Monday, December 2, 2013

How did you awesomize your D&D binder?

Back in the 70s and 80s, at the beginning of each school year (and occasionally in the middle) I would get a new three-ring binder. These were typically the plain, old-fashioned denim binders. Once I got a Trapper Keeper (bright red) and a few times I got binders with some picture or other (Star Wars, maybe?). Typically, though, it was plain binders full of college ruled paper.

Since I discovered D&D pretty early in my academic career, I would normally swap out some of the ruled paper for graph paper and spend as much time filling my notebooks with maps, characters, and game notes as math problems and essays. When I wasn't working on homework or gaming material, I would draw on the binders. Decorate. Awesomize!

I remember at various times having band names and logos copied from album covers, a D&D logo, TIE fighters, and such. I would painstakingly copy a design just to turn around and cover a bit of it with a random sketch while I was half dozing in math class. The inside was home for stickers and more doodles. Eventually the whole cover, inside and out would be covered with drawings and random stuff.

I know that I wasn't the only one doing this. I saw it every day in classes all day long. Unfortunately, I can't find any of these notebooks online. So I am turning to the hive mind. What did you put on your notebooks back in the day? How did you decorate them? And did you happen to take a picture?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I've been pretty negligent on posting lately. I'm still painting a bit in the mornings before work, but otherwise I haven't been getting much time for anything related to gaming. I did add several titles to the gaming shelf, though. One of those is the Lulu version of Tony Bath's Ancient Wargaming. So far I've managed to read through just a bit of it, but I like what I'm reading.

The introduction reminded me of something that has bothered me about gaming with miniatures - recasting. In the intro to TBAW, Phil Barker states that everyone that was playing Ancients wargames was using pirated figures recast by Tony from German originals. Then I saw a couple of blogs and a YouTube channel I follow suggest or flat out state that they were recasting figures that were rare or otherwise unavailable in the quantities they needed for games. Essentially all of these gamers are willing to cast what they otherwise would have a hard time getting. Apparently that has been a regular thing in the wargaming hobby.

What I'm trying to figure out is if it really is that common. For those of you that wargame with figures, do you or have you recast figures to either save money, duplicate rare models, or fill out the ranks?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday Miniatures - Airborne!

I got these in a mixed lot of 1/72 scale models and figs off of eBay. These are all Esci World War II 101st Airborne. I decided they would make excellent dinosaur hunters for Dinosaurs and Army Men.

I clipped them from the sprues and cleaned the sprue points with a razor knife. I didn't bother too much with mold lines, since these are play figures I want to get on the table quickly. I primed them with Rustoleum basic black primer.

The paint scheme is based on a couple of suggested schemes I've seen online, with some substitutions based on what paints I had on hand.

Here's the whole process:
1. Prime black and glue to bases with white glue.
2. Texture bases with white glue and water (50/50 mix) and mixed sand.
3. Seal bases with white glue and water mix. This helps hold the models on the bases.
4. Wash the bases with old GW Brown Ink. I have had a bottle of ink and water on my paint table for years. I'm finally using the last of it for these and my robots.
5. Paint trousers with Vallejo Model Color US Field Drab.
6. Paint coats with Vallejo Model Color Khaki.
7. Paint flesh with Vallejo Game Color Elf Skin Tone.
8. Paint helmets and painted metal with Tamiya Khaki Drab.
9. Paint webbing and straps with Vallejo Model Color Green Grey.
10. Paint boots and knife sheath with Vallejo Model Color Red Leather.
11. Paint rifle butts with Tamiya NATO Brown.
12. Paint gun barrels with Humbrol Gunmetal.
13. Drybrush bases with GW Bleached Bone.

I finished all of these except the gunmetal for the barrels. I'll hopefully finish this early in the week. After that, I plan to give these guys a wash to add some depth and then flock and edge the bases. Hopefully by Friday they'll be finished so I can start working on some playtesting next weekend.

Sorry for the quality of the pics. I snapped them with my phone, and the light makes them look a lot more red than they should. I'll try to get better pics with my camera once they're finished.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Miniatures - Grinding Along

The last few weeks I've been painting intermittently in between reading rulebooks and trying to get back in the swing of things. I haven't been doing anything with roleplaying. Instead I've been reading miniatures rules and looking at some hex-and-counter wargames.

On the painting front, I finished 96 more robots and started on 24 stands of 1/72 scale plastic soldiers. The robots put me well on my way to catching up and meeting my goal for the year. If my count is right, I just need to turn out about 80 more models to hit it.

The soldiers are World War 2 101st Airborne from Esci. I picked them up in a mixed lot from Ebay. They're softer plastic than I normally like, but they should be good for playtesting Dinosaurs and Army Men.

I clipped them from the sprues and cleaned the sprue tips with clippers and a razor knife. I didn't bother too much with mold lines. They're fairly clean as it is, but I didn't want to waste a lot of time either. I primed them with basic black Rustoleum spray. Then I based them one or two to a 30mm by 40mm base. I made sure the white glue ran over the bases of the figures to help hold them in place.

I still need to dump the photos from my camera to my computer. I'll post some photos and talk about paint schemes when I do.

Models finished so far this year: 287

Monday, September 23, 2013

Monday Miniatures - Back to painting

The last time I was painting regularly was in March. With all the pain I was having at the time, I shelved a bunch of projects hoping things would improve once I got everything sorted out with the doctors. In June, I had back surgery, including a fusion of a couple vertebrae. That kept me from the painting while the fusion set and the incision healed. Now I'm doing physical therapy and trying to get all the muscles strong and mobile again. Over the last few weeks, though, I have been able to get some work done on some models.

First, I was able to finish the final details and basing on The Caller. This is a giant, skeletal rat figure that was originally released for Necromunda. I'll be using it as a monster in a warband for Fanticide. The rest of the warband will be skaven and giant rat models that I have laying around.

I was also able to paint 64 plastic robots. These are from the same series of robots that I painted around this time last year. I have about 250 of them that I am going to paint as red and blue factions. I'm keeping the color scheme as simple as possible - black to touch up the priming, a drybrush of tin bitz and beaten copper over the whole model to create a rusty metal effect, and then a few shades of color for the eyes. I've got several poses to work through, and this first batch is 32 models of two different poses, so 16 models of each pose for each faction.

Working on easy projects is definitely helping me clear out some of the old stack of unfinished projects and letting me ease into painting again. It's better for my back if I can work in shorter bursts and get up to stretch and move when I need. With some of the larger, more detailed projects it's not as easy to do that.

Assuming I keep to the easier models that I can knock out quickly, it also looks like I can get back on track to meet my goal of a figure a day for the year. As it is right now, I have another 62 robots primed and ready to paint. I'll start working on them this week.

I'll have pics of the models as soon as I can get some good light to shoot them.

Models finished so far this year: 191

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Doing it right... and not

Earlier this week I ordered some miniature bases from Alien Dungeon so I can get some of my painting projects restarted. I placed the order early Tuesday morning. I had a confirmation that my order had shipped within a couple hours, and the bases were on my doorstep tonight when I got home. They took the order, packed it, and shipped it cross-country (for free) in two days.

Compared to that, I am still waiting for my copy of the second issue of Gygax magazine. I subscribed early. I got the first issue only after sending multiple messages to complain that it never arrived. The second issue was originally supposed to go out July 30th. Then it got delayed until the middle of August. It still hasn't arrived in my mailbox. And the response I got to my emails was that it should be here and to let them know if it hadn't arrived by Friday. I've received a lot of apologies and promises, but nothing to show that it has even been sent to me. And I have to wait and send more messages and wait even longer to get the magazine that I paid for months ago.

Guess which company is going to get my repeat business?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Last minute play

Earlier today, one of my regular players asked if there was any gaming happening tonight. I said I could throw something together if there wasn't anything else. Turned out, he was able to get seven players to commit to an impromptu Labyrinth Lord/AEC game. I had about an hour and a half to get something ready.

The group wanted to play something a little past first level, because almost everything happening online these days is intro games. They decided on 5th-level characters. I let them roll stats using 4d6, drop the lowest, arrange as desired. They had max hit points for first level and rolled for the rest. I randomly determined magic items using the system in the back of the 1e AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide. The party ended up being two human clerics, two human thieves, a human illusionist, a dwarf fighter, and a halfling (race as class).

I built the adventure around the Great Petrified Worm Tower from WotC's old Map-a-Week archive. I stocked it with a few cockatrices on the first level, an illusory stair trap between levels one and two, a quartet of animated stone statues and a few shadows on the second level, and a lone rakshasa that had staked out the top levels.

The party blew through the cockatrices easily, only losing one of their clerics to petrification. They managed to get past the stair trap with judicious use of a ten-foot pole and a round of toss the halfling. They pounded the animated statues to dust with a little damage but not much. They missed the shadows because the party assaulted during the day, and the shadows hid. They fought the rakshasa through three levels of the tower. Six rounds of the battle with the rakshasa happened as the rakshasa was trying to levitate down to escape.

It wasn't the best scenario I've ever done, but it was enough to have fun with for a few hours and throw some dice. Given more time, I would have created more background and tried to pick monsters that work better together. In all, though, it was a lot of fun and a good way to pass the evening.

Mjölnir review

jim pinto gave me a copy of Mjölnir to read and review. It's an 18-page pdf published by postworld games and available from RPGNow for $2.19. The cover, credits, illustrations, and an abbreviated OGL take about four pages, leaving about fourteen pages of information about Thor's famous hammer.

The book describes the background and mythic variations of the hammer, including alternate forms it could take. Several versions of Mjölnir are given in stats appropriate to 3.x or Pathfinder. There are stats for using it as a minor artifact, an item attuned through experience or sacrifice, a major magic item, and a minor magic item. There are also a few new weapon qualities that could easily be adapted to other magic weapons. Following the game statistics is a section on other related myths and weapons. There are also suggestions for fantasy versions not specifically related to Thor. Finally, there is a section on possible places that the hammer could be found in a campaign.

For the size and price, this book is packed with information. There are plenty of ideas for how to use the hammer, and it would be possible to include alternate versions of the hammer alongside each other in the same campaign. If you are running a game using any of the old school rule sets, you'll need to adapt the game statistics, but the rest of the information is definitely still useful as written. If you run a viking-themed campaign, this is a must-have book. For other campaigns, it would be easy to use the information here to add a very iconic weapon to the campaign. I highly recommend it.

Friday, August 9, 2013

A poem about wargaming

I've been cleaning out some old folders from ancient hard drives, and I found this. It's a poem written by Robert Louis Stevenson. For those who don't know, Stevenson was an early wargamer and, apparently, played the "pea cannon" type games that HG Wells used for his Little Wars rules.


By Robert Louis Stevenson

For certain soldiers lately dead
Our reverent dirge shall here be said.
Them, when their martial leader called,
No dread preparative appalled;
But leaden-hearted, leaden-heeled,
I marked them steadfast in the field.
Death grimly sided with the foe,
And smote each leaden hero low.
Proudly they perished, one by one;
The dread Pea-cannon's work was done!
O not for them the tears we shed,
Consigned to their congenial lead;
But while unmoved their sleep they take,
We mourn for their dear Captain's sake,
For their dear Captain, who shall smart
Both in his pocket and his heart,
Who saw his heores shed their gore
And lacked a shilling to buy more!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The News on Gygax magazine looks better

I got an email from Jayson Elliot over at Gygax magazine. He apologized for the miscommunication up to now and pointed out some of the things they are doing to keep things on track and people more informed in the future. The first part of that is putting the News section on their website for updates on progress toward the next issue. From the sound of it, a lot of the growing pains of getting the magazine started are getting sorted out well.

I'll be waiting anxiously to get my copy in a few weeks and see how things go from here.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Gygax magazine update

A few months ago, I spent way too much time to find out the predicted schedule for upcoming issues of Gygax magazine. For those playing along at home, they posted recently on Google+ that they would be adding a News section to their website and providing updated information there. Apparently that was a hasty post as they still do not have this section or any information on their website and have only posted information about the next issue through social media. So, for those that don't have a Facebook or Google+ account and would like to get information about the magazine, here's the update.

It won't be to subscribers by the July 31st. According to the information on their Facebook page, it was finally laid out and sent to the printer on the 31st. Supposedly it will be printed in time for people to get copies at Gen Con, and the subscribers should (I guess) expect to see their copies in the mail around the same time. If it follows the schedule of the first issue, that means the publishers will have boxes to take to their big event and we can all wait another couple months for ours to trickle through the mail.

Maybe I'm just being petulant at this point, but I'm still disappointed. Every time you say you're going to address the communication, distribution, and customer service issues and don't just makes you look worse. It also makes me less forgiving.

Hopefully, I will see the second issue in the next couple weeks. Hopefully, it will be a great magazine. Hopefully, they have addressed their issues and will be providing at least passable customer service and disclosure moving forward. Somehow, I still doubt it. The ball's in your court, Gygax magazine. Prove me wrong.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Goodbye, Old Reader

After the huge crash that knocked Old Reader offline for close to a week, they put out an announcement that they are no longer accepting new subscriptions and that they will be nuking their service and migrating a select few of their members to a new private site. Apparently, if you registered for their service before a certain date, you get migrated. If not, you're out of luck. I registered a few days after the cutoff, so I'm out.

I started using their service based on some recommendations in articles after Google announced they were shutting down Google Reader. It was a nice, simple reader app. Unfortunately, they couldn't keep up with the demand and have decided to just abandon everyone that moved because of Google's shutdown. As much as I appreciate their honesty, I'm a little disappointed that they took this long to realize they couldn't make it work and that they have given so little time for people to migrate.

So now I'm back to trying Feedly again. Hopefully they will be able to stay functional for a while.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

North Reach 20 Questions

I've been putting together more resources for my players and fleshing out the area of the campaign world where they have been adventuring. To help frame some of the information that has been wandering around my desk on scraps of paper and note cards, I decided to answer Jeff Rients' twenty quick questions.

These questions are a great way to help organize your thinking if you're designing a campaign, and they help answer the most common questions you will get from players. They're also a great springboard. I insert references to particular people, places, and things that I haven't yet developed in depth. If the players pick out those bits to ask about, I flesh them out in play, take a lot of notes, and add that information into my campaign material. Over time, I flesh out the things that have grabbed the players' interest without wasting a lot of time on what doesn't.

Here are the basic answers to the questions for the Barony of North Reach in the West Kingdoms.

1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?

There are a variety of religions in the West Kingdoms. The indigenous people and the northern barbarians worship ancestral spirits and deities. Most of these gods have minimal power and are associated with an animal or a very particular place, such as a well, a particular hill or mountain, a grove of trees, and so on. Each family also has a god or gods that they revere.

The settlers are usually members of the Church or the Faith. This is a monotheistic religion similar to the old Roman Catholic Church. The deity of the Faith is called God, the Father, Holy Mother, the Spirit, and other names, depending on the circumstance and context. There are militant and pacifist branches of the Faith. Obviously, most adventuring clerics follow the militant branch. Most clerics of the Faith venerate particular saints as well as the deity. Followers of the Faith also believe in angels, demons, devils, and spirits. The Faith views all other religions' deities as spirits, lesser beings either operating in concert or in opposition to their god.

Native druids are panentheistic in belief and shamanistic in practice. They see divine power as being in and part of everything in the natural world. They draw on animal and other spirits for inspiration and guidance. Some foreign druids tend toward the same belief in the permeation of nature by divine spirit, but they believe this manifests in a small pantheon of deities.

Elves are pantheistic and worship a small, highly conceptualized family of gods. Dwarves worship a single god with two aspects - creator and destroyer. They generally seek to glorify the one and pacify the other. Halflings generally follow the faith of the native druids. Gnomes generally combine the faiths and religious practices of the races near them, if they display any religion at all. Most gnomes are pragmatic agnostics at most. Orcs and half-orcs that favor their orcish heritage tend to be totemistic. Some orc tribes led by half-orcs worship Gruumsh, who is described as a warrior devil in the Faith.

There are a handful of cults that worship evil or chaotic powers, older pantheons, or individual powers. Followers of these sects tend to be human or humanoids, with the occasional demi-human filling the ranks.

Regardless of the faith, adventurers tend to be more like biblical prophets than established clergy. They operate outside of the traditional heirarchy or organization of the faith and have more independence and self-determination than other clergy in their religion.

2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?

You can get most standard equipment at the castles and fortresses, the villages, the town of Coldsprings, or imported from outside the barony. Some small hamlets have limited selections of basic equipment available, as do the tinkers and traders that move between the villages, the fortresses, and Coldsprings.

3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?

Specialist armorers are most available in Coldsprings. In a  pinch, you may be able to find someone less skilled that could do the work in one of the villages or castles. For particularly exotic or unusual armor, you would need to travel to one of the cities in the south.

4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?

Anaril Blueraven, Maurglym the Red, or the Lich-Lords of the Ash Waste, if any of them are still alive. Otherwise, the Faceless Mage in New Harbor is the most powerful wizard in the West Kingdoms. In North Reach, a few wizards compete to be the most powerful - Fergus Blackmantle, Llyn the White, and Hugh Grisly. Fergus and Hugh are traveling wizards and contract with the knights and lordlings in the area between adventures. Llyn lives and does research in Coldsprings.

5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?

There are a large number of lordlings, knights, barbarian chiefs, and bandit kings that compete for being the greatest warrior in the North Reach. Lord Calvert earned a name for himself in the Wars of the Reach as both a skilled fighter and an able commander. The King of Bottle Peak is a notorious bandit lord that claims to have killed hundreds of men. The orc warlord Strongtooth is feared by many of the savage tribes along the fort line as well as the villagers in the Reach. The current Baron of the Reach, Frederick, is definitely not a contender for this particular honor.

6. Who is the richest person in the land?

Frederick, Baron of North Reach, is the richest person in the North Reach. He is descended from, St. Tilian the Meek, the Paladin who settled the area following the Conquest. His family manages an estate in Coldsprings and a pair of castles on the fort line. He also controls a banking house and numerous trade ventures. Rumors say that he even manages concerns that trade for whale oil, mammoth ivory, and other goods with the northern barbarians.

7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?

Coldsprings has several temples of the faith that will provide healing for a fee. The villages and castles often have a local cleric, hedge healer, or alchemist that can provide some healing, but their abilities are normally less than could be found in the larger villages and towns. Some druids will also provide healing with appropriate offerings or payment.

8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?

Poison and most diseases can be cured by priests at the cathedral in Coldsprings. Some hedge wizards, druids, or local wise women could also provide antidotes to most natural poisons or cures for common diseases. Magical diseases like mummy rot can generally only be cured in the cities in the south.

Curses can normally be removed at the cathedral in Coldsprings.

Restoration for level drain, reversing polymorph or alignment changes, restoring lost limbs or raising the dead can normally only be done in the cities in the south, unless a bishop or other high-ranking clergy member travels through the area.

9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?

There are no guilds or associations of magic-users in North Reach. The province is too isolated and unsettled for such an organization to flourish here. There are some such organizations in the cities to the south. Most magic-users rely on found scrolls and other items or a particular tutor to gain more spells.

10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?

Alchemists and sages are generally only found in Coldsprings unless specifically recruited by a lord at a castle. Most experts can be found in Coldsprings as well. Some of the local villages may have an expert in a particular specialty.

11. Where can I hire mercenaries?

Mercenaries and adventuring henchmen can be found in all of the castles, Coldsprings, and most of the smaller villages. The area is still mostly unsettled, so mercenaries and people willing to join adventurers are fairly common.

12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?

Open weaponry is generally discouraged in Coldsprings, but there are no laws against going armed. Most people will carry at least a dagger, but this is typically used for cutting meat or general tasks rather than fighting.

13. Which way to the nearest tavern?

Almost every settlement in North Reach has somewhere to get a drink and bed down for the night. If nothing else, most farmers will share a bit of their private stock for a story or two from the road.

14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?

There are at least two known dragons in North Reach. Both of them are old and mostly inactive. There are always orc and barbarian raiders in the area. Killing a strong chieftain of one of these tribes would gain a character some fame or notoriety. Hunting griffons or giants in the mountains might also work.

15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?

The number of orcs and barbarians raiding into the Reach seems to be increasing. Other northern provinces have similar problems with raiders. The southern provinces are always feuding with pirates, and their navies are very active in the Neck and Silversword Bay.

16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?

There are rumors of black market gladiatorial combats in some cities and towns in the West Kingdoms, including Coldsprings. Most of the larger villages and all of the larger towns have boxing and other non-lethal combat venues. Some villages will have animal fights and other blood sports.

17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?

There are a variety of chaotic and evil cults. There are rumors that Ralthi'iz the Death King, his Undead Guard, and the Lich-Lords are still ruling in the Ash Waste and recruiting living followers to infiltrate the lands outside the Waste. The Dark Brotherhood is a shadowy band of assassins and thieves that operates in the West Kingdoms.

18. What is there to eat around here?

The meat animals in North Reach are mostly sheep, poultry, and wild game. There is a reasonable amount of farming, and the soil is rich enough to produce well, provided the population is enough to farm the land. Wheat, barley, rye, and a little corn are the staple grains. Root vegetables and greens are also common. Fruit tends to be either apples, pears, or pitted fruits.

19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?

There are stories that St. Tilian's axe and mail are buried in a barrow in the area. These stories are disputed by the ruling barons of the Reach, who claim to have these items as part of their traditional regalia. Other relics are purported to be in the area as well, including the robe of St. Herald.

There are stories of a lost dwarven mine in the hills north of the fort line. Stories say the mine contained deposits of several valuable minerals. It was supposedly overwhelmed by demons from deep within the earth. The dwarves that mined there are said to live on in undeath, constantly digging deeper and deeper for their demonic masters.

Stories tell of a city in the mountains that is decorated with gold, gems, and other precious materials. The people there live in perpetual ease, tended by magical servants.

20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?

Miniature dragons, drakes, and wardragons are fairly common throughout the area. There are at least two elder dragons still living in the Reach. A great black dragon lives in a cave under a ruin on the northern coast. An elderly green dragon lives in a forest in the southwest of the province. People say that she is an oracle and speaks with the spirits of dead faeries to learn their secrets. Sailors tell tales of sea dragons that live in the waters off of the coast as well.

Ralthi'iz and his minions supposedly still hold the wealth of their lost kingdom in the Waste.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Random Wizard's Troll questions

These questions have started to make the rounds on a few of the old school gaming blogs. Not wanting to miss another blogging bandwagon, I figured I would take a break from some other projects and answer them real quick.

(1). Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no?
I've gone back and forth about this but lately seem to be more in favor of RAC. Some of that comes from running a couple of games using the Moldvay Basic rules. Most of it is that using RAC makes playing human characters more desirable. The combination of experience point requirements and limits on advancement tends to encourage players to play more human characters, which helps keep the demi-humans more exotic and alien.

(2). Do demi-humans have souls?
I don't spend too much time arguing about these kinds of things in my games. They can all be affected by the raise dead spell in the Expert rulebook, so yes.

(3). Ascending or descending armor class?
Descending armor class for me. I don't mind using a table to determine to hit scores.

(4). Demi-human level limits?
Yup, I like them. If you just play low levels, they don't matter. If you're playing a higher-level or longer-term game, though, they do encourage players to play human characters.

(5). Should thief be a class?
In one of my current games, nobody is playing a thief. The party is getting along just fine detecting traps and such by describing what they are doing and being careful. I can handle it as a class, but it really doesn't affect play either way for me.

(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills?
In my current games, no. If I were running a skill-based game, I would probably adapt a really general simple skill system from another game (something like Star Frontiers). As it is, though, I haven't had a compelling reason to include it in my games, so I haven't done it.

(7). Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)?
I still think that none of the classes is inherently more powerful than the others. It depends on the individual characters and the players running them.

(8). Do you use alignment languages?
I haven't really paid any attention to alignment languages for years. It just hasn't come up in any of my games. I'm not inclined to use them, though.

(9). XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc...)?
I normally give XP for gold and other treasure that the characters manage to get back to a place of safety. I only give XP for objectives in special cases. In those cases, it is split between the party members that contributed to achieving the objective.

(10). Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E ADD, 4E ADD, Next ?
My favorites, in order from most to least, are: Moldvay, Holmes, Rules Cyclopedia, Mentzer, ODD, 1e, 2e, 3e. I haven't played 4e, and I don't know what Next is going to be yet.

Bonus Question: Unified XP level tables or individual XP level tables for each class?
Since I like RAC and a lot of the differences between classes in the older versions, I'm going with individual tables. I still don't know why clerics advance faster than fighters, though.

Star Frontiers characters

I've played a couple of scenarios of Star Frontiers so far, and I'm still in love with the system. The simple skill system is perfect. It gives a good way to quantify actions and determine success or failure without requiring specifying every minute, particular element of activity and competence. I'm looking for ways to incorporate a lot more of that into other games and systems that I play.

In the meantime, though, here are the characters I put together for the different games. For each of the characters, I decided on a core concept to use to give myself an idea of what the character is like. I do this with characters in most games, but the games with the lighter mechanics make it easier.

Gestur is a wisecracking tech. He makes up nicknames for people, throws out the verbal jabs, and uses a lot of patter. I pictured him visually as looking like a young Steve Buscemi and making up for some of his looks with a quick tongue.

Gestur Graf
"Wisecracking tech"

STR/STA 25/35
DEX/RS  60/60
INT/LOG 50/55
PER/LDR 50/50

Init   +6
Punch  +2
Ranged 30%
Melee  30%

PSA - Technological
Skills - Robotics 1, Technician 1

Stun stick w/power pack, needler pistol w/8 rounds, knife, techkit, robcomkit, standard equipment pack

Cain is a good cop. He's just started on the local police force. He wants to make a name for himself, but he wants to do it by working within the system. I based him off of my vague recollections of the characters on the old television series, Adam 12, specifically Kent McCord's character Jim Reed.

Cain Nash
"Good cop"

STR/STA 45/50
DEX/RS  60/60
INT/LOG 50/50
PER/LDR 50/50

Init   +6
Punch  +3
Ranged 30%
Melee  30%

PSA - Technological
Skills - Projectile Weapons 1, Technician 1

Automatic pistol w/60 rounds, pistol w/18 rounds, nightstick, techkit, chronocom, uniform/coveralls, doze grenade, first aid pack, ID card, pocket flashlight, pocket tool, 1 dose of stimdose, sungoggles, everflame, water bottle, 3 days survival rations, toxi-rad guage

Saturday, July 20, 2013

LL Adventure - The Undertemple of Pelor

When I was running my Borderlands game, most of my players were more familiar with 3e than any of the older versions. One of them created a cleric that worshipped St. Cuthbert. He had seen a prestige class that clerics of St. Cuthbert could take that focused on hunting aberrations. Obviously, working with Labyrinth Lord and classic Greyhawk, I didn't have anything like that in the campaign.

I decided to add a little side adventure to the campaign to see if I could develop a reason for a branch of the church of Cuthbert to focus on hunting alien invaders. I've always liked mind flayers and their kin, so they would be the eventual stars of this particular plot thread. If I introduced a mind flayer from the start, though, I would have wiped out the party before the thread could have even gotten started.

Instead, I created a vestigal elder brain monster that secretes a substance that can transform humans, demi-humans, and humanoids into something like a chuul over time. I modified the stats on some other monsters to give them a weak mind blast, cut down the stats on a chuul to match the level of the party, and threw them all in a dungeon.

To get the party to the dungeon, I had them go to a magic-user to get some magic items identified. The magic-user had been in the temple and had drunk some water contaminated with the secretion. He was fighting the transformation, but needed more of the substance to find an antidote. If the party could get the substance for him, he would identify the items for them for free and provide a few scrolls for the party's magic-user.

The dungeon is situated under a crumbling temple formerly dedicated to Pelor. The river nearby changed course, flooding the courtyard in front of the temple decades ago. In the spring, the courtyard is under water. The rest of the year, it is marshy and damp. There are a couple of ponds in the courtyard year-round. I put a giant crayfish in one of the ponds as a wandering encounter.

The temple itself has been stripped and looted over the years. A few statues remain, but they have all been defaced. The temple has an open sanctuary, a small vestry, and a stair that leads down to the crypt.

The map for the dungeon is one that I saw posted online. I don't remember who created it or where I found it. If you can point me to the artist or a link to the map, I'd be grateful. I would like to give proper credit if I can.

The descriptions and details of the dungeon are simple, pretty much just what I needed to run it for my group. I introduced dungeon dressing and details as we played. For instance, I described area 30 as the morgue and preparation area where bodies would be cleaned and mummified. The area had all kinds of resins, chemicals, canopic jars, linen wrappings, and so on.

The stats are based on Labyrinth Lord with the Advanced Edition Companion. Feel free to adjust things or play with them as you need.

The characters were mostly second level when they started the adventure. They had a couple of magic weapons in the party at the time. They managed to clear the place out, although they were pretty hurt by the end. One of the clerics of St. Cuthbert had been charmed into drinking the tainted water and was starting his transformation. The party was able to get the water sample to the magic-user, though, so there was a chance he could be saved in time...

Undertemple of Pelor

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Characters should be exceptional

The past couple days, I've had the pleasure of reviewing and correcting a bunch of stat blocks for characters for a multi-edition gaming supplement. I've been working on getting everything in line for first edition AD&D.

At first, it was rough finding a few things. I had to flip through and check quite a few rules. As I worked on more of them, though, a lot of the old things that were automatic back in the day came back to mind. I was able to sort through all of the different tables, adjustments, and exceptions pretty quickly.

This reminded me that it is still fairly easy to translate things back and forth between editions if you just take account of each edition's peculiarities and follow its rules.

There are some things, though, that don't translate well. A lot of the later editions added abilities, varieties, and exceptions that don't translate well within the established rules of 1e. Restrictions were relaxed or suspended. Ability score requirements were lowered. New spells and magic items were introduced, and old ones were altered or clarified.

In the end, though, it's still possible to translate anything if you go back to the original advice that shows up in all of the old editions of D&D - make exceptions and new rules. If you want a character to have a particular ability and it doesn't make sense with the rules as written, make something up. Don't be afraid to make exceptions. It's the exceptions that keep the players on their toes and keep things interesting.

Adventurers should be exceptional. That goes for player characters and non-player characters alike. Don't be afraid to break a few rules to make that happen.

Friday, July 12, 2013

More Star Frontiers goodness

Earlier tonight I spent a good couple hours working up a character and testing a few of the Star Frontiers rules. You can read all about the session over at my friend Glenn's blog, Lost in the Catacombs. I had a great time! I'm definitely looking forward to playing more.

Some things really struck me rolling up the character and playing the scene. First, I love a system that lets me put together a character quickly. Reading through the rules as I went, I was still able to create the character in about twenty minutes. I didn't spend a ton of time going over the fine points of equipment or anything, but I was able to generate a completely playable character in almost no time at all.

Second, I love a system that limits the character options to things that make sense in the game. Characters in Star Frontiers specialize in groups of skills. You don't have to nitpick through a catalog of every possible human activity to decide what your character is skilled at doing. You pick a general category, write it on your sheet, put a 1 next to it, and go. Simple, easy, effective, and playable.

Third, I love a system that has easy to follow resolution systems with step-by-step directions. Going through the examples in the rules, it was easy to step through the necessary steps to resolve combat, movement, and other tasks simply. It would help to have all the step-by-step descriptions, weapon and equipment lists, and skill descriptions for the characters available in one place to avoid flipping through the book. It was still super easy to go through all the mechanical stuff and not have to worry about the mechanics getting in the way of just playing.

Finally, I love a system that does what it needs to do and then gets out of the way. Like Basic D&D, once you understand the mechanics of Star Frontiers, it's easy to breeze through the dice rolling and the math and get to actually playing the game.

Going through this little scenario, I was immediately reminded of how fun SF is. I also immediately started thinking of things that I want to do with the system. One of the first ideas I had is to combine the mechanics of SF with some of the premise of Metamorphosis Alpha. I'd like to send a party of SF characters to answer a distress call from an ancient colony ship and see what happens when they land on the Warden. I can't wait to read and play more!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I got no Bones to pick with anybody

I didn't get in on the Reaper Bones Kickstarter. I thought about it. I even ordered a token after the Kickstarter closed. But I never actually placed an order.

Looking at all of the posts of people receiving their minis, I'm a little jealous. I know that everyone that ordered through the Kickstarter got a great deal. I'm still glad I didn't jump on it, though, for a number of reasons.

I already have a ton of models that I need to paint here. I have a couple of Warmaster armies, lots of tiny Napoleonics, my robots and army men for Dinosaurs and Army Men, and a lot more. I don't need any more models to sit in boxes waiting to be painted.

With all of the problems I was having with my back and now the surgery and recovery, I have had little time or energy for painting lately. In fact, the cushion of painted minis I built up at the beginning of the year has completely been absorbed just in the past couple months of not picking up the brushes. So once I can start painting again, I'll be playing catch-up anyway.

And I don't really have a use for them right now. I don't have anybody in the area that I can play minis games with. My minis gaming is all going to have to happen when I travel or when people come to visit. That means that I will be focusing on a couple of favorite games, developing warbands or armies for them, and thinning the rest of my collection. I don't want to collect game paraphernalia just to collect it. I want to buy just the things that I will use for actual gaming.

In the long run, I will be buying some Bones models. I'm really grateful that everyone else kicked in on the Kickstarter so there are so many different ones available. I'm really glad I get to pick and choose exactly the ones I want when it's time to game with them, though. Good luck painting through your plastic mountains, everybody!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Heading for the frontiers

One of the great advantages of having lots of time off work is the ability to spend time on side projects and ideas that otherwise would languish. I'm still plugging away on the descriptions and details in the wilderness for my B/X game, but today I started a reading project that will hopefully bear fruit soon.

I finally started reading the Star Frontiers rules again. This was one of my favorite games back in the 80s. In the intervening years, I either lost or sold my copies of all the books for it, and it faded into the misty past of gaming memories. Recently, though, one of my gaming friends started talking about it and the possibility of maybe running a game sometime. Tonight we were chatting a bit, and I started reading the rules, courtesy of the remastered versions over at the Star Frontiersman.

The first thing I realized/remembered about these rules is that I really like their simplicity. The core mechanic makes sense. It's easy to create characters and get started quickly. And there are definite possibilities for expanding and tinkering with the game and the setting.

I've printed off a few blank character sheets. Tonight and tomorrow I'm going to roll some dice and see what kinds of characters I can create.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Work in progress

Yesterday I posted the in-progress map of the wilderness for my B/X D&D campaign. I still have a lot of features to place on the map, including several fortresses and castles and a lot of lairs and wild areas. One thing I'm not going to be adding to the map, though, is detailed coastlines.

You can see on the map that there are several hexes in the ocean that have thicker water borders and non-water terrain. These hexes contain islands, but I don't want to have to map specific island contours or coastlines at this scale. If the players decide to have their characters explore the islands, they can travel there. At that point, I'll draw a more detailed map of the island and describe the area in more detail. The same for the larger coastline of the area. If the characters need a place to hole up on the shore, I can determine if there is a handy cove at that time.

This kind of just-in-time description and detailing is saving me a lot of time and effort on what would otherwise be an endless mammoth task. It also allows me to tailor a lot more details to suit the story and necessities of the campaign. The more I describe ahead of time, the less I can work in these kinds of details when they're needed.

On the other hand, I am working out quite a few details about specific places and things on the map. I want to have enough information about major landmarks, local legends, villages, and so on that I can give the players hints and information that they can use to explore the area and make good choices for their characters. If they know that the only large town in the area is Coldsprings, they know that they will have to go there for specific kinds of equipment and information. On the other hand, if they know that there is a master smith that fled from the king's capital in the south to settle in a small village near one of the northern border forts, they can go to that village if they need his services. These kinds of bits don't take a lot of work to add, but they do give the area flavor that adds to the experience of the campaign.

But I'm not bothering with the coastlines. Until the shape of the coastlines add to the story, I don't need to bother.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

North Reach

For the past few months, I've been running a B/X D&D game. I started the game with the Citadel by the Sea module from Dragon magazine. As the party explored the dungeon, I filled in a quick hex map for the surrounding area. I wanted the area to be a semi-settled border area with plenty of ruins and other areas to explore.

To populate the map, I used a combination of the tables from the various Judges Guild Wilderlands products, ICE's Campaign Law for Rolemaster, and some judicious fiddling.

The scale on the map is five miles per small hex. The larger hexes are 25 miles from face to face and correspond to my larger campaign map.

Most of the villages will have a few hundred people at most. The largest town in the area is Coldsprings (hex 16.13).  I'll give you more details later when I can type longer.

Click for a much bigger version

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Petty God

When all the talk of reviving the Petty Gods project started, I was thinking of creating one for the new book. Like so many other projects, I realized after the deadline that I missed the window. Rather than let another idea slide into the wastebin of regret, though, I decided to write it out as something to use for my own B/X campaign. So here is Karga Savasha.

Karga Savasha

God of death birds and tengu warriors

Symbol: White crow
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40')/flying: 240' (80')
Armor Class: -2
Hit Points (Hit Dice): 100 hp (16 HD)
Attacks: 2 or special
Damage: 2-12/2-12 or special
Save: F16
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: XV
XP: 6000

Karga Savasha appears as an 8'-tall tengu warrior. His feathers are bone white except for his tail feathers and crest. These are both bone white striped with black. He  typically wears a simple weapon harness that holds his javelins and is decorated with tokens, trophies, and fetishes taken from exceptional enemies.

In battle he wields barbed javelins which he may throw up to 360'. Each javelin acts as a +3 weapon and causes 2-12 points of damage on a successful hit. he may throw two such javelins a round.

Three times per day he may mark a target for death by calling the target's name aloud. When he does so, his next javelin targeting that character is +4 to hit. If the target is hit, he must save versus death at -4 or die. If the character survives, it takes 4-24 points of damage. When Karga Savasha uses this attack, he may not throw a second javelin in that round.

Karga Savasha is always accompanied by flocks of ravens, crows, and other predatory birds. He may call these birds to swarm an enemy. Calling the swarm replaces his normal attacks for that round. He may call up to two swarms at a time.

A character attacked by the swarm loses all Dexterity bonuses to armor class and is at -4 to hit while being swarmed. The swarm may attack up to two characters simultaneously, provided both characters are within 5' of each other.

The swarm is treated as a single creature with the following statistics: AC 2, HD 5, Hp 40; #At 5, D 1-6/1-6/1-6/1-6/1-6, Sv F5, Ml 10. For each 8 hp damage inflicted against the swarm, it loses one hit die and one attack. For each two hit dice lost in this fashion, reduce the swarm's morale by 1. So a swarm that has taken 16 hit points of damage would have only three attacks as a 3 HD monster and would only have a morale rating of 9.

Karga Savasha may make an ear-rending screech every third round. Enemies hearing the screech must make a save versus spells at -2 or be stunned for 1-6 rounds.

Karga Savasha may only be harmed by +3 or better weapons. He is immune to sleep, charm, hold, death magic, and energy or level drain. He cannot be harmed by any special attacks from undead – a vampire's gaze, mummy rot, a lich's chill touch, etc.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Put your back in it

A week ago I had major surgery to remove an impingement on my spinal cord in the middle of my back. This is the second time i've had this surgery. The surgeon removed a big chunk of calcified disk material that was pressing on the cord. He also put a couple of rods in place to keep me from having to do it again.

Now that the surgery is done, I have a few months before I go back to work. I'll be starting slow, probably only twenty minutes or so a day at the computer, but I hope to catch up on a lot of projects that have fallen by the wayside.

First up is formatting and releasing the reference sheets for Labyrinth Lord with the AEC. I've been fiddling with them for far too long, and the concentrated time off should let me focus and finish them.

Other than that, I have quite a few location descriptions to finish and post, a big pile of adventure seeds and more.

So expect to see more posting of real content starting in the next couple days.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Back in the future

I am getting ready to go in for back surgery later today. Hopefully I will be back to posting regularly soon.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Gygax found!

In my last post I lamented the fact that nobody had heard anything about the publication schedule for Gygax magazine. I finally got an email from them saying that the information about the publication schedule was on their Facebook page. So, I went and looked it up. Here's what they say:

Hi everyone, Jayson here. I know everyone's been looking forward to hearing when our next issues are coming out. Issue 1 was our pilot issue, a chance for us to get processes in place and work out the kinks that come with a new magazine.
From issue 2 on out, we'll be on a regular 3-month schedule. Here it is:
Issue 2 - Wednesday, July 31Issue 3 - Wednesday, October 30Issue 4 - Wednesday, January 29
Issue 5 - Wednesday, April 30

(Those are the dates that the magazine will be arriving for subscribers, as well as available online through Paizo and Noble Knight. Distributors get the magazines on that day, so it will take a little bit to get onto store shelves)

I also want to say thank you to everyone who's been an early supporter through their subscriptions, and announce that everyone who bought a four-issue subscription will be getting a bonus extension, so your subscription will go through issue FIVE.

We know some problems happened with this first issue and people are eager to get issue 2, so consider this extra issue an apology and thank you for believing in us. We can't wait for you to see the second issue at the end of July, I really think you're going to like it.
Issue 5 - Wednesday, April 30
(Those are the dates that the magazine will be arriving for subscribers, as well as available online through Paizo and Noble Knight. Distributors get the magazines on that day, so it will take a little bit to get onto store shelves)
I also want to say thank you to everyone who's been an early supporter through their subscriptions, and announce that everyone who bought a four-issue subscription will be getting a bonus extension, so your subscription will go through issue FIVE.
We know some problems happened with this first issue and people are eager to get issue 2, so consider this extra issue an apology and thank you for believing in us. We can't wait for you to see the second issue at the end of July, I really think you're going to like it.

That gives us all the information we need, but I still have a couple problems with the magazine and the company behind it.

First, I would have appreciated an earlier and faster acknowledgement of some of the messages I sent. In all I tried to contact them through three different methods and tried each method at least three times. Ten times trying to contact a company that publishes a magazine to which you have subscribed without even an acknowledgement of your communication is deplorable. That hints toward incredibly bad customer service.

Second, if there are enough people asking about the publication dates for your magazine, why not publish those dates ON YOUR OWN WEBSITE? Skip Facebook. Skip Google+. Put the info on your own site and then publish it through social media. Make it easy for ALL of your customers to find the information, not just the ones that happen to be on your favorite social site. At the moment, I've only seen the announcement on Facebook and there has been nothing mentioned about it on

Third, as much as I appreciate an extra issue, I would rather have the four I paid for initially on time. There are enough people involved in this project with publishing experience that the kinds of delays associated with this magazine are unusual. Hopefully, they have been addressed and the next issue will arrive on time.

Unfortunately, I am starting to expect this kind of horrible communication and customer service anytime I deal with a game company. It is definitely becoming the norm with Kickstarter projects. I was hoping that Gygax magazine would be different. We'll see if they improve.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Gygax magazine, where are you?

When Gygax magazine was first announced, I was excited. I was looking forward to a good general RPG magazine that was available in print. I ordered a subscription and anxiously followed the news about the development of the first issue.

When the first issue was released, I was excited. Then my excitement waned when I had to wait three weeks after the release date to finally get my copy. I sent several messages asking for updates and information on when I would receive it through the whole process.

Now it's time for the second issue, and I'm doing the same thing. I've sent several email messages to their customer service address. I've sent messages through their website. I've posted in groups and checked out their Facebook page. The best response I can get is a comment on a Facebook post on May 2nd that there would be information soon.

I had high hopes for Gygax magazine. Unfortunately, now I'm wondering if I didn't subscribe to more vaporware. Anybody know anything different?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Getting back to it

It's been about a month or so since I posted last. I have been pretty much sidelined on a lot of projects because of some pretty severe pain in my hands and wrists that I thought was from carpal tunnel syndrome. After lots of painful nerve tests, turns out it's not carpal tunnel but something else. I'll know more once I see either a physiatrist or orthopedist. In the meantime, I'm taking it easy on the painting and typing.

I'm still running a B/X game. I started with the idea of just running some published scenarios to start and seeing where the group goes from there. The players all said they wanted something with more of a coherent story than a wide open sandbox, so I'm working on some larger plots to build into the game from the modules. I have a lot of ideas in mind, but I want to see what they grab onto during play before I flesh them out too much.

Otherwise, I've started playing in a Barrowmaze game using the LL rules. I recycled one of my old characters, a basic dwarven fighter named Vaclav, for that game. I'm playing him as a no-nonsense guy. He's not afraid to jump into a fight, but he'd prefer to find some good cover and rain arrows before he does. Last session we animated a gargoyle that started laying into the party. Vaclav demonstrated the better part of valor and showed the rest of the party how to find the door out!

Before the Barrowmaze game, I was playing a paladin in a short-lived 2E AD&D game. Unfortunately, I never really got into that game at all. There were too many times that I came up against rules that reminded me why 2E had the shortest tenure at my game table. A couple months of game fade, and I decided to bow out of that one.

That's pretty much all I've been doing gaming-wise. I'll try to post pics of the things I'm trying to paint and some other updates soon.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday Miniatures - painting the easy stuff

Battle of Five Armies terrain bits

I've been dealing with a flare-up of carpal tunnel syndrome in both of my hands that is making it difficult to do  a lot of detail painting. I still do okay with block painting and drybrushing, though, so I decided to knock out a few terrain bits while I'm waiting to see the neurologist.

These are the ruined buildings that came with the Battle of Five Armies game from Games Workshop. I managed to get a copy of the book, the large modular hills, and the ruined buildings recently. I'm planning to put the armies together using some 10mm metal models from Pendraken, Copplestone Castings, and Kallistra. That has to wait until I get the rest of the queue of unpainted models done.

I put these together and stuck them on some 60mm x 60mm and 30mm x 60mm bases from Litko. I glued on some ballast with PVA glue and then added my typical sand and gravel mix. I painted them with acrylic craft paint and sealed them with my normal Plaid matte sealer.

These will see plenty of use for Warmaster and BoFA games. I'll also be able to use them for other 6mm and 10mm games.

I'm still working on a few regular figures, but they're taking a lot more time. I'll post some pics soon of the progress so far. Even with the slowdown, I'm still keeping pace with my model a day challenge. With these seven pieces, I can afford to not get anything finished until the beginning of May!

Models finished so far this year: 126

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tarnhelm's Terrible Truth

So I downloaded a copy of Tarnhelm's Terrible Tome from Randall Stukey's RetroRoleplaying blog. I haven't gotten very far into it, but I love what is in the Introduction:
So, if you believe that the rules changes in this booklet would turn a game into “not really 0e,” don’t use these rules. However, please don’t try to convince others that games using these rules would have normally been considered “not really 0e” back in the 1970s when 0e was standard version of the game -- as that  is nothing but revisionist history.
Well said!

Random inspiration

Tonight on G+, Keith Davies pointed to a post on his blog of 500 Random Old-School Adventure Sites. It reminds me a bit of the results from the various old-school adventure title generators that were hitting the blogs a couple years ago. I decided to use the list as inspiration for a quick exercise. I took the first eleven entries and wrote a quick paragraph about each one as fast as I could.

Here's what I came up with off the top of my head:

1. Skeleton Jars of the Bridal Perches

Kenku use the hollow bones of their ancestors as jars. They keep the spiritual essence of the ancestors in the jars. The spirits are released as part of the mating rituals that take place in the sacred bridal perches.

2. Deceitful Breeder of the Unfinished Cradle

The deceitful breeder is a succubus that impregnates herself to produce manes demons or demonic larvae. The unfinished cradle is actually a temple to a demon of lust that will be born when enough mortals breed with the succubus.

3. Chaos-Simulacrum of the Undead Prince

An ancient prince has been cursed with undeath. He still rules a lawful principality until someone creates a magical clone of him. The magical clone, of course, is absolutely chaotic and seeks to destroy the prince.

4. Mantis-Tribe of the Skeletal Mummy

A tribe of thri-kreen is led by an ancient thri-kreen mummy.

5. Sinister Abbey of the Poorly-built Galleon

This one doesn't work for me. Maybe an abbey built on the site of a shipwreck or an abbey founded by a pirate turned cleric?

6. Bandit Troll(s) of the Death-Yeti

Himalayan-inspired trolls or ogre magi that worship an undead yeti as a god. They raid caravans to gain goods and beings to offer in sacrifice.

7. Draining-Forge of the Howling Apparition

An ancient dwarven forge is haunted by an avatar of Abbathor, the dwarven god of greed. The avatar has been bound to the anvil in the forge. It drains power from any living beings or enchanted items that enter the area. It can be temporarily mollified by deliberately casting beneficial spells on it.

8. Resurrected Cleric of the Madness-Cairn

A cleric was driven mad during his trip into the underworld. After resurrection, the cleric builds a cairn that reproduces the horrific things it encountered. Now the cleric draws adventurers to the cairn to face their penance.

9. Mutation-Wheel of the Horned Wizard

A mutated, Warhammer-style wizard creates a magical device that draws Chaos energy into itself. People are strapped to the wheel and tortured while the Chaos energy mutates them. The wizard's servants just captured the party...

10. Harmonic Dancer of the Industrial Bridge

A standard bridge fight against a clockwork shadowdancer that creates its own music and casts spells like a bard. The shadowdancer can control sections of the bridge to trigger traps or drop opponents into grinding gears below.

11. Bone-Bazaar of the Eye-Globe

A beholder that collects and sells magical bones.

Some of these are a bit of a stretch, but they could probably make a good adventure or two with some work. Anybody else want to take a stab at it?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Trimming the feed

A few days ago Google announced that Reader is going away on July 1st. At first I was a little peeved that they would get rid of something that a lot of people (including myself) use regularly and doesn't seem to require much support. Then I gave up and started looking around for alternatives to replace it.

According to a bunch of articles, Feedly is getting a big bump in traffic from Reader subscribers jumping ship. It looks like there are a lot of tools there and the site certainly integrates across platforms, if that's your thing. I don't really need anything more than a place to read the blogs I follow, so it seems like a lot more than I want to bother with.

The Old Reader, on the other hand, seems to have everything I need and not much more. I can subscribe to a feed, group things in folders, and keep track of what I've read and not read. They offer an import feature if you want to transfer everything from Google Reader, but it is taking them a while to catch up with their own increase in traffic. At the moment, there are literally thousands of people in the queue before me, and I don't expect to see the import for a couple days yet. So I'm going through my Google Reader, checking the blogs I have followed and moving them into Old Reader.

I'm sorting things a little better and clearing out the dead blogs as well. Over time I have accumulated a lot of subscriptions. Unfortunately, with the advent of G+ and the shift to posting in communities there, a lot of bloggers have fallen silent. So I am clearing them from my stream. If it looks like they might come back, I'm adding them to my "Maybe Dead" folder.

In a way, getting rid of Reader is turning out to be a good thing for me, as it is forcing me to do some spring cleaning on the blogroll. That in turn is helping me cut down on the time I spend managing the feed and focus more on creating things for my own games. We'll see how it works over the next couple months.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Slowing down

The last couple weeks I've slowed down quite a bit on the painting due to a flare-up of carpal tunnel syndrome in both of my hands. I've had to wear braces on both of my wrists, and the loss of feeling in my fingers makes it difficult to hold my brushes.

Instead of painting, I've been working on some campaign background for a B/X D&D game I'm running every other Sunday. I don't really have much to publish yet, as the characters haven't done much but charge into a fortress and slaughter the front-line orc guards. Once they explore a bit more, I'll put some details here.

I've also been working on the first version of the rules for my dinosaurs and army men game. I want something that is simple to play, involves throwing a lot of dice, and can handle using all kinds of cheap figures you can find at a toy store or dollar store. I'm hoping to have enough written to put some beta rules up here over the weekend.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Miniatures - The painting factory

This was a banner week in the painting department. I managed to finish a total of 37 models! Of course, most of these are models I have been working on over the past few weeks and just managed to touch off during the long weekend. Working the assembly line helping me knock out a ton of models quickly, driving my count for the year way up. I'm still pretty impressed with myself, though.

First, I managed to knock off another five Black Templars assault marines. I originally assembled these for part of a Blood Angels army I was planning several years ago. With trying to paint through the remainders of my Black Templars troops, I decided to give these the old black and white and get them done. I'm still thinking of whether I want to add some vehicles to make my Black Templars a playable force. Fortunately, I have a lot more models to paint before I need to decide.

More Black Templars Assault Marines

I like to keep the painting on these simple. I primed these with some basic black Rustoleum primer. I use some Games Workshop Blood Red for the eyes and Chainmail for the metal bits. The rest is Ceramcoat Quaker Grey and White. The bases are inked with Games Workshop Brown Ink, drybrushed with Bleached Bone and edged with Vermin Brown.

The decals are some old Griffin Games decals I got over a decade ago when I started painting this army. Fortunately, I got two sheets to work with, as it seems that they have gone out of business since. That's a shame, because I really like the way these decals look, and they're a dream to work with. They're much thinner than most other decals I've used, but they have no overcoating to catch light once they are on the model.

Second, I finally broke down and finished the Dark Emissary. I really had no idea how I wanted to finish this model when I dug it out of my in-process case. I'm not entirely happy with how it came out, but I can't complain too much. It's done, and that's all that matters right now. I'll probably go back and redo some bits later.

Dark Emissary front

Two things I love about this model are the bronze bowl on his back and the staff. I spent a good amount of time shading the bowl with metallics and inks to give it a good luster. The staff is highlighted with about five shades of browns after a heavy brown ink wash to pick out the whorls and edges on it.

Dark Emissary back

This is going to see some action in Mordheim alongside the warband I painted a while ago. For that, he'll be a hired wizard. I'll also probably use him for other skirmish games like Song of Blades and Heroes.

Third, I finished the first batch of Catachans. I'll have a lot more to say about the process on these in another post. Suffice it to say, I don't hate them as much as I once did. This is a batch of thirty of them organized into three line infantry squads.

Catachan infantry squads

Fourth, and finally, I finished off an old Nurgle Chaos Lord conversion I started back in the day. This model was made with Fabius Bile's body and backpack, Abaddon the Despoiler's sword, a plastic GW zombie head, and some green stuff and wire. I had painted all of the body, armor, and metal bits. This week I finally finished off the face, highlighting on the metal, and a few little unpainted details. Not the best work I can do, but it's a good enough paint job for me to call it done.

Nurgle Chaos Lord front

Nurgle Chaos Lord back
This model may see some time as part of a special Necromunda scenario. Otherwise, I'll send it off to a friend that I know plays Chaos and see if he can use it.

This week was a bit of a grind painting, since most of the work was on bulk troops - the space marines and the Catachans. I've got another batch of each primed and ready to go, but I'm going to be adding a few more characters into the mix to break things up a little. I'm also breaking things up with some other gaming stuff, but I'll talk more about that in another post.

Models finished so far this year: 119

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A quick thought about agency

I had a few minutes to look through some old files on one of my computers yesterday and found the old Swords & Wizardry Quick Start by Michael Shorten. As I was rereading it, a passage in the Players section stuck out to me:

When you play, you describe what you're doing and the Game Referee tells you what happens. In almost all cases, the Game Referee gives you one of two answers: "Yes" or "I think you have a chance of doing that - roll dice and tell me what you get."

That got me thinking about all of the games I've played where the characters' actions were too quickly limited by the DM saying “no.” I've experienced it both playing and running games. And I don't really want to do it anymore. I want all of my games to default toward permission rather than exclusion of player action.

That doesn't mean that the characters' actions shouldn't have consequences, but I want characters to have the chance to try anything and do crazy things without any kind of automatic restriction.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Miniatures - My favorite familiar

The past week has been pretty hard for me. I haven't been able to get enough rest for some reason, so I haven't had a lot of time or energy for painting. I did get a few minutes to do some more work on the Catachans and a handful of Black Templars space marines, and I expect to get some of those finished this week. If nothing else, I can catch up a bit with the extra day off coming next Monday.

Tonight I took advantage of the time I was waiting for my laundry to finish and polished off one of my favorite old GW models. This model is apparently Magus Familiar 3. I've had this figure kicking around in my bits box since the early 1990s. At one point I sprayed it with a shiny blue Testors enamel, probably when I was painting my original Space Hulk genestealers. I never bothered to finish painting it until now, though.

I decided to paint it in the old blue and purple color scheme. For most of the colors, I used my new Vallejo Game Color and Model Color paints. Being able to use just a tiny drop of each color was a huge advantage, and the colors are almost exact matches for the original Citadel colors I used to paint my genestealers back in the day. For the purple, I used layers of Model Color Violet (70960), Game Color Warlord Purple (72014), and Game Color Squid Pink (72013). For the blues, I used the aforementioned Testors spray enamel, shaded with Model Color Dark Prussia Blue (70899), and highlighted with Model Color Andrea Blue (70841). The claws and teeth were painted with brown craft paint highlighted with Games Workshop Bleached Bone and white craft paint. The base was coated with sand and washed with dark brown ink. I painted the side of the base with Ceramcoat Cape Cod Blue craft paint then drybrushed the sand and the sides of the base with Ceramcoat Quaker Grey.

Genestealer familiar front

Genestealer familiar back

I'll probably use this as a familiar if I need one for my fantasy games. Otherwise it will probably make an appearance as a special threat in a Necromunda game sometime.

Altogether it took about forty minutes to paint this figure. I took a little extra care with the purple, but got a little sloppy with the highlights on the blue. It looks good on the table, though, so that's all that matters. This was a great diversion from some of the assembly line painting I've been doing lately. A lot of the time that I've been painting, I've gotten bored if all I am doing is assembly line troops. Inserting a little figure like this is a nice way to break the monotony and have some fun with the brushes.

Models finished so far this year: 82

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monday Miniatures - Over the top!

Pendraken WWI British 10mm

Tonight I finished the basing on my World War I British figures. These are all Pendraken 10 mm models. I ended up with a nice mix of forces that I can use to play against Nick's Germans. We decided to base everything on 30 x 40 mm bases, rather than the mix of bases called for in the Flanders Fields rules. Mostly, this was to save a bit of money on buying bases and against the possibility of finding another set of good World War I rules.

My force consists of:

24 infantry bases
8 Highlander infantry bases
5 Lewis machine-gunner bases
3 Vickers machine-gun bases
4 mortar bases
3 light artillery stands
5 cavalry bases
5 command bases

Eventually I'll add some more to these, but this is plenty to get started with some gaming.

To paint them, I cleaned the mold lines and sprayed them with black primer followed by brown craft spray paint. I drybrushed all of the models with Vallejo Game Color Khaki. I picked out the hands and faces with Army Painter Barbarian Flesh. I used Tamiya NATO Brown for the gunstocks on the rifles. Finally, I picked out the bayonets and pistols with Army Painter Plate Mail Metal.

Infantry bases

Infantry detail

I wanted the highland regiments to stand out a bit. Historically, they wore khaki kilts and bonnets in the trenches. I decided to paint them with a stylized Black Watch tartan and black bonnets to make them stand out and give the army a little muted color. To paint the bonnets, I used Army Painter Matt Black and Army Painter Ultramarine Blue. For the kilts, I painted them Matt Black and gave them stripes of Ultramarine Blue and Army Painter Greenskin.

The command figures were painted exactly like the rest of the models, except they were given black boots and a mix of brown and black walking sticks. The officers were also arranged into vignettes so they appear to be talking to one another rather than typical battle poses.

Officers and Highlanders

Highlanders detail

Officer stands

The horses for the cavalry were cleaned up after the drybrushing with a little Games Workshop Vermin Brown and then washed with Army Painter Dark Tone ink. All of the artillery pieces and machine guns were painted black except the field artillery, which were drybrushed with a bit of Ceramcoat Quaker Grey craft paint.

Field artillery, Vickers MGs, and cavalry bases

Lewis MG and mortar bases

Cavalry detail

Field artillery and Vickers detail

Lewis MG detail

All the models were based on Litko 30 x 40 mm laser-cut bases. I used the 3 mm bases on Nick's suggestion. The advantage of using 3 mm thick bases is that it makes them easier to pick up. It also makes the bases less likely to warp when you use a lot of glue on them.

To detail the bases, I used thinned white glue to apply some sand to the bases. I sealed the sand with a thin mix of glue, water, and Games Workshop Brown Ink. I then applied small bits of mixed Woodland Scenics foliage to the bases. I was originally going to model some barbed wire on the bases with some plastic screen cut into fine strips, but the wire didn't really give any kind of visual pop to the bases. I used the foliage because it made for a nice contrast with the figures. Brown figures on brown bases needed something to help them visually.

Counting the figures individually, this group has 194 models, not including the artillery pieces and mortars. With those, it kicks the total to 201. Even counting each base as a single model, I finished 57 models with this group. That more than meets the model a week goal I set at the beginning of the year, and we're only four weeks into the year at this point!

Needless to say, I think I need to expand the goal a bit. I'm going to try to paint at least 365 models this year, including the ones I've painted so far. That's a figure a day on average. Several 15 mm or smaller models grouped on a single base count as one model. Otherwise, larger models count one for one. If I started painting the model before the beginning of the year, it only counts half. If the model was just assembled and/or primed but not painted before the beginning of the year, it counts as a full model. Let's see how far I can get with this one!

Models finished so far this year: 81