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

Friday, January 25, 2013

The benefits of a classical education

I'm glad that I got to grow up in the 70s and 80s and play the early editions of D&D as they were released. Even though I sold off my copies over the years, I've managed to replace all of the core materials I need to run OD&D, Holmes Basic, Moldvay/Cook/Marsh Basic/Expert, first and second edition AD&D. For me, the OSR was just getting back to my roots and playing the games that I loved.

When Wizards of the Coast started releasing PDFs of old game material years ago, I jumped in with both feet and ordered a lot of titles. I still have those files, and they have seen a lot of use over the years. When WotC pulled the PDFs from the market a few years ago, I was as outraged as everyone else. I still wanted to be able to buy more than I owned at that point. I carefully backed up the ones that I had as I moved from computer to computer, waiting anxiously for the time when I could either add to the collection or get better copies of what I already had.

The latter was a definite wish. The original PDFs were buggy, inconsistent, and in some cases just plain bad. Some of the scans were misaligned or misrecognized (or not properly recognized at all). Most of the text was difficult to use in any other form than the original scan. Searches didn't work well, and contents and indexes didn't point to the correct places in the files.

Now that the older D&D material is available in PDF again, I'm looking forward to replacing everything I purchased before and adding as much as I can to the collection. I've had a chance to download a few different titles, and it looks like WotC has managed to correct all of the flaws that plagued the old files.

I downloaded some of the free files available (B1 In Search of the UnknownH1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules, Khyber's Harvest) and ordered a new copy of the Moldvay Basic Rules. I'm happy to report that the scans of B1 and the Basic Rules are clear and easy to read. The files for the others are obviously based off of the electronic masters for those products. All of them have solid contents outlines which allow you to click through the sections in the files quickly and easily. Short of recreating the original layouts in the older products, these are everything I could have hoped for in these products.

I went to a Great Books college, and one of the things that we constantly harped on there was going back to the original source. If you want to argue for or against something, you should know what the original source of the argument says. A lot has been made over the years of the evolution and changes that have happened in D&D and the way we play the game. Fortunately, we have clean copies of the originals available to refer to again.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I hate Catachans

Several years ago I got a bunch of the plastic Catachan imperial guard models from Games Workshop. At the time I was planning to use them to build an Armageddon Ork Hunters army (which should give you an idea how long ago that was). Since then they have sat in a case waiting to be painted.

I finally got some of them out a little over a week ago and started painting them. I immediately remembered why they have been unpainted for do long.

These were the first plastic imperial guard models GW put out since the late 1980s. They are blocky and poorly jointed. They have lots of gaps when assembled. And they aren't posed well. These are probably some of my least favorite models.

At this point, I would happily sell them but for two things. First, I want to use them as another test for the quick shade. I'm painting them with the simplest paint scheme I can and then shading them to see how they look. It will be a good experiment to see how the quick shade works with simpler schemes and plastic models. Second, I want to paint everything I have before I unload it. I made a challenge to myself, and I'm stubborn enough to want to see it through, even if it means painting a bunch if bad models.

To get around the fact that I don't like these models as much as others I have, I'm painting them in small batches in the time I have before work. That allows me to work on them in small doses so I don't just get disgusted and move on to something else. Still, I hate Catachans.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Monday Miniatures - Late again

I had the day off Monday, and that threw my schedule out of whack a bit. Needless to say, I didn't update the miniatures progress yesterday. I painted through a bunch of the weekend, mostly on some Catachan Jungle Fighters models for 40K. I did manage to get several other nagging projects finished over the weekend though.

First, I finished the final details on an old Ral Partha wizard figure. I got a pair of these to compete in a figure painting competition that never happened last summer. I dug him up a couple weeks ago and started painting on him here and there before work. I painted his robes, cloak, and hat in a very light grey. The staff was painted black and striped with light grey paint to give the appearance of wood grain. Then I glazed it with some old Citadel Chestnut ink. The ball on top is painted with Citadel brass, gold, and silver to look like a polished brass knob. The salt and pepper hair and beard were done by painting a black undercoat and striping it with light grey.

This model is going to be the inspiration for an NPC in my upcoming game.

Ral Partha wizard

The other big project was getting the rest of the models that have been waiting sealed. I got everything out on Monday and gave them all a quick spray. For the final seal, I use a craft matt spray. It ends up giving them more of a satin finish, but protects them fairly well and saves me a bunch of money.

Lots of sealing finished

 Altogether, I sealed the Fen Beast, the Umber Hulk, my three zombie hunters, the wizard, my 23 Necromunda gangers, 45 Black Templar space marines, and the 14 models in my Mordheim warband with the final seal. I also sprayed the Liberi centaurs with the Army Painter Matt Varnish to get them ready fro basing. That makes 111 models that got finished and sealed yesterday!

Most of these models were finished last year, but the Liberi and the wizard were definitely finished this year. That adds another 11 to my count, since I finished the vultures in the fall and I'm only counting each Liberi as a half model.

Models finished so far this year: 24

And as promised, a better picture of my zombie hunters:

Karl, Sanchez, and Boston

We broke the server

Lots of people have reported that the classic D&D material is available again at I tried checking it out, but every time I try to load the page I get a server error. Once the traffic dies down and I have a more stable connection than my phone, I'll try again.

In the meantime, I think this is a great move by WotC. Can't wait to compare the new files to the old PDFs I have to see if the quality of the scans has improved.

Finishing the Fanticide Liberi

Yesterday I sealed all the models that were sitting on the table waiting to get finished. First up were the Liberi centaurs for Fanticide, which needed a good coat of the Army Painter Matt Varnish to knock down the shine from the Quick Shade. I gave them a quick spray and set them aside to dry while I sprayed everything else.

Airing out the Liberi
Once they were dry and had aired out a bit, I took them inside to have a look at them. The one thing I really dislike about the Army Painter stuff is the fumes. When they say use in a well-ventilated area, they're not kidding! Their products have some of the strongest fumes I've ever smelled from a hobby product.

The Quick Shade did a decent job of shading the centaurs. A little of it collected on the tips and backs of the feathers on some of the shields, but not too much. The colors are also a little darker, especially on the spots. I can live with it. It gives them a darker appearance overall. As usual, the Matt Varnish makes all the difference, knocking down the shine so you can see the shading.

After the Matt Varnish
 To finish the models, I gave them a bit of static grass on their bases and called it a day.

The Liberi ready for action
Liberi stickers

Liberi shootists

Liberi Cheveyo crushers

Liberi Shaman and Chieftain

Liberi Vulture peeves

With these models, the goal was to get them painted and ready to play as quickly as possible. Obviously, the project got completely sidelined with the move and starting the new job. I was still able to complete these in a matter of hours overall – I just had a few weeks in between the various hours.

Now to see how they look against my painted Fae!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Finishing the Liberi Centaurs

The past couple weeks I've been painting the Liberi centaurs for Fanticide in the morning before work. I finally finished all the base coating and gave them a coat of the Army Painter Quick Shade. Once that dries, I'll spray them with the matt spray and see how they look.

I originally wasn't going to bother with painting the spots and marking on them, but they looked pretty bland without them. I ended up giving them a mix of spots, shading, and socks. I'm still not sure whether or not I'll add any warpaint to them. At the moment, I'm thinking not so I can save on time and move on to other projects. Regardless, these should be done by the end of the weekend.

Liberi centaurs coated with Quick Shade

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A bit of pirate fun

Saw this on Gothridge Manor and decided to give it a go. Now I have a mind to play some Pirates of the Spanish Main or maybe start a 7th Sea game.
My pirate name is:
Captain Roger Flint

Even though there's no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone recognizes you're the one in charge. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!
Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Monday, January 14, 2013

Monday Miniatures - Motivation and Perseverance

I'm still struggling a bit with the photos I'm getting from my camera. One of the folks I work with has done a lot of photography and made some suggestions about lighting, which I plan to take advantage of as soon as I start getting home while there is still some light in the sky. Maybe by March...

Anyway, in the meantime, I am continuing to paint furiously and trying to work through my stack of unpainted models so I can buy more. I still set aside about a half hour a day to work on models at the paint table before I leave for work. Lately, I have also started taking other models to work to paint in the time between when I get to work and when I'm scheduled to start. That means that most days I get an hour of painting in before work, plus whatever painting I can still do when I get home.

To make painting at work feasible, I put together a traveling paint kit that I can just toss in my bag before I leave the house. At the moment, the kit consists of a Battle Foam Pack M.I.N.I., a mini plastic palette, a handful of brushes, and a couple paper towels. Using the troop foam tray, I can carry a decent number of models and several pots of paint. If I need to take some craft paints or paints in dropper bottles, I just carry them in a zip-top bag in my messenger bag. To protect the brushes, I keep the plastic tubes over the bristles and slip them into the elastic strips on a brush card. At work, I keep a plastic bottle of water and a spare cup in the cabinet at my desk, so I don't have to worry about running to get water before I get started.

My traveling paint case

If you're worried that you don't have enough time to paint any models, you should definitely consider doing something similar. I've said several times that having a specific, dedicated time for painting helps keep me focused and make sure that I don't procrastinate or get overwhelmed by looking at a large project.

If I only have a few minutes at a time to paint, I don't want to waste that time. That means I wade right in every morning and just start working on whatever the next step is that needs to be done. I don't spend a lot of time considering my next move or getting ready. I just paint what I can.

And since I'm only painting for a few minutes, I don't worry that I'm not painting several steps on every model in a project. Any progress I make in fifteen or twenty minutes is a step in the right direction.

Obviously, having some skill and knowing how to paint fast helps, but it isn't really necessary. This morning, I was happy to drybrush the feathers on a dozen Liberi before I left and paint a second coat of Goblin Green on a few Catachans once I got to work. Some days, just getting one layer of a color on one model is enough. Whatever I don't get done today I can do either when I get home or the next day.

I clean, glue, and prepare models for painting either in between painting in the mornings, in the evening, or on weekends. Priming and sealing have been mostly on hold while the weather is cold here, but I'll start doing that on the weekend as well. Fortunately, I still have plenty of models assembled and primed from before the move, so there's no pressure to overcome the weather to keep myself going.

Even though I didn't finish any models this week, I'm still quite happy with my progress. At the rate I'm painting, I should finish the Liberi by the end of the week, and I'm closing in on the final stages on the Dark Emissary, a Ral Partha wizard and some of the Catachans. Once those are finished, they'll add 23 models to my total. (I'm only counting each centaur as half since I painted most of their coats last year.)

Models finished so far this year: still 13, but definitely counting!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Back to the Liberi

I've been working a bit on the Liberi centaurs for Fanticide in the mornings before work. So far I've managed to finish all the base coats on the horse bodies, torsos, hair and tails. I'll be polishing off base coats on all the details this week.

I decided to see how the quick shade looks on them to see if I can get them done a little faster. Work is making it hard to get the concentrated time I need to do good blending and hand shading. If the quick shade leaves them a little too flat, I can always add some highlights later.

To make it easier to paint in the mornings, I've got all my models set out on my paint desk. I made a list of the colors and stages I need to finish them. Then I lined up the paints I am going to need in order. That way I can just sit down, grab the next color in line, check the list, and start painting. It may be a little obsessively organized, but it saves a ton of time and energy.

Here's the paint desk as of this morning. (Looks like it's time to change out my water!)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday Miniatures - Gangs

This week I finished the Necromunda gangers and put the finishing touches to a few other figures. The Necromunda figures are my old Cawdor models that have been painted and repainted, stripped, and repainted again. This time around, I painted them as quickly as possible and then used the Army Painter Quick Shade to give them some definition. These models are definitely not painted to competition standard, but they work great for a tabletop play standard.

Necromunda Cawdor gangers

You can see in the detail pic that I left most of the really fine details alone and just focused on the main areas of the figures. I didn't bother with teeth, eyes, tiny studs and rivets. I kept things simple and focused on what would be visible from about three feet, since that is the distance I and my opponents will be seeing them from during games. That ended up saving me a ton of time, since I not only avoided painting the details, I also didn't have to clean up any mistakes I made painting them.

Detail on the Cawdor leader and a couple of gangers

Altogether, I have six heavies armed with heavy bolters, heavy stubbers, and grenade launchers (two of each), plenty of gangers with shotguns, a few gangers with lasguns, and one with an autogun. My leader is the fig with the boltgun on his back and chainsword and autopistol in hand. Finally, I have six juves with stub guns and knives. I'll be working these into a gang to play some games with some folks here in the Bay area, and I'll post my gang roster once I tweak it a bit.

The other figures I finished this week were my zombie hunters that I picked up last year at Gen Con. I got these to play in an All Things Zombie campaign with Nick. Unfortunately, we never got started on the campaign before I moved, so these guys have been languishing in a case unfinished for a few months. They're a bit of an odd bunch. Sanchez (in the center) has a killer sombrero, a pair of sixguns and a big knife. On the right, Boston has a stylish trenchcoat, a shotgun, and an automatic pistol. Karl is sporting the classic German look and a flamethrower.

Look out zombies! Karl, Sanchez, and Boston

I painted these guys to a decent presentation standard, but the camera isn't doing them justice right now. I'm still trying to figure out how to get the light right for taking good pictures in the new place, so the pics for these models aren't the greatest. I'm hoping to get some more lights that I can aim this week so I can set up a semi-permanent place to shoot that will give me good results. In the meantime, I hope you'll bear with me. I'll try to get better pics as soon as I can.

Aside from painting these guys, I managed to get a little more painting done on the Liberi centaurs for Fanticide and a bit more on the Dark Emissary. I'm hoping to get those done by the end of this week so I can post some pics next Monday.

Models finished this year: 13 (I'm only counting each of these as half a model, since they were partially painted before the start of the year.)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

What have I gotten myself into?

Since I decided to give myself the goal of painting a figure a week during the new year and not buying new models until I paint some of what I have, I decided to dig through my miniatures cases and boxes and see what I actually have. I realized that I have a ton of unpainted models and unfinished projects, easily enough to keep me going for quite a while without buying any more figures. Since my goal is to game with them, I may need to buy some fillers here and there, but those purchases should be minimal at this point.

Here's the list:

1. Necromunda gangers - a bunch of Cawdor gangers that I will be using for an upcoming Necromunda campaign. I finished these this week.

2. Zombie Hunters - a few figs I picked up at Gen Con for a planned All Things Zombie game. Finished these guys this week. They'll go in the case until I can get somebody to play ATZ with me.

3. Liberi Centaurs - the remainder of the Fanticide minis. I've got these almost completely base coated. I'll finish them with the Quick Shade to get them on the table faster.

4. Old School Wizards - a pair of wizards I got for a painting competition that never happened. I'll paint them to use for either Song of Blades and Heroes or some other fantasy skirmish game.

5. Dark Emissary - still working on this one. I'll use him for a contract wizard for my Mordheim warband or some SBH.

6. Skaven - I have a few dozen skaven with spears. Eventually, I'll be designing a Fanticide warband that uses these models. To do that I'll have to get some other models to fill out the ranks a bit, but I haven't decided what else to include. These will also get some play in SBH.

7. 10 mm World War I British - another project that's been waiting in the wings. Originally got these to play some WWI with Nick and a few others in Indy. Nick and I were the only ones that were interested after the figures got delivered, so these have languished a bit. I'll be painting and basing them for use with the Flanders Fields rules.

8. Black Templars Space Marines - I have a few tactical squads and an assault squad still to paint for my Black Templars. Eventually I'll need to get them appropriate vehicles as well. I was going to sell these on eBay, but the market for painted 40K armies has pretty much hit bottom. I'll probably keep them as a fallback army in case I can find someone to play some older edition 40K.

9. Hospitallers Space Marines - a marine army I built and never finished painting. I'm going to try using the airbrush and Quick Shade to see how fast I can get these ready for the table. Once they're painted, I'll sell them or keep them as an adjunct to my Templars.

10. Catachan Imperial Guard - another old 40K army I never managed to sell. I'm going to give these as fast a paint job as I can and get them table ready. They would be something to paint and sell if the market was there. They'll probably be a shelf-sitter unless I can find a good sci-fi skirmish game to play with them.

11. Bretonnians - an old battle force boxed set I picked up a few years ago. My idea was to paint a Bretonnian force to display quality with full heraldry. I'm not sure if I'll do that with these or just paint them to gaming quality. They'll probably see use for Song of Blades and Heroes or Fanticide.

12. Cry HAVIC figures - a dozen or so old figures I picked up somewhere. There aren't enough of these to really be useful for much, so I'll just paint them and see if I can find a game to play with them.

13. Reaper Familiars - some old animal figs I picked up when I was running 3E D&D. I'll knock these out to use with D&D characters or display. I don't really see much use for them otherwise.

14. Lag and Er - a half-orc druid and his baboon animal companion. I picked these up for one of my players in my 3E game years ago. I'm planning to paint them and put them in a little diorama to send to Sam as a present.

15. Commissar, Psykers, and Servitor - an old female commissar, a pair of psykers, and a servitor I got in the Skullz Adeptus Mechanicum set. These are the rest of the retainers for a 40K Inquisitor I painted a few years ago. I'll finish these and add them to his case. If I play 40K again, they can be an add-on for my other armies. Otherwise, they'll be a special encounter in a Necromunda campaign.

16. 1/72 plastic Cowboys and Civil War figures - some simple figures to fight the dinosaurs. I'm cleaning these up to base for my dinosaurs and army men game. These figs will let me play out some Lost World and Valley of Gwangi scenarios.

17. Zombie Vixens - some female zombie figs I got as a promo from Wargames Factory at Gen Con last year. I'll get these painted for the All Things Zombie games.

18. 1/72 Medievals - a few random sets of 1/72 medieval figures, including the old Airfix Robin Hood and Sheriff of Nottingham sets. I'll get these painted to play some Chainmail. Nothing like old-school plastic figs for old-school minis rules.

19. Wargames Factory Saxons - a few boxes of Saxons I got at Gen Con. These are going to get painted so I can face off against Nick's Vikings. We'll probably use Dux Bellorum, Song of Arthur and Merlin, or Fanticide for these.

20. The Caller Giant Rat Skeleton - an old Necromunda special character. I got this for a conversion I planned for a Skaven army many years ago. I'll paint this for Fanticide or SBH.

21. 35mm Knight Spectre - an odd figure I picked up somewhere. I'll paint this for SBH or Fanticide as well.

22. Plastic Mythological Monsters - the remaining monsters from the tube where I found my unicorn for Fanticide. I'll paint these to use for the fantasy skirmish games or D&D.

23. Miscellaneous Characters - a few random character minis I've gotten at conventions. These will get painted for D&D or the fantasy skirmish games.

24. 6mm Napoleonics - four beginning Napoleonic armies from Irregular. I'm going to get these painted and based so I can start playing some small-scale, big-battle Napoleonics. I've got French, British, Prussian, and Russian armies to start. I'll play them with the Fast Play Grand Armee rules.

25. Hot Wheels Car Wars - a handful of Hot Wheels cars I have for a Car Wars variant I've been fiddling with.

26. Nurgle Chaos Lord - a converted figure for a planned Nurgle army from years ago. I'll clean him up and finish painting him as a gift for a friend that still plays Nurgle for 40K.

27. Mini-genestealer Familiar - an ancient Warhammer familiar that looks like a miniature genestealer. This one is probably going to be a mascot if nothing else. It's one of the oldest minis I have, and I'd hate to let it go. I may use it for a special scenario for Necromunda.

28. 15mm Knights - some Hundred Years War knights I got to paint for the Gen Con painting contest last year. I didn't get them painted for the competition, and they've languished since. I'm planning to paint them for a diorama for my desk at work.

29. Giant Plastic Bugs - some dollar store plastic bugs I got last year. I'll paint these for my dinosaurs and army men game. They'll be great for creeping people out a bit.

30. 1/72 Gladiators - a bunch of plastic gladiators, including a pair of chariots. I'll paint these so I can do some one-off gladiator gaming.

That's the catalog of what's in my painting stack. It doesn't include some figs that I have to paint for other people, like Nick's museum Napoleonics. At the rate I'm going, I hope to be able to knock off most of this pretty quickly. Once I do, I've got my eye on a few things to flesh these out as well as a few new projects.

Overall, I'm hoping that I can finally wear down the lead mountain and get it all at least table ready. I may be tempting fate a bit, but I'd love to finish it all!

Spell levels - so what?

I'm getting ready to start running a new D&D game, so I've been reading a lot of material and making some notes about ideas for the game. Today I've been rereading issues of the old Od&dities zine. Looking through issue 5, I was struck by something in an article comparing the Dragonquest game to D&D. One of the criticisms against DQ is about spell levels:

Another big difference was spell eligibility. The spells were never given a level of difficulty and were open to any appropriate class, regardless of the level of the spellcaster. What 1st level party wouldn't love to have its cleric packing resurrection? Or a 2nd level wizard with two lightning bolt spells?

For some reason, I thought about those rhetorical questions as actual. What if they did? Would it really break the game?

In the case of a lightning bolt, not really. Just reduce the damage accordingly.

In the case of resurrection, give the spell a chance of failure until the cleric hits the level he would normally get the spell. If you look at the B/X rules, clerics don't get access to resurrection, but they can cast raise dead as a fifth level spell. A cleric first gets access to fifth-level spells at 7th level. So just give a chance of failure if they try to cast it at a lower level. Arbitrarily, I would say a 15% chance of failure per level under 7, so a third level cleric casting raise dead would fail to cast it successfully 60% of the time.

For other spells, you could reduce the range, give saving throw bonuses to intended targets, or other balancing effects.  If you want to take a more literary approach, you might cause some kind of backfire or mutation if the caster fails spectacularly or it is a particularly difficult spell. For the most part, though, scaling the damage or giving a chance of failure seems to be reasonable and simple.

Just some musings as I fiddle with ideas on a lazy Sunday...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New year, new plans

Happy New Year! With the turn of the year, it's time for me to look back on what I accomplished last year and what I hope to do this year.

Prior to moving in November, I was running games for two roleplaying groups and playing in two more. I was painting miniatures off and on, usually more off. I was still getting some things done, though. I was playing minis games about every other week and hex-and-counter wargames once a week or so.

When I moved, I thought the end of the year was going to be turn into a long list of failed projects. The amount of time required for work and commuting and the shift across time zones put me out of sync with most of my old gaming groups and left me little time to paint or play. Initially I worried about being able to do anything gaming-related around my work time.

The last couple weeks I have been working on ways to fit gaming into my schedule. I have started finding ways to save time in other areas of my life to allow time for the things that I really enjoy. I've seen the challenges that my health and full-time work are creating, and tried to find ways to work gaming and painting around that. In short, I am making my gaming as much a priority as some other parts of my life. Hopefully, that will make some of the other things more enjoyable too.

In order to do that, I have had to be much more deliberate about scheduling time to game and to work on gaming projects. I get up early every morning. That way I have enough time to get ready for work and
still have a little time to paint and work on miniatures. Fortunately, working at game stores years ago taught me to be able to paint quickly and efficiently for a short period of time and interrupt my painting and walk away at a moment’s notice. I’m putting that to good use now.

I always have a couple of projects going on my painting table at once, and I make sure that I have the paints and brushes or tools I need for the next step laid out before I go to bed. Once I get ready for work
in the morning, I sit down at the painting table and get to work. I have my phone programmed with an alarm that is set to go off every weekday ten minutes before I have to leave the house, and I make sure that I drop what I’m doing as soon as the alarm goes off.

Having scheduled time like that forces me to get right into painting and do concentrated work. I feel bad if I slack during that time or don’t try to maximize the painting I’m able to get done. So far, in just a couple weeks, it has paid off with a lot of old unfinished models finally getting finished and ready to use for gaming.

Another way that I have been planning my gaming time is with lunch. I take a lunch to work and eat in my office. I lose a little time socializing with some of my coworkers in the break room, but I am making up for that by reading and doing campaign prep for games instead. Because I carry game books and notes with me, I also have something to work on if I get to work early or get stuck at the bus stop after work. I can use the downtime for reading, making notes, and doing the prep that would otherwise not be possible because
of other life demands.

In terms of actual play, I had to give up all of the games I was running and playing in prior to the move. Changing time zones and my daily commute keep my schedule from working with those games, so I had to drop them. In their place, I am going to start playing in a game every other Saturday and running a
game every other Sunday. I plan to make up for some of the game time during the week by playing some solo wargames in the evenings. Eventually, I will start playing some more games through Vassal as well.

My schedule during the week is incredibly tight, and I am usually exhausted by the time I get home. Having the option to take my time reading and rereading rules, planning moves, and sometimes just delaying a turn makes it possible for me to play without the pressure of coordinating schedules or the immediacy of face-to-face gaming. Eventually I would like to play more face-to-face games again, but that is all dependent on coordinating them with my schedule and my need for sleep.

In the end, it’s all about expectations and meeting challenges. In the past, I expected to have the rest of my life limit or preclude my gaming, and it did. I saw the challenges in trying to schedule everything and got overwhelmed. Now I’m changing my expectations and seeing the challenges as something to work around. And it’s paying off. Strangely enough, now it seems like I have more concentrated gaming time than I did before. I find that I am more focused and deliberate because I have had to be specific about scheduling that time. Since I have to work to make gaming happen, I’m a lot more into it when it does.

So looking into the new year, I’m giving myself a couple of deliberate goals, positive challenges to work toward rather than around.

First, I am going to try to play at least one game a week. For that I consider a two-hour game session (roleplaying, wargaming, or board gaming) to be a game. If the game takes less than two hours to play through, then at least one complete play-through counts. For most weeks, I’m going to try to play one roleplaying session and one other game, but I’m not going to force things too much. One game a week is the main challenge, and everything else is gravy.

Second, I am going to curb the urge to buy new games until I have played through the ones I have. I have a ton of games that have not seen any table time in years, and I am going to play through them before I dump a bunch of money on new shelf-sitters. Hopefully I can play through everything on my shelf and trim out the ones that I don’t enjoy anymore.

Third, I am going to paint at least one miniature a week. So by the end of 2013, I’ll have at least 52 more miniatures painted. Obviously, if I can get more done, that would be great, but finishing at least one a week is my minimum. I’m still sticking to finishing the partially painted models in my cases first, painting each of them as I uncover them in the cases. So I should be able to really get a jump on this goal with some partially-painted models early on.

Fourth, along with the painting goal, I’m going to stick to my rule of not buying any more models than I can paint. I bought some models at the end of last year that will add to the pile in the short run, but those are the last I'm going to buy for a while. Hopefully by the end of the year, I can finish the backlog of unpainted models I already have and be back to only buying things as I paint and use them.

Fifth, if I don’t use the models in games, I’m going to start selling them. I don’t like having a bunch of models for decoration, and I don’t want to store stacks of cases. So any minis that don’t get play time on the table after they get painted are going to get sold. I’ll probably offer them for sale here first, but after that they’re going to eBay.

So those are my goals for the year. Play more games, paint more minis, buy things as I plan to use them, and get rid of the stuff I don’t play or use. Anybody want to join me?