Sunday, September 30, 2012

Painting the Fanticide Fae

The Satyrs and Brownies ready for flocking

I finally finished painting my Fae for Fanticide. I worked on them a little at a time, painting for an hour or two at a stretch. I painted them to a little better than what I call table quality. That means that I painted highlights and did a little shading, but I didn't worry about painting the tiny details like eyes. One of the best things about the Fanticide models is that they are designed specifically to be easy to paint. They only have a few tiny details, so they lend themselves perfectly to painting for actually playing games.

My camera was acting up again, so I only have a few pictures of the models in progress. If you have any questions about how I did a particular step and want to see some pictures, I'll try to do a similar paint job and get better pictures later. Just let me know what you want to see.

To paint the Fae, I worked with a variety of paints again. I primed the models with Games Workshop Black Primer, and then base coated everything with Design Master Colortool October Brown spray paint. I normally like to prime my models white and then give them a wash. I used the black primer and spray this time because I wanted to paint these as quickly as possible and all of the models have colors that should work best with a brown base coat. Spraying the brown paint mainly from the top of the models also creates some natural shading on the models.

The other paints I used were a mix of Citadel Colour paints (the ones made by Coat d'Arms that Games Workshop sold in the late 80s and early 90s), Games Workshop paints (the ones in the hard plastic bottles), Games Workshop wash (the newer soft plastic bottles), and Ceramcoat, Apple Barrel, and Americana acrylic craft paints. I thinned the paints 1:1 using my normal thinning solution. In the pic below, you can see the models, my palette, some of my brushes, and most of the paints I used laid out on my paint desk.

Ready to paint

The first thing I did was cover the blank spots left by the primer and base coat with Games Workshop Scorched Brown. This prevents bare metal from showing through on the finished models. The color is close enough to the the black primer/brown spray base that this doesn't really stand out. The next step was to darken some of the areas of the models with Games Workshop Badab Black wash. I painted the fur, hair, and armor areas with undiluted wash. I normally like to thin my paints and washes, but I wanted a dark solid wash on these without having to do several coats.
Models after washing darker areas

Once the wash dried, I started highlighting the fur and legs. I drybrushed the fur on the satyr's legs and the squirrel with Games Workshop Dark Flesh. I did a basic highlight on the legs of the satyrs and brownies and the antlers of the Satyr Legend with Games Workshop Bestial Brown. I painted the quivers and straps with the Bestial Brown as well.

Legs and fur with basic highlights

With the highlighting done on the legs, I turned to doing the flesh on the satyrs. I like to use a mix of Games Workshop Bestial Brown and Games Workshop Bleached Bone for a lot of different paint tasks. Rather than have to make a mix every time I want to use it, I mixed a bottle of each with some thinner and stored it in a large plastic paint container. I have a couple of these kinds of mixes that I keep around. Some are for general use - Bestial Brown/Bleached Bone and Dwarf Flesh/Bleached Bone - and others are mixes for specific projects - Blood Red/Terracotta for some space marines I painted, for instance. Pre-mixing like this helps keep the colors consistent across a large project and saves some time for the general colors.

Pre-mixed colors will save you some time

I painted a base coat of my Bestial Brown and Bleached Bone mix on the flesh on the satyrs' torsos, arms, and faces. For this coat, I avoided the deepest crevices and creases in the flesh areas to create a first basic highlight.

Bestial Brown/Bleached Bone highlight on satyrs' flesh

From the brown base, I built up the highlights on the flesh in layers. I painted a thin layer of each color, working the highlights up to the highest parts of the musculature on the figures, blending each color up from the one below it. I painted with Games Workshop Dwarf Flesh, a 1:1 pre-mix of Games Workshop Dwarf Flesh and Games Workshop Bleached Bone, and Citadel Colour Elf Flesh. Because of the size of the brownies, I didn't worry too much about lots of highlights on their flesh. For the brownies, I just gave them a quick highlight with dwarf flesh.

Flesh and fur on the satyrs finished

With the flesh finished, I took a quick look at the squirrel with the brownies. I wanted to have a reddish-orange color to the fur, so I gave it a final drybrush with Citadel Colour Fiery Orange. The figure kept a lot of depth and and the reddish color of the underlying brown, but picked up the orangeness of the final drybrush.

Next I did some touch-up work. When I paint models, I always make some mistakes. Most of these, I can just let go and move on, but some of them would be glaringly obvious on the finished models. For the latter, I go in and do some touch ups before I move on to the final details. On the satyrs, that meant touching up a few faces, plenty of mustaches, spears and legs that got painted with flesh, and so on. You can see a couple examples in the pic below, specifically his mustache and the areas around his hands.

A couple mistakes that need correcting

To correct the mistakes, I painted over them with Games Workshop Scorched Brown and highlighted where appropriate.

Touch ups finished

Finally, I turned to the details. I used a little Citadel Colour Snakebite Leather to highlight the quivers on the Shootists and the antlers on the Satyr Legend.

I used Games Workshop Desert Yellow to paint the bows, spear shafts, and arrows. For these, I used a little extra thinning solution in the mix and painted along the length of the spears and bows. That produced some streaking that helps create a bit of depth.

I painted the tassels on the spears and the fletchings on the arrows with a base coat of Ceramcoat Quaker Grey. I highlighted them with a bit of Apple Barrel White.

For the metal, I wanted a bronze look rather than steel, because of the traditional Fae vulnerability to iron. I base coated the metal on the squirrel's armor, the brownies' swords and shields, and the spear tips with Citadel Colour Dwarf Bronze. I highlighted the edges with Citadel Colour Mithril Silver.

I painted the vines on the Satyr Master's club with a Citadel Colour Dark Angels Green base coat followed by a highlight of Americana Foliage Green.

Finally, I drybrushed the bases and mushrooms with Games Workshop Desert Yellow followed by Games Workshop Bleached Bone. I washed the mushrooms with the Bleached Bone to smooth the color as a final highlight.

The only thing left to do one these now is flock the bases and seal them.

Fae Shootists


Satyr Master and Legend

Satyr Stickers

Friday, September 28, 2012

Rolemaster public playtest

For all of its charts and baroque appearance, Rolemaster is still one of my favorite fantasy roleplaying games. It has plenty of crunch and customization options, lots of supplements and supporting material, and a pretty good published campaign setting. As long as players have done the math ahead of time, a lot of the mechanical parts of the game can fall into the background until they actually add something to the narrative. It's also compatible with the older Middle Earth Role Playing material ICE published, so you can easily play or adapt all kinds of Tolkien goodness with it.

Now Iron Crown is doing a public playtest of the new Rolemaster, just in time for the 30th anniversary of the game. All you need to do to join the playtest is join their forums and agree to their terms, which are pretty simple. Right now, you can download the playtest versions of Character Law and Spell Law. I imagine that much more will be coming quickly. In the meantime, I'll be trying to fit in reading these two between all my other projects.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My first Fanticide game

Yesterday I finally got a chance to get the Fanticide models on the table and play a game. I put together a couple of 630 point warbands for the Fae and the Liberi. I played the Fae, and my friend Nick played the Liberi.

Here's the composition for the Fae warband:

Satyr Legend with Soulforged Spear (+3/+4), Necklace of the Arrow, and Horn of Mastery (105 points)
3 Retainers with spears and the Standard of Time (80 points)
Satyr Master with Soulforged Club (37 points)
10 Satyr Stickers (90 points)
8 Satyr Shootists (128 points)
4 Bogies infested with Sprytes (88 points)
3 Brownie stands (39 points)
Forest Father infested with Sprytes (61 points)

In all the warband is 628 points. I didn't really need to have the Bogies and Forest Father infested, but it was a way to eat up a couple extra points. I would have rather had some more shootists or a couple extra Bogies on hand instead.

The Liberi had this:

Centaur Chieftain with shield and big club (88 points)
7 Centaur Stickers (192 points)
5 Centaur Shootists (190 points)
4 Centaur Cheveyo (160 points)

This warband came to an even 630 points. I didn't have enough points to include the Shaman or any magic items, but they will definitely be making an appearance as soon as I can get enough models for the Fae to match the points.


I made sure to have the board set and ready before Nick arrived. I set the models out on the ends of the table. Each unit has a number of cards that determines when they activate. I grabbed the appropriate unit cards and the event cards and set them out. I also made sure to grab as many ten-sided dice as I could find. I only had four, so I'm thinking of picking up more in the future.

Ready for deployment

I set up on a small board (about 3' x 3'). I got rid of most of my terrain a couple years ago, so I made do with some of the materials I have on hand for building more. That meant a lot of small hills made from piles of pine bark and some cheap trees I found at the dollar store. It was enough to break up the board and give us something to maneuver around, but I definitely need to get better terrain made soon!

I put the Hole Beast in the middle of the table as terrain, since I didn't want to inflate the points for the Liberi by including it in the warband.

With everything ready, we checked to see what sin each of us had. Nick rolled an 8 for Envy. That meant he would have the same sin as I rolled. I ended up rolling a 2 for Wrath. So we were both trying to wipe out whole squads whenever possible. Next we shuffled the unit cards and drew for deployment. As we drew each unit's card, we set up the figures for the units as shown below. The Fae have the Bogies, the Satyr Master, and the Brownies on their left flank. The Forest Father, the Satyr Legend, and the Retainers are in the center. The Stickers and Shootists are on the right flank. The Liberi Chieftain is set up with the Stickers on the Liberi left flank. The Shootists are in the middle, and the Cheveyo are on the right.

Ready to play

Turn 1

With deployment done, we added an event card to the deck and shuffled the cards. The first cue card was for the Fae Monster, so Forest Father moved forward into the woods in the center.

The next card drawn was the event card for the turn. A rainbow appeared overhead. Luckily the unicorn wasn't on the board, so the rainbow didn't have any effect on anything on the board.

The Liberi Shootists activated, moved forward on their hill and shot at the Fae Stickers that were outside the woods. Liberi Shootists can move and shoot in the same activation, which makes them particularly effective. To work out the shooting, each shooter nominates a target, rolls a die, and adds their Give to the roll. The defender rolls a die and adds their Take to the roll. The scores are compared to determine the result of each shot. Super simple! The Liberi scored a few hits and caused some casualties but not enough to force a Sanity check.

The next few activations involved a lot of movement. The Brownies, the Liberi Stickers, the Satyr Legend and Retainers, and the Bogies all moved forward.

The next card drawn was for the Liberi Chief. Rather than move the Chief forward, Nick opted to have him activate the Shootists. In Fanticide, when you draw one of the cards for a leader, you can choose to activate the leader and any squad he is with or activate a nearby squad instead. Activating another squad requires a test against the squad's Sanity score, with a bonus that varies depending on the type of leader giving the command. He made a successful check, and the Shootists took more shots at the Fae Stickers. 

This time, the Stickers didn't fare as well. They took enough casualties to take them below half of their original number, so they were forced to make a check to see if they would stand or retreat. They made their Sanity check, so they held their position.

The next cue card to come up was for the Satyr Legend, so he and the Retainers moved to the right. Immediately after that, I had the Retainers activate their Banner of Time to move again. This put them on the right flank where they could try to activate the Satyr Shootists when the next Legend cue card was drawn. Unfortunately, moving them out exposed them to the Liberi Shootists. I forgot that the Legend had the Horn of Command, which would have allowed them to stay safely behind the wood and still control the Shootists.

The next two cards to come up were for the Satyr Master. I used the first to move him forward and the second to try to activate the Bogies and move them forward again. Unfortunately, I failed the Sanity check to activate the Bogies, so I wasted a card.

Next the Liberi Legend activated the Shootists again! This time Nick decided to take a few shots at the Satyr Legend and his Retainers. I rolled for the Legend's Necklace of the Arrow, hoping that he would have some extra protection from the shooting. Unfortunately, I rolled a 1, so the necklace didn't help much. Nick rolled amazingly well on this volley, and I rolled amazingly poorly to resist. This time he killed two of the Retainers and stunned the third. Fortunately, I rolled well for my Legend to resist the shooting. The Legend also made his Sanity check to stay in the fight. At this point the Fae were definitely on their back foot!

The Fae Shootists activated and took some shots back at their Liberi counterparts. They were able to kill one and stun two more, so they forced the Liberi to make a Sanity check. The Liberi made it with ease, so they remained a threat.

The Liberi Cheveyo activated and moved forward. Then the Liberi Chief activated the Shootists again. This time they took another round of shots at the Satyr Stickers. They killed one and stunned one, but the Stickers stood their ground again.

The first turn was mostly shooting from the Liberi and maneuvering by the Fae to move around the Hole Beast. The event card didn't really have an effect on the battle.

Turn 2

Beginning of Turn 2

We set aside the Rainbow card, added another event card to the deck, shuffled and started into the second turn. 

The Liberi Chief activated the Shootists again, and they killed another Satyr Sticker. The Fae Master activated the Bogies to move forward.

The cue card for the Liberi Shootists came up next, and they shifted their attention to the other side of the table. Seeing the Bogies moving forward, they let fly at them. They managed to kill one Bogie and stun two more. The Bogies failed their Sanity check and fled. I rolled a 10, which added to their Gait of 4 to mean they retreated 14" -- right off the edge of the board!

The Fae Master moved forward again, hoping to get into range to charge the Cheveyo along with Peeves.

The next card was the event card for the turn -- A Blow! That meant that no unit could shoot or fly until the next event card was drawn. Finally, the Fae could escape the withering fire from the Liberi Shootists!

The Fae Legend and his single remaining retainer moved forward. Then the Legend activated the Satyr stickers to move forward as well. The Brownies moved forward to try to get in charge range of the Cheveyo. It looked a little long, so I didn't want to risk not rolling enough for a successful charge, so I just moved them normally.

With the Shootists out of play, things were coming to a head. The Liberi Chieftain moved to join the Stickers. Then the Satyr Legend tried to activate the Satyr stickers to charge the Liberi but failed on the Sanity check. The Liberi Stickers activated next, stole the charge and attacked the Satyr Stickers.

To resolve combat, the squads were positioned so that opponents were as evenly divided as possible. That meant that the three Satyr Stickers had to face two or three Liberi Stickers each. Nick rolled a die for each attacker and added his Give. I rolled a die and added my models' Take to defend against each attack. The Fae were easily outclassed and wiped out to a man.

At this point, the Fae were in danger of fleeing the field because of Soul loss, so I decided to chuck everything to fate. The Satyr Shootists activated and charged into the Liberi Stickers! With a lot of lucky rolls on my part and some really unlucky rolls on Nick's part, the Satyrs managed to kill the Liberi Chieftain and three of the Stickers. Two of the Shootists were killed in the process, but they won the combat. With the Chieftain dead, the Liberi failed their Sanity check and ended up fleeing off the board!

Checking the totals, it turned out the Liberi had lost over half of their Soul total, so the game would end with this turn. We decided to end it right there and retire to the pub down the street for some nice Oktoberfest beer.


The game played well with the make-do stuff I could throw on the table, but I want to get all the models painted and make some better terrain. Playing the game has gotten me even more excited to finish painting the models as soon as possible. I also want to have more terrain that breaks the lines of sight and have some areas that are difficult to move and maneuver through. And I want to try the game on a larger board where we can spread out more. The units in the game felt a little clumped, and the Liberi Shootists were able to dominate by being basically in the center on such a small board. 

I love this game! Even with having to review and look up a lot of rules, we managed to set everything up and play through a couple turns in under an hour and a half. The second turn was definitely faster than the first, and I imagine that the games will only get faster. The game is simple to learn and plays quickly.

There is a lot of tactical depth here. We barely scratched the surface of what we can do with this game. I'm looking forward to getting more models to allow a lot more options for the warbands. I also want to get the magic rules in play with some spellcasters. That should add even more options to the game.

I like both of the warbands we played, and I can see a lot of things that we could do with them. I really want to try out the Creeps and the Kingdom of Odd warbands as well. I think both will have some cool differences that will really make a difference in games. Nick and I also talked about using other figures to make warbands and using the Fanticide rules for other things. We're particularly looking at using the base rules to play some skirmish games with the Saxon and Viking figures we got at Gen Con. As soon as we have the full rulebook with the warband design rules, we'll be working out the stats!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Miniatures - Using visual reference for painting

A few years ago I took a drawing class at the Art Institute in Chicago. Doing the class taught me quite a lot that has influenced the way that I paint miniatures. One of the primary things I learned, though, is that it is easier to draw or paint something if you have a good, real reference. It is easier to see how light, shadow, color, and form all work together on a particular model if you are actually looking at a live model. Eventually, you get enough practice that you can work from memory, but having that reference can help make things feel a lot more accurate to a viewer.

My process is a lot like a painter building a maquette or model for something they want to paint. It gives a solid visual reference that you can use to add verisimilitude to something you're creating. To give you a little idea how it works for a painter, check out this video by James Gurney of Dinotopia fame:

In the case of miniatures, you can see the texture of the model because you're holding it in your hands. With a strong directional light, you can see how particular areas are highlighted or shaded by simply positioning the light where you want it to source. For colors and gradations, though, it helps to have some visual reference.

I use a lot of paintings, photographs, and drawings as inspiration for colors and gradations. Often, doing a search for something common using the image search on Google turns up several different ways that I could paint something on a model. Seeing a lot of ideas laid out at once gives me a chance to compare and choose the ones that give me the best reference for a particular model. If I find several that give me different ideas, I can save the images, chop out the parts I like, and rearrange them into a final reference image using GIMP.

Here's a reference I put together to get some ideas for painting the squirrel on the Brownies for my Fanticide Fae. You can see the different colors of the fur, and the way that the coloring changes on the belly and interior of the legs. I used these as I painted the figure to decide on the colors to use and to make it a bit more life-like.

A gathering of squirrels

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Painting more Fanticide models

I've been working slowly all week trying to finish painting the Fanticide models. Unfortunately, the weather is perfectly on schedule - it started getting cooler this week just in time for the equinox and the beginning of autumn here. The changing of the seasons always causes me a bit of pain and stiffness, so that has limited the amount of time I can spend sitting in one place and painting. Still, I'm trying to spend a couple of hours a day at it, and I'm slowly working my way through everything. Hopefully, I'll have everything done by next weekend.

In the meantime, I have managed to finish the unicorn I picked up last weekend and the Bogies and Forest Father for the Fae. I have also managed to get a good start on all of the satyrs and brownies for the Fae, so the whole warband should be finished very soon. After that, I'll turn to the Liberi.

For some reason the pictures of the progress steps didn't come out very well. So this time, I'll just have to describe what I did and show you some final pictures. If anybody has a preference for either seeing or not seeing progress steps on my painting posts, let me know. I know that I like to see the steps leading to the finished models. Things like that helped me develop my skill as a painter. On the other hand, if nobody really cares to see them, I won't worry about taking the time for them and focus on getting the painting done instead.

Painting the Unicorn

My pretty little unicorn

The unicorn is different than most of the other models I'm doing for Fanticide, since it is triggered by an event rather than being part of a warband. As such, it is likely to show up in every game, and I want it to stand out.

For the figure, I'm using a plastic unicorn that came as part of the Mythical Realms Toob set. The model is soft plastic, so I cleaned the mold lines as best I could with a razor knife, glued it to a spare Games Workshop 50mm base, textured the base with sand and a few rocks, and primed it white.

Because unicorns are mostly white and should have a smooth coat, they can be difficult to paint. White is one of the hardest colors to paint on models, because it requires some subtle shading to look right and there is no highlight for the color. Also, what we see as white can have different shadings, depending on what you're viewing. When I need to paint a model white, I normally think of it as either a brown white or a grey white, depending on the model and the effect I am looking to achieve.

Brown whites have a brown or yellow shade and build up to white. Grey whites have a grey or blue shade and build up to white. The former tend to be warmer, while the latter appear cooler. I normally use brown whites for fantasy models and creatures and grey whites for modern or science fiction models and things like armor plates and vehicles. For horses, I have used both, depending on the look I want for the horse. For the unicorn, I chose a grey white because I want the unicorn to look cooler in comparison to the roses in its mane.

To paint the model, I used a variety of paints - Ceramcoat, Apple Barrel, and Americana acrylic craft paints, Citadel Colour acrylic model paints, and Games Workshop acrylic model paints and washes. Note that the Citadel Colour paints are the ones that were made by Coat d'Arms for Games Workshop back in the late 80s to early 90s that came in the soft plastic bottles with flip caps, not the later paints that came in the hard plastic bottles. I thinned the paints with my thinning mixture - one part Future floor wax and three parts water.

To build up the coat, I mixed a wash of Ceramcoat craft paint Cape Cod Blue (about one part paint to two parts thinner) and covered the whole model. I then highlighted the body with thinned Ceramcoat Quaker Grey, building up a few thin stages of shading on the coat.

I painted the horn with Citadel Colour Golden Yellow. I highlighted the horn with Citadel Colour Sunburst Yellow.

With the coat and horn base coated and highlighted, I mixed some white paint to do the final highlights on the horn, mane, leggings, tail and coat. I mixed one part of the paint with one part thinner and highlighted the horn with a fine brush. I drybrushed the mane, leggings and tail. Before doing the coat, I added a bit more thinner to the paint. I then worked up the highlights on the coat in several layers until the model looked consistently white.

For the leaves on the roses, I base coated them with Citadel Colour Dark Angels Green and highlighted them with Americana Foliage Green. I base coated the roses with Citadel Colour Crimson Gore and highlighted them with Apple Barrel Pink Parfait and Ceramcoat Rose Petal Pink craft paint.

I painted the eyes of the unicorn with Games Workshop Dark Flesh.

I painted the whole base with Games Workshop Dark Flesh. This color is close to the color of the brown spray paint I used to base coat the other Fanticide models, but it was lighter over the white primer on the unicorn. I darkened it by washing the base with some Games Workshop Badab Black Wash. Once the wash had dried, I drybrushed the rocks and sand on the base with Games Workshop Desert Yellow and Games Workshop Bleached Bone. I'll add flock and scatter to the base when I complete the painting on the rest of the Fanticide models.

Painting the Bogies and Forest Father

Fae Bogies and Forest Father

I painted the Bogies and Forest Father using Americana, Craft Smart, and Apple Barrel craft paints, Citadel Colour and Games Workshop model paints and washes. They were all assembled with super glue and two-part epoxy putty, and primed black and base coated with brown spray paint.

I started the painting by darkening the bark with a wash of Games Workshop Badab Black Wash over all the models. I washed them pretty heavily and set them aside to dry while I worked on painting the unicorn. Once the unicorn was painted, I came back to these.

For the bark, I drybrushed the models with Games Workshop Dark Flesh, Commando Khaki and Bleached Bone. I applied some small highlights with the Bleached Bone around the faces of the models as well.

I base coated the moss and foliage with Citadel Colour Dark Angels Green. I drybrushed the moss and highlighted the edges of the leaves and vines with Americana craft paint Foliage Green.

All of these models have sprites and brownies on their bases. For the brownies, I highlighted their legs with Games Workshop Bestial Brown and their torsos and faces with Citadel Colour Dwarf Flesh. I painted the brownies' weapons with Citadel Colour Dwarf Bronze and highlighted them with Citadel Colour Mithril Silver. I painted one of the sprites with Games Workshop Regal Blue, followed by highlights of Craft Smart Pale Blue and Apple Barrel White. The other sprites were painted red and yellow. The Red sprite was base coated with Citadel Colour Ruby Red and highlighted with Citadel Colour Blood Red followed by Citadel Colour Golden Yellow. The yellow sprite was base coated with Golden Yellow and highlighted with Citadel Colour Bad Moon Yellow and Apple Barrel White.

The mushrooms were painted with Citadel Colour Ruby Red and Blood Red, Citadel Colour Bleached Bone, and Apple Barrel White.

The bases were base coated with the brown spray and drybrushed with Games Workshop Desert Yellow and Bleached Bone.

These models came with some clump foliage to add to their branches. I'll add this to the models, along with some flock on their bases, once I get the rest of the Fanticide models painted.

Fae Forest Father

Fae Bogies

Fae Bogie with Sprite

Saturday, September 22, 2012

RPG Blog Carnival - Established Settings

The RPG Blog Carnival is hosted this month by Dice Monkey. The topic for the month is Established Settings.

I have used quite a few established settings in my gaming life. For D&D, I've run adventures in Greyhawk, Mystara, Blackmoor, the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance's Krynn, the City-State of the Invincible Overlord (both the Judges Guild version and the Chaosium one from the late 80s), Bard Games' Atlantis, and quite a few others. I have played Traveller in the Spinward Marches and the Imperium. I've adventured throughout Middle Earth. I've cavorted across the rooftops of Spider Man's New York. For most other games, I used whatever setting was included with the game. Ultimately, though, I've always tweaked and changed things, and all of my campaigns have evolved past whatever the original published setting included.

Most early role-playing games didn't start with any established setting, per se. There were particular ideas suggested by the rules, but nothing was explicitly stated about the "world" of the game. Whoever was running and playing the game was expected to develop their own setting. That changed fairly quickly with the publication of the Blackmoor supplement for D&D, the various supplemental campaign books for Traveller, and other, similar supplements. It was easier to get people to play the game if they did not have to put as much work into it up front. Players could buy the rules, a setting supplement, and an adventure and be running much faster than if they just had the rules and had to create everything else on their own.

It was also easier to create adventures and other supplements if there was a common framework to draw on. With an established setting, all of the common elements are there. Anyone designing an adventure or supplement can assume that players already know the base information in the setting and work from there without having to restate everything. That means there are a lot of materials to draw from when running a game in the setting.

And it was easier to move characters between games if there was that common framework of an established setting. In our games back in the 80s, we moved characters between campaigns fairly frequently among our regular groups. It was easy to do so if the characters were all from Greyhawk, so a lot of the DMs in our group ran games in Greyhawk. A character could easily move between the area around the City of Greyhawk into Furyondy, the Wild Coast, the Cairn Hills, or Verbobonc. So we had DMs running different campaigns in different areas, and our characters would spend money and time moving from place to place to join or leave particular groups.

Finally, in an established setting, it is easier for players to aggregate information over time. Although there have been thousands of pages printed about the Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk, this abundance of information is attractive to a lot of players who feel that they are familiar and comfortable in those places. Common, specific elements like the Green Dragon Inn, Waterdeep, Mordenkainen, Elminster, and so on, give players hooks that are immediately recognizable without a lot of backstory, explanation, or description. They have become common knowledge by their use in thousands of games and publications, and their commonality makes them immediately useful in a game.

If you run your own campaign outside of an established setting, all of these things become harder, and the people playing and running the games have to do a lot more work. There is no common framework that can be assumed, the game master has to spend more time explaining and detailing things about the surrounding world to the players. Frequently this means providing some kind of setting document or info dump to the players to put them into the right mindset to play in the world. Every difference or fantastic element must be explained, and players clue in on the obviousness of these differences. The game master is responsible for creating everything to make the atmosphere as rich as possible, and they don't have the luxury of saying something like "the common languages of the area are all listed on page X of the Cyclopedia."

There are a lot of published materials you can use, if you adapt things from other settings, but you have to do some work to fit them into your world. That means at the very least changing the names of places and people and making sure that it fits geographically and thematically.

Character portability can also be a factor. If you use house rules, variants, or specific items or effects tied to your unique world, it is harder for players to transport their characters to a new campaign. They may have an item or ability that other game masters think is too powerful or too unique to introduce into their own campaigns. Or they may simply be too weird to fit in elsewhere.

Any new player introduced into the group needs to have everything explained to them, and they may have trouble acclimating or accepting your design decisions. Say, for instance, that you don't have any elves in your world but one of your players always plays an elf. You may lose that player unless you're willing to accommodate them in some way.

At the moment, I am running two games. One is my Labyrinth Lord game set in Greyhawk. The other is a game using the Moldvay/Cook/Marsh Basic and Expert rules set in my Coastlands setting. So I am seeing both the benefits and drawbacks of both approaches again simultaneously.

In my LL game, I can rely on a small amount of player knowledge about Greyhawk. What people don't know about the world is easily described or referenced, because there is a ton of information available about the setting. If I need to show them a holy symbol for a particular god, a map of a place, or a picture of a famous NPC, I can normally find one with a quick search. I can grab descriptions and notes from published products to give to the players, and I have plenty of published adventures and supplements to make preparation for the game easy.

On the other hand, I have some constraints as well. Some of the players have expectations about particular things in the world that I have changed. Because I am playing in a time before the Greyhawk Wars, they expect certain things to be happening in the campaign world that may not necessarily be happening or come to pass. One character wanted to play a member of a specialty order of a particular deity's church that he saw described in a newer supplement. Looking at the order, I didn't want to introduce them into my campaign, so he had to adjust his character concept a bit. All of these things have changed the published Greyhawk into my Greyhawk.

My Coastlands setting, on the other hand, is something I am making from whole cloth. I am using plenty of things for inspiration, but nothing goes into the world without some change or reworking. That means that I have to describe everything to the players or they have to discover it in pieces through play.

The way that I've gotten around that difficulty is to have the players enter the Coastlands through a gate with no knowledge of where they are or what is there. They have to learn about the world as I present it to them. That gives me time to develop things as they are needed without overburdening myself and still gives them some richness in play. They find something, I describe it and develop it, and we both add a little more to the world. I don't have a lot of specific information about the world that I can draw on yet, but it will develop over time and with play.

A lot of game masters might be uncomfortable coming up with everything as needed like that, but I am enjoying it just as much as I am running in Greyhawk. Both campaigns have their good things and bad things for me as a DM, and I'm sure my players would say the same. Ultimately, though, we are enjoying playing, and that's what really matters!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Another Hobbit trailer

Another trailer for The Hobbit movies has been released. Peter Jackson has taken some license with Tolkien's world and characters, but he has presented a beautiful vision of Middle Earth. I can't wait to see the final version of the movies.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Common Tongue in the Coastlands

Most of the people that are in the Coastlands come from other places, specifically other planes. They speak a variety of languages of their home planes, but rarely have any understanding of any of the languages in use in the Coastlands. So most people that arrive here will initially be unable to communicate with anyone and will appear to be speaking gibberish to anyone hearing them. They will hear things that Coastlands inhabitants say as gibberish as well.

To get around this difficulty, several wizards in Oldtown have worked together to create a potion that grants sentient beings the ability to understand what they are saying or hearing as a single common language. Because of the large numbers of people that arrive in the Coastlands through the various gates, they produce the potion in large batches and distribute it throughout the city and surrounding countryside regularly. The potion is distributed as single doses in blue-tinted vials capped with corks. It is readily available in most taverns, inns, and common stores in the area. The usual price ranges from 1-10 common gold pieces.

Once a person has imbibed the potion, they will feel a burning sensation in their mouth and throat. Their ears will pop, and they will have a slight headache. These symptoms will pass in a couple of minutes, and the imbiber will be able to understand and speak the Common tongue of the Coastlands. They will still retain the ability to speak any other languages their character knew before imbibing the potion, including the Common tongue of whatever realm they came to the Coastlands from, but they will need to find others that can understand them to communicate effectively. Long-term residents of the Coastlands occasionally lose the ability to speak their original language due to disuse.

Fighting in plate mail

Over the years I've seen a ton of arguments about what was wand wasn't possible in plate mail. Most of the arguments centered on how mobile and agile someone in plate could be, especially in terms of dodging and maneuvering in combat. This video gives you a good idea of exactly how someone can move in plate. It also settles for once and all exactly why you can't sneak up on someone in a dungeon while wearing heavy armor. Check it out!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Painting the Fanticide Hole Beast

Fanticide Hole Beast
I decided to paint the Hole Beast first to get it out of the way. This is both a model and a terrain piece, so it is larger than the other Fanticide models. It has plenty of texture on it, along with a few details. I'll be taking advantage of the deep textures and doing some drybrushing. To get it ready to paint, I cleaned and assembled the model and primed and base coated it spray paint.

I used a variety of paints to complete the model -- Citadel Colour paints produced in the early 90s (the soft plastic bottles with flip tops produced by Coat d'Arms), Games Workshop paints produced in the late 90s and early 00s (the hard plastic, clear hex bottles), Ceramcoat and Apple Barrel craft paints. All of the paints are acrylic. I thinned them with a mix of three parts water and one part Future acrylic floor wax.

I started the painting by base coating the body and the arms with Citadel Dark Angels Green. I tried to keep the edges around the teeth and eyes sharp, but I wasn't as worried about the edges of the body that blend into the earth around it. I highlighted the green with a heavy drybrush of Citadel Emerald Green. For a final highlight on the green, I mixed Citadel Emerald Green with an equal part Apple Barrel White and drybrushed the body and arms. I added final spot highlights to the edges of the mouth and eyes with the Emerald Green and White mix using a fine detail brush.

The green body painted and highlighted

I base coated the claws and barbs on the arms with Ceramcoat Black. I painted the eyes and teeth with Citadel Snakebite Leather.

Barbs, teeth and eyes base coated

I highlighted the teeth and eyes with Games Workshop Bleached Bone and Ceramcoat White. I tried to keep the bases of the teeth dark and highlight out with streaks of lighter paint working toward the tips. For the eyes, I made sure to keep the paint thin and work with smooth strokes to keep the surface smooth and the color even.

Eyes and teeth finished

It looks hungry

To detail the eyes, I painted an iris in each eye using Citadel Crimson Gore. I then added a pupil with a dot of black. I also added a light highlight on the iris using Citadel Golden Yellow.

Nice eyes

I highlighted the claws with a bit of Ceramcoat Quaker Grey on the edges. For the base, I drybrushed the soil and rocks with Games Workshop Desert Yellow and Games Workshop Bleached Bone.

Hole Beast

Once I finish the rest of the Fanticide models, I'll add some flock to the base.

Monday Miniatures - Basing and Priming

I'm going to take advantage of the work I'm doing on my Fanticide miniatures to talk about another couple of basic techniques, basing and priming.

When I talk about basing, I'm talking about adding texture to the miniature's base to simulate ground. For most of the models I paint, I use a mix of sand and fine gravel to add some texture to the base.

There are a lot of different kinds of modeling sand and gravel available, and you can certainly use these to make a decent mix for texturing your bases. My particular mix came from Home Depot.

I was there with a friend getting some supplies to make one of my terrain boards. I was planning on getting a bag of medium grade construction sand. This is rougher than the sand you get at hobby shops but a lot less expensive. I was able to buy a 50-pound bag of sand for less than $5. My friend noticed that there were plenty of split bags that had leaked gravel and sand on the floor in the materials department. He asked one of the employees if we could get a bag of the spilled materials. We ended up leaving with about twenty-five pounds of mixed sand and gravel for free! I took it home, sifted out the larger stones with some 1/4" wire mesh and put the rest of the mix in plastic containers.

I'm trying to get the Fanticide models on the table as quickly as possible, so I waited until all of them were assembled to do the basing. I like to texture the bases before I prime the models, because the primer helps to seal the sand on the base.

To texture the bases, I mixed white glue and water (about one part glue to two parts water) in an old paint can cap and poured some sand into a small plastic container. That way I could have the glue and sand handy on the paint table without taking too much space.

Basing supplies at the ready

The Fanticide models all have metal bases on the figures. These are glued to the plastic bases, and this creates a bit of a bump near the models' feet. This isn't a big deal on most of the figures. I just painted glue on the plastic base, covering the edges and top of the metal base on the figure. The surface tension of the glue helps seal around the metal base on most of them so the sand will cover smoothly.

Brownies with the glue on their base
 With the glue painted on the base, I dip the model in the sand, making sure to tip it in at several angles. In the case of a stand of models like the Brownies, you may need to shake some sand into place in the middle. As long as you have glued the models securely to the base, you shouldn't have any trouble shaking the sand into place. Once the sand is on the base, I let it dry for a few seconds and then clean the edge of the base by running my finger carefully around the edge.

If you feel like it, you can seal the top of the texturing with a bit of thinned glue mixture. In this case, I decided to skip that step and let the primer seal the sand in place.

Brownies with the base textured

In some cases, like the Brownies here, a model may have a thicker metal base that isn't concealed well by one layer of sand. In those cases, you can either build up around the metal base with a bit of putty or use a second layer of sand. For the Brownies, I just decided to use a second layer of sand.

Some of the bases didn't cover well

If you are doing more than one layer of sand, let the first layer dry. Then spread another layer of glue in the spots where you need more sand and dip into the sand again. Simple!

A second layer covers better

Sometimes you will find that you've gotten a bit of sand onto a model where it doesn't belong. You can see a bit of sand stuck on the Brownie in the middle of the base in the picture below.

Sand in uncomfortable places

If you catch it before the glue dries, you can use a wet brush to clean the sand off the model. If the glue has already dried, you can pick it off with the tip of a razor knife. This is one of the reasons I like to do the texturing before I paint. I don't have to worry about chipping the paint if I need to clean up some sand.

Much better

When I am working on a large project, I like to do a lot of bases at once. It saves a lot of time mixing glue and waiting for things to dry. By the time you finish the last figures, the first ones are dry.

Textured and ready to prime

With everything textured, I gathered my priming materials and headed outside. For this batch, I took a mostly-finished can of Armory Black Primer, a new can of Games Workshop Black Primer, a can of Design Master Colortool Flat White spray, and a can of Colortool October Brown spray.

I use a spray handle when I'm priming with canned sprays, which is especially helpful if you are working on a large batch of figures. The spray handle clips to the top of a spray paint can. That way you have a larger handle and a trigger to activate the can. For someone that is prone to hand cramps, this is a godsend!

A spray handle makes it easier to spray

When I was priming, it was too dark for pictures, so I'll have to do another post later talking about how I prime with some pics.

To do a batch this big, I had several sheets of corrugated cardboard with eight to ten models laid out on each and worked down the line. I would spray one sheet of figures and set them aside to dry while I did the rest. By the time I finished each stage on all the sheets, the first sheet was fairly dry and ready for the next step.

I primed the Unicorn with the white spray and set it aside. Because it was the only model I was doing with white, I wanted to get it done and out of the way.

The rest of the models I primed with the black primer, using the Armory first and switching to the Games Workshop when the Armory can was empty. I made sure to prime all of the models standing, then tipped them on their sides and primed them from the bottom. Then I flipped them over and primed the other side from the bottom.

Priming in black is a bit of a departure from my normal method. Normally I prime white and ink or stain the models to get some shading. For this patch, though, I wanted to use a spray to do the base coat and the black primer helps to shade the brown, saving me a couple steps later.

For the base coat, I stood up all the models except the unicorn and sprayed them from the top and sides with the Colortool October Brown spray. I didn't spray them from the underside, because that way the black primer provides a bit of shading for the brown.

With all of the priming and base coating finished, I let the models sit for a few hours. Letting the models rest after spraying with canned spray paint ensures that the gasses from the spray dissipate and the paint has had time to set before you start painting.

The Hole Beast and Fae primed and base coated

I noticed that a few models had some spots that got missed in the priming. That is normal and nothing to worry about. I'll cover the bare patches on any of the models as I do the rest of the painting. A little thinned black paint tucks into these areas nicely and covers the metal well.

A couple of bare patches here and there

Altogether, texturing the bases on these models and priming them took me a couple hours. That puts the total time on the Fanticide models at about fourteen hours so far.

Next up, I'll take a look at painting the Hole Beast and some of the Fae.

More Fanticide Coming Later

I didn't get nearly as much done on Sunday as I hoped, but I did put in several more hours on the Fanticide minis.

I got everything based and primed and started painting. Right now the hole beast, the Forest Father, and the Bogies are all finished except for flocking. The rest of the Fae have been base coated and have a couple other steps done. The unicorn has been base coated and washed. The Liberi have all been base coated.

Expect a full write-up on the painting later today!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Finishing Filing the Fanticide Fae

All alliteration aside, I took a couple hours after dinner and finished the rest of the assembly on the Fae. Before I get into that, though, I want to show you something I picked up while I was shopping today.

While I was out, I went to one of the not-so-friendly local game stores looking to see if they had some card sleeves and a unicorn figure. I wanted the card sleeves to protect my Fanticide cards, and I was able to get a couple packs of Upper Deck card sleeves that fit the cards perfectly.

A couple of my Fanticide cards in sleeves

I needed the unicorn so I would have one when the Unicorn event card turns up. The Unicorn event card summons a really nasty, homicidal unicorn. The Rainbow event card makes it even worse by making it berserk and making it stronger! So I need to have a unicorn for Fanticide, and I was hoping for something like Reaper's Starmane figure.

Of course, the game store didn't have any unicorn figures at all. They offered to order one, but I needed to get one so I can hopefully play on Monday. So I started searching around for unicorns I could use. I thought I had seen one that would work in one of the craft stores in town. After searching at Hobby Lobby, a couple of big box stores, and the grocery, I found one at Michael's in a Toob set called Mythical Realms. The set also included a dragon,a phoenix, a chimera, a griffon, a minotaur, and a merman and mermaid. Given my propensity for painting cheap plastic toys like dinosaurs and robots, I was happy to get the set. And it only cost about $5 with the coupon I had!

More things to paint!

Looking at the unicorn in the set, it's about the perfect size compared to the Fanticide figures, and it looks appropriately innocent. I'll throw it on a 50mm Games Workshop base and see what I can do to pretty it up along with the other figures in the project.

Liberi Cheveyo Chief, Toob Unicorn, and Satyr Legend

After dinner I started working on the last of the Fae, the Stickers, the Shootists, and the Brownies. These were all pretty straightforward models and didn't take much extra work.

The Stickers are all single-piece models, so I started with them. All of them cleaned up fairly easily and quickly. There was a little interior flash on some of them, mainly between their spears and bodies. I used a razor knife with a #11 blade to work out the flash and trim the mold lines in these areas. The rest of the mold lines cleaned fairly easily with the semi-round file or the knife. I stuck the models onto their bases with super glue.
Fae Stickers

The Shootists were cast in either one or two pieces. Four of the models had separate bows.

The single-piece models were easy to clean with the semi round file. The two models with separate bows that are positioned like they are nocking an arrow to the string were also easy to clean with the knife and file. I needed to open one of the hands that holds the bow a bit with the knife, but it was no problem to do so.

The other two models are positioned like they are drawing an arrow from their quiver with the bow resting against their thigh. Both of these models needed to have their hands drilled out for the bow, and I needed to file a bit into the thigh so the bow fit right on the model. I drilled the hand with my pin vice and smoothed a slot for the bow in the thigh using a round file. Once the hand was drilled out, it was easy to slide the bow through and glue it in place.

The hand drilled out and the bow in place

Once I got the Shootists cleaned, I glued them to their bases with super glue.

Fae Shootists

The final group that I did for the Fae was the Brownies. The pack came with about thirty brownies on foot and one mounted on an armored squirrel. I think the brownie on the squirrel is one of my all-time favorite figures! The rest of them look like miniature satyrs with various weapons and would look great as 6mm fantasy troops.

All of these models were too small to really worry too much about cleaning. If there was an obvious mold line, I scraped it off as best I could with the knife. Otherwise, I tried to smooth the base of the model and glued it to the base. I also decorated the bases with some stones and a couple of mushrooms to break them up a bit. I spread the brownies I couldn't fit on the three bases around the army. You can see a couple on the Stickers and Shootists. The rest went to the Legend, the Master, and the Bogies.

Fae Brownies

So with a couple more hours of work the Fae are all assembled and ready to go! That's 31 more bases finished!

Fanticide Fae

In the past couple days I've managed to assemble all of the Fanticide models I have, a total of 56 bases worth of models!

All of my Fanticide models assembled

Tomorrow I'll get the bases textured, prime everything, and start painting.