meant that we spent most of Friday and Saturday just keeping up with orders as they came in and Sunday printing the last few orders and packing. In all, we printed several thousand orders onsite and had very few problems overall.

The organization and efficiency in the office freed lots of time for me to explore and play. I spent hours in the Exhibit Hall, buying some things and otherwise checking out lots of games. I got by the OSR booth, picked up a Fight On compendium, and chatted with Tavis Allison for a couple minutes. I saw a ton of miniatures and board games I want to check out. I got to chat with Lou Zocchi and buy a cheap set of old dice. I picked up a ton of bases from Gale Force 9 and some minis from Wargames Factory. I chatted with the DVD guys about The Valley of Gwangi (they both loved it but neither had a copy for sale).

For gaming, I played several demos at various booths, including a relatively full game of Zombies 11 at the Twilight Creations booth and a couple turns of Balance of Power at Catalyst. Both made my list of games to get when I have some money to spend again. I tried to get a demonstration of Leviathans every time I stopped by the Catalyst booth, but I could never push my way through to a space at the table. I did get a good look at the board and components, though, and I am still interested in playing it as soon as I can. The other games that went on the short list to get (or at least play and test) were Warlords of Europe, Oh My God! There's an Axe in My Head, Freeblades, and Level 7. There were others as well, but I don't remember them right now.

Aside from the Exhibit Hall, I spent a lot more time with friends this year than before, even with my wonky schedule. I had a great time going to St. Elmo's with my friends from Chicago, despite a fiasco trying to get my steak cooked right. I also got to meet a couple of my players face-to-face for the first time. We had  dinner, wandered around a bit and chatted and got to know each other. They also gave me a few gifts that I'm excited to use as soon as I can.

For actual events, I had planned to try to get into a Dawn Patrol game sometime during the weekend. Unfortunately, the scheduling for those games didn't quite work with everything else. Next year I'll try to get one.

I did try to do a Paint and Take, which has been something I always try to fit in at least once during each show. In this case, I got there at about 5 pm, and they closed the Paint and Take at 6. Rather than wait and not get to paint much, I jumped into a Speed Painting round at the last second. Forty-five minutes later I had a (mostly) finished mini and an invitation to compete in the finals on Sunday! I ended up competing Sunday afternoon. Marike Reimer took a vacant chair but gracefully bowed out of the standings so I could take the third place prize. Otherwise, I was fourth overall in the finals. At the end of the event, I got some great feedback from a couple people as well. This was the first time I've actually entered a mini painting competition at a big convention, so I was very happy with the results. Hopefully next year I can enter something in the main categories.

Finally, after all the work, play, and lack of sleep, we had the dead dog party for the volunteers and a few guests. I got to catch up with a few people I didn't see much during the show and meet some others. I had a good talk with the Pete Fenlon, CEO of Mayfair Games about Eagle Scouts, Scouting and gaming, and some of the things that are good about Indianapolis for a show like this. I also met a Finnish gamer that is involved with Ropecon and talked a bit about the differences between cons in Europe and the US, James Raggi and Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and how to get more information from seminars at cons out into the broader gaming community.

In the past, the con has mostly been a work con for me. I did my volunteer work and squeezed in whatever else I could. This year I was able to balance things much better and spend a lot more time gaming and doing other things besides work. Aside from everything else, I was even able to chat with a couple people about some collaborative projects to do in the near future, recruit a few new players for my games, and make a few connections to try to get a local game club up and running.

The only thing I didn't get done well this week was keeping up on the blog and posting regular updates. Next year I apparently need to schedule some posts before I leave for the con or take my laptop with me and do some quick daily updates from the hotel room.

I'll certainly have more to say about things I saw or did at the con, but I think this has been long enough for now. I'll just sum things up: BEST GEN CON EVER!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Getting ready

I've spent the last couple days helping with setup for Gen Con. This morning is a relatively early start. One last push before the registration areas open today. Then it's steady on through the weekend.

The convention center is a little eerie before the con actually starts. There's the hum of the air conditioner, a few booths waiting for staff to show, some housekeepers and late night security wandering around. Otherwise there is an air of anticipation, a feeling of something about to happen. A huge, nearly empty space waiting to come to life and fill with people and activity.

This makes me think of empty space in dungeons. Imagine that your characters know a place is inhabited, just not by what or how many. Imagine the anticipation as they work their way down long passages, delve into empty room after empty room. The whole time, they can feel that something is about to happen - there will be something in that next room or down that hall.

Does the quiet make them anxious? Nervous? Excited? Use some of the empty spaces to build some tension, and get ready for the action.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fairy books online

The other day I mentioned that I needed to get back to reading old fairy and folk stories. reading them forces you to forget about rationalizing and explaining everything. There is an assumption that wonderful and fantastic things just are, they do not need a reason for being there. Forget naturalism, embrace the irrational, spontaneous, and magical and just ride along.

Poking around, I refound a site that has the books of fairy stories edited by Andrew Lang online. These books were compiled in the late 19th century and contain stories from all kinds of different traditions. Each was bound with a different color cover, and they are titled after the color of the cover. You can find them in various formats, including each individual story online here. Go check them out.

Another game

Over the weekend I started another game. One of my regular players from my LL game wanted me to run a session for him and his wife so she could get a chance to play a bit before Gen Con. I decided to keep things simple. A few years ago I took the sample dungeon in the Moldvay Basic book and detailed the west tower and the dungeon under the towers. I broke out my notes, polished it a bit and turned them loose.

They made characters using the Moldvay Basic book. No backstory or details, just roll stats, buy equipment, and go. They created a thief and an elf.

In the first session, they explored most of the west tower. They found lots of old ruined clothing and personal effects, some coin and a ledger in the old paymaster's room, and some old, desiccated corpses. They fought off a couple of giant rats as well. Then they broke into the old captain's room.

The captain's room was now the lair of a ghoul that had been preying on humans for years. There were hundreds of broken bones scattered around the room, mostly under the bed and piled in the corners. The ghoul climbed above the door and tried to ambush them, but they heard him scrabbling around as they were opening the door. The elf rushed in, scored a successful attack and fended off the creature long enough for the thief to land a killing blow. Searching the room turned up a trick chest that had the bulk of the garrison's treasury and a nice sword.

I ran the game using straight, by-the-book Moldvay rules. Once again, I was reminded of how simple and elegant this particular rules system is. It was easy to run the game, and I only had to look up a couple of things - the variable damage table and the XP table at the end of the game. I had a blast!

It was also a lot of fun running a game for a brand new player. I always love playing with people that are just learning to play and feeling their way into the hobby. It's great to see the ways that they approach things that a lot of experienced gamers consider routine. There is a great mix of wonder, trepidation, and confusion that they have that makes it fun to play with them.

I'm looking forward to continuing the game, and I am thinking this is going to be the first session of my game in the Coastlands.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Getting busy for Gen Con

Monday will be my first day onsite for Gen Con. I will be volunteering again this year, and that means training and setup on Monday, meetings and more setup on Tuesday, and lots of work through the rest of the week. My schedule should taper off a bit through the con, though. Also, I'm on the EARLY (like 4 AM) shift, so hopefully I'll be able to get some time in the exhibit hall and game rooms this year.

I was going to enter some models into the painting competition, but I didn't have enough time to get them finished. One of these days I'll get some models done in time and actually enter something. I figure it will be about the same time the Cubs win the World Series.

I'll only be taking a couple game books with me, namely my combined LL/Original Edition Characters/Advanced Edition Companion book, my Moldvay Basic, and copies of B1 and B2. I'll also be carrying my traveling dice and a couple of notebooks. Otherwise, I won't be toting much gear this year. If I get a chance I'll do some posting from the con, but don't expect much.

If anybody wants to hunt me down, drop me an email. I'll be checking it throughout the con when I get off work each day. I'm deliberately not scheduling any specific games so that I have some flexibility to meet people. If things work out, I may run a session or two of my regular games or run a pickup here or there. Otherwise, I'll be doing demos in the dealer hall and hopefully squeezing in a game or two of Dawn Patrol.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I need to read more folk and fairy stories

Over at DNDKids, Uri has a great story about the origin of magic. I don't know if this is an actual Russian folk tale or not, but it certainly sounds like one. This is great and reminds me that I need to read a lot more folk and fairy stories. There is a different rationality in fairy stories that doesn't appear in most modern fantasies. As much as naturalism can help draw us into a fantasy story, too much rationality makes the magical appear mundane.

Kickstarter is killing me

I have backed a few projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, namely a module from LotFP, Metamorphosis Alpha, Dwimmermount, and OGRE. I've also had my eye on a few more projects that seemed interesting. Now there's another project I'd love to back, but I just can't convince myself to pull the trigger.

The Reaper Bones Kickstarter is going to result in a ton of great-looking minis, but I just don't have the money to drop on it right now. Unfortunately, that means I'm going to miss out on a great deal on a bunch of minis. Fortunately, though, it also means I'll be able to just get the minis I want later and paint them as I get them, rather than having another pile of unpainted minis to fret about. Hopefully I can get some cash before the next big temptation comes along.

Coastlands megadungeons

Thinking more about the Coastlands, I've been turning the idea of a megadungeon over in my mind. I've built a couple of these over my gaming career, and I have a particular fondness for them. Reading the posts over at has also helped get me excited to work on something big again.

For the Coastlands, though, I want something different than the typical single-site megadungeon. Instead, I want to have a complex dungeon that connects a number of different sites throughout the entire area. I'm thinking of something more akin to the Underdark as presented in the old D1 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, rather than the more localized Castle Greyhawk or Undermountain. That way, instead of trying to tie all of my ideas together into something that is coherent, I can work on whatever ideas strike me. I don't have to worry if something is completely different than everything else I've presented, because I can always add it as a new point of interest somewhere else on the map.

To start developing it, aside from looking at and some commercial stuff, I have been reading some of the old notes and poking through old maps. I have quite a few things that are going to get a makeover and get developed for this. I am also making some notes about a random generator for the connecting passageways. I'd like to have something that will generate passageways on multiple levels with various kinds of intersections to keep things interesting. I'll try to flesh that out and get it posted here soon.

In the meantime, here are some of the places that have major entrances to the Dark Realm. The hex locations all refer to the map here.

01-03: A giant sinkhole here has exposed many entrances into the Dark Realm. Despite its relative isolation, the place is well-known and heavily traveled. Denizens from below regularly come to the surface from the pit, and adventurers routinely enter the depths here.

01-07: The catacombs beneath the ruined city in this hex connect to several major passages.

02-07: The Temple of Arn conceals an underwater entrance to the tunnels. The area is said to be a haven for lizardmen, frogmen, and worse.

04-02: The ruined keep has an entrance to the caverns in its lowest dungeon.

07-02 and 07-07: The dwarven mines here connect to the Dark Realm, but all entrances to the deep tunnels are heavily guarded. Casual traffic is prohibited.

08-01: The tower here has an entrance to the underrealm in its basement. The entrance tunnel is a steep stone slide.

09-08: The entrance here is a deep, steep-sided crater. Several caves in the sides have access to the deeper tunnels.

12-02: The mine here has only recently connected with the Dark Realm. Since breaking into the caverns, the mine has been plagued by all manner of monsters.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hunting and foraging tables

Richard over at Save Vs. Dragon has been blogging for a little over a year now and has a ton of resources on his site. He's published a collection of his d30 tables as the d30 DM Companion, and he has a couple more collections in the works. I already have several of his charts printed and tucked into the box of resources I keep for my regular game.

Yesterday he posted a set of hunting and foraging tables that I grabbed to add to the box. They have some simple mechanics for finding food that you could quickly drop into any old school game. I'm guessing they'll get some work in my game as soon as the party starts doing some more overland travel and exploration once they finish with the Caves of Chaos. I'll probably have to flesh them out with some different kinds of game that can be found in an area, but otherwise they're exactly what I need.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Campaign preparation by proxy

I spend a lot of time thinking about prep for my campaign. I think about what the player characters have been doing in the game, and think of how their actions have affected the people around them. I also spend a lot of time thinking through some of the things I want all of the non-player characters to do. What are their motivations and goals? How do those motivations impact their actions in the game, even when they are "off-camera?" What is everybody doing?

To help introduce some variety into that, I occasionally draft someone I know that plays but doesn't have a character in my game. I give them a major NPC and ask what they would do in different situations. One of the NPCs I handed off this way recently was the chief of one of the orc tribes in the Caves of Chaos. The person I gave the chief (and thus the tribe) to decided to send out some warriors to scavenge another nearby dungeon, make a few alliances, and generally try to position the tribe better in the eyes of their masters. While I eventually would have done some of these things, the player accelerated their pace and has given that tribe of orcs more dynamism. They move and react in ways that I didn't anticipate and with more alacrity.

I could have used random event tables, reaction rolls, and the like to accomplish the same effect, but sometimes it's good to have another person to trade ideas with. It encourages a different kind of naturalism than a weighted table. It also introduces new ideas and points of view into the game.

Other players have different points of view than I do when it comes to a game, and if I can leverage that to make my game richer or more varied, I'm all for it! I constantly take the things that my players do and turn their ripples of inspiration into larger waves. But sometimes it's nice to have some suggestions and input from somebody that has no vested interest and is willing to just throw out some ideas.

If anybody wants to become a sounding board for some ideas, drop me a line or look me up on Google+. I've got plenty of factions in play that could use some independent direction.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Traveling is tiring

During the last session of my Labyrinth Lord game, the party took a few days off to allow the magic-user to copy some spells from a couple scrolls into his spell book. For the most part, the party just knocked around the keep for a while and relaxed. This followed a few days of traveling and digging around in an abandoned temple.

Thinking about the session put me in mind of something I noticed a while ago on a trip to Chicago. Traveling is tiring. Being in an unfamiliar place, even if you're not constantly on the go, takes more energy than being at home. The more you do, or the more stressful the trip, the more energy it takes. I haven't seen this come up in a game, but I'm thinking of making a house rule to reflect it.

For every week a character spends traveling or exploring, they must spend one day relaxing and recovering. If they do not take a recovery day, they take a -1/-5% penalty on all rolls. The penalty increases by -1/-5% for each additional three days past a week of continuous adventuring. If the character has incurred a penalty greater than -1/-5%, they must rest a full day to counteract each incremental penalty. Characters resting can use up to half of each rest day for other activities like training, copying spells, or crafting items.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Omaha Beach: D-Day ebook for free

Omaha Beach: D-Day, June 6, 1944 is currently available for free from Amazon in Kindle format. Lately I've been getting back into some historical wargaming, so this looks like a good addition to my reading list. Get it while you can. I'm sure this one won't be free for long.

Back to the New World

Back in March, I posted a map of the Coastlands that I put together using Mighty Empires tiles. I want to develop a bit more of that map as a location for some of my other ideas. With that in mind, I'm going to place the locations I described for Hexographer's Hex-Crawl Locations contest in the various hexes on that map. I'll also start incorporating the ideas from my Magic Card challenge and my unfinished entry in the Iron Chef Adventure Challenge as well. So here goes!

Hex-Crawl Locations:

1. The Dragon's Bowl is located in the heights in hex 11-02.
2. The Little Dragon in the Woods is located in hex 08-04. Some of the settlers in hex 07-04 are aware of the hermit, but they generally stay away from the woods for fear of monsters.
3. The Terrible Temple of Arn is located in the swamp in hex 02-07.
4. The Goodberry Inn is located in the hills in hex 06-02. It sits at the crossing next to a ford in the river, where the road splits between the castle in hex 06-01, Northgate (the mine in hex 07-02), and the town in hex 07-03.
5. The Face of Fate is located in a cliff near the lake in hex 05-07. It is frequented by the beastmen and goblins in the area.
6. The River of Plenty is in the caverns under hex 12-03.
7. The Moaning Tower is located in hex 05-05. Local settlers occasionally raid the tower for honey and sell it in Whitebridge (the settlement in hex 05-04).
8. The battleground in Dust to Dust is located in hex 02-05 in the broken ground near the river.

Magic Card Challenge:

Darkling Swamp covers the hexes 01-08, 02-06, 02-07, 02-08, 03-08, 03-09, and 04-08. Darkling Forest covers hexes 03-07, 04-06, 04-07, 05-07, 05-08, 05-09, 06-07, and 06-08. The White River terminates south of hex 04-08, draining into and feeding the swamp.

Iron Chef Adventure Challenge:

Nana's Glade is located in hex 05-03.

The OSR is post-punk

The wizard in Chicago had some interesting observations about the OSR on Google+ this morning. Even with a lot of buzz around various Kickstarter projects, it seems like a lot of the proponents of the Old School style of gaming have settled into a steady state.

We have enough retro-clones of various flavors to emulate any of the various D&D editions. There are enough near-clones that we can play the edition we want with whatever house rules we like. We have all settled into the idea that we can tweak things the way we want and create the exact game we want to play. And we'e developing games that take the sensibilities of the Old School in new directions. We got what we wanted.

There's no reason for us to be revolutionary anymore. We don't have to shake our fists at the mainstream game companies because they haven't fought back. They looked at the ideas coming from the OSR and started incorporating some of them into their own products.

Just like punk influenced mainstream rock and took it in new directions, we've turned some heads and had a little influence on the rest of the gaming world. And just like the late punk musicians, we have to figure out what we're going to do now that the mainstream has taken notice. Now that people are paying attention, what are we going to do? Do we settle into a comfortable, steady state or keep trying to push the boundaries and assumptions about games and gaming?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dungeon Kitchen

I keep a ton of notebooks around my apartment so that I can capture ideas as often and as quickly as possible. This is a map of a kitchen area that I sketched in my little pocket notebook and then transferred to Dungeonographer. The scale of the map is 5' per square.

a. This area is dominated by three long tables. A variety of pots and pans hang on racks suspended from the ceiling on heavy chains. There are knives and other utensils laid out on the tables. Platters, plates, cups, and bowls are on shelves under the tables.

Along the south wall are three huge fireplaces with chimneys. Each fireplace is large enough to roast a whole large animal.

b. This is a cistern for holding water. Water constantly flows slowly into the cistern from a pipe in the wall, draining from a small cut in the side of the bowl near the west wall. There is a drain in the floor to allow the overflow to run off.

c. These two rooms are used for dry storage. The rooms will have bags of grain, barrels of fresh and preserved foodstuffs, wine, beer or ale, and spices.

d. This room is used for cold storage. The pool in the center is for holding cut blocks of ice. The room contains frozen meat and other cold, preserved foodstuffs.

e. This room is for trash disposal. The large pit is 15' deep.

Suggested inhabitants (not all rooms in the area should be inhabited): 
a. Cooks and servants (if the room is in active use).
b. A water weird, a captive steam mephit (for heating the water) or ice mephit (for cooling the water).
c. Giant rats or other vermin or some kind of kitchen sprite.
d. Replace the cut ice in the pool with a captive ice elemental.
e. An otyugh, some kind of vermin, or a magical portal in the pit to eat or dispose of the garbage thrown here.

You can download the map as a .png file or as a .dgo file (for use with Dungeonographer).

Coming back

It's been quite a while since I posted. According to my post count, this is my 200th post. I deleted one a long time ago, though, so this is the 199th that's still around. Either way, it's a milestone. I've managed to log 200 rambling statements in a little over two years about a bunch of different things.

When I started the blog, it was supposed to be about my getting back into gaming, especially what I was doing with Labyrinth Lord. I've wandered in a lot of different directions since then. I started two different LL games, one of which is still running every other week. I've played in a couple of OD&D games, a Pathfinder game, a Holmes Basic game, and a few Labyrinth Lord or B/X games. I've gotten back into some miniatures gaming and started painting minis regularly again. I've translated a game from Italian (which I don't even speak or read), edited a couple of things for other people, and fiddled with some game designs of my own. I'm in the process of playtesting a couple of games that other people have sent me. I'm working with a friend on a couple of other projects that involve gaming and may actually make us a buck or two. And along the way, I've been able to get some of my gaming ideas out to a pretty decent audience. All in all, it's been a good run so far.

That said, I have been thinking quite a bit about where I want to take things from here. I've been all over the place and have some mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, I've written about the things that have interested me at the time. On the other, I feel that I need to bring things into tighter focus and be more consistent. I have started a lot of things and then just dropped them before they have run their course or been fully developed. I would like to change that, but I also want to keep writing about whatever strikes my fancy.

So here's what I'm thinking of right now. I want to expand the things that I talk about to include the miniatures and board games that have captured a lot of my interest. I want to pick up some of the threads that I've dropped and start weaving them back in here. And I want to start publishing some of the extra material I'm putting together for my LL game, whether my players read it or not. I'm hoping that adding a lot of that stuff will get me back in the habit of writing here and give you all something interesting to read from time to time.

I'd like to thank everybody that has stuck around or followed me thus far. If you have suggestions of things you want me to write about, let me know. If there are things you think I need to NOT write about, let me know that as well. I don't do this for fame or anything, but I do appreciate hearing what people do and don't enjoy here. I want to keep people coming back.

In line with that, expect some new content over the next few days. And in the meantime, check out a couple of resources that I found and have been using to flesh out some things in my LL game:

Coloring Your Campaign by Michael Prescott - a nice tool for adding some depth and color to things in your campaign

Atlas Obscura - a cool site that has information about all kinds of unusual places