Monday, November 20, 2017

Bringing Out More Dead

My tombs were heavy on the physical dread and light on the spiritual dread, so I fixed that with a little help from Splintered Light.  Their ghostly packs sell packaged in numbers suitable for big battle games rather than skirmishes.  So I added a chunk of lead to my never-to-be painted mountain.
 

 
Being a rather clever fellow, I also turned a few of these single sculpts into different monsters through the expedient of different paint schemes.  In addition to standard black, I painted a handful up in a LotR ghastly greenish glow.
 
Here's a slightly better side by side comparison.  The contrast is even more stark in person.  So the black robes can serve as more skeletons or wraiths, and the green guys can be ghosts or shadows or something equally impervious to less than silver or magic weapons.


I also found this towering skeleton giant in a bag of twelve plastic toys for sixty cents the day after Halloween.  I picked the best looking figure and simply mounted and painted him - didn't even need to trim any flash - and look how he towers over that dark elf (spoilers for my next post!).



Friday, November 3, 2017

A Giant Update

Light on the texts, but heavy on the heavies, here's how Splintered Light's hill giants stack up against a typical (Ral Partha Europe) figure.


I like this size.  Big enough to be a threat, but not comically so.  And the animal skin and skull necklace, and the weird proportionality of their limbs, make these two a much better representation of the fantastic than just using a 28mm figure.  (Which I've done, but never really liked the look of.)

No idea the size difference between these and the other giant-kin on offer, though.  I never really liked the breakdown in giants in traditional D&D.  It always felt a little artificial to me.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Devil Dogs!

Just in time for Halloween, here's a pack of great big Devil Dogs from Splintered Light miniatures.  They are listed as Dire Wolves, but I decided to give them a considerably more demonic cast.




Saturday, October 28, 2017

Owlbears!

Having fun painting up a few more critters for the tabletop.  Here's a few fun owlbears for your dining and dancing pleasure.  If you ever wanted to know how big Splintered Light's owlbears are, here's your chance to find out.



Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Ten Foot Pole - The Best Adventure Site Around

Like many writers, my first real storytelling experiences came about through tabletop RPGs. Like many gamers, I found the fiction sections included with most RPGs to be wasted space. Even worse were the needlessly convoluted backstories to otherwise simple adventures, and despite (or perhaps because of my) owning and reading more than a few issues of Dungeon Magazine back in the day, I was never able to use the adventures to run more than one dog's breakfast of a campaign.

For the most part, things have only gotten worse since the 1980s. Luckily for us, one man is fighting to change all of that and elevate RPG adventure design out of the muck of 'failed fiction writer' and into the stratosphere of 'actually useful at the table when running a D&D session'.



Bryce Lynch is the best adventure reviewer out there. I've bought a fair few adventures from the fine folks at DriveThruRPG based on his recommendations. And now he has a summation of all the things that went wrong (and a few that went right) at Dungeon Magazine in his Final Retrospective.
I have review standards and strong beliefs on what makes a good adventure. First and foremost it has to be useful to the DM at the table while they running it. This is the primary purpose of every adventure ever written, even if the designer didn’t understand that fact. You can use it as inspiration, steal parts from it, or use it as a doorstop if you want, but, judged as an adventure, it has to be useful at the table. My standards are VERY high.
Bingo. The best backstory in the world is useless if you can't find the relevant information within seconds of being asked by the players.
Dungeon Magazine is an abject failure in this regard. It is VERBOSE. Mountains of backstory, mountains of room text. All of it fights the DM running it at the table. If you are including something in the main text then it has to be directly useful for play. If it’s not then it needs to be removed or moved to an appendix where it can be ignored. Dungeon Magazine didn’t do this. It reveled in useless detail. A LONG room description that describes a trophy room, all of the trophies and accomplishments, and then ends “but it was long ago looted and now nothing remains but dust.”
I remember that adventure, though not that room description. That adventure marked the moment in which I gave up on Dungeon Magazine. Even at the tender age of 16, unable to identify WHY, I could at least recognize that the time had come to turn away from 'modern' published adventures.

Go read the whole thing. If you've ever thought about publishing adventures, it's well worth it. The 'Best Of' list can be skipped, but his break down of what makes an adventure work is Plinkett-ian.

[Crossposted from JonMollison.com]


Monday, October 23, 2017

Game Time - King of the Hill

With the new and improved 15mm fantasy table largely completed, it's time to break out the miniatures!  With a little help from my lovely assistant, we threw together a small force of seven human defenders trying to keep an ogre and his goblins out of town.  The ogre wanted to get his shaman into the cemetery to perform some blasphemous rite, and the humans wanted to stop them.  The game was a simple 300pt battle using the excellent Song of Blades and Heroes rules.

The basic flow of the fight.
The local lord took his retainers out to investigate a diversion, but returned in time to find the ogre chief and his minions just sneaking into town.
Returning to town
Although badly outnumbered, the humans had the advantage of better motivation and leadership.  They seized the initiative and never really let go.  They quickly raced up and took hold of the cemetery, which denied the goblins a key advantage.  Had they grabbed it first, their shaman would have made for a powerful piece of artillery during the fight.


The ogre made the tactical blunder of sending his troops in piecemeal instead of waiting and slowly marshalling his forces.  His vanguard was meant to slow down the humans, but just wound up getting destroyed by a combination of flanking fire followed by a hammerblow of melee.


By the time the big man himself could get into the action it was too late to do anything except get swarmed.  Four on one isn't a fight anyone is likely to win in SoBH.

And brought low by the weaker but better coordinated humans.  His goblin champ never got within smelling distance of the fight.  None of the goblins on the wings could muster the gumption to move into town, which meant the ogre basically traded away his one advantage.  He should have left them lumped together and used marching orders to get them all stuck in and swarming the humans.  A valuable lesson for the next game of SoBH.


Friday, October 20, 2017

All Together Now

Time for a table reveal!  Now that the basics of my fantasy table are done, we can see what the whole thing looks like when put together.  Let's start with a cluttered town setting.

Downright bucolic, ain't it?

The kind of streets ready to run red with blood.

Nothing fancy, just a solid and attractive table.
Curious to see what else we could do with this box of terrain, I threw down a wizard tower isolated in the deep woods.  Whoever built it knew about the ley lines tapped into by ancients, which explains why it's so close to the ruined temple.  He was also smart enough to keep running water between his home and that fell ruin.

From the north

From the south

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Tower Generica

Even with all of the additions, my table was looking a little bowling-green-esque.  To add just a little bit of topographic interest to things, I elected to mount my local tower keep (courtesy of Kallistra) on a small, defensible mesa.

Front and approach.
To keep things nice and generic, I opted for a simple crusader cross on the pennants.  Those could easily be left gray, but I wanted a little splash of color to break up the solid wall.
The other side.
Houston, we have a table.  Time to figure out what rules/figures!

I actually broke out all of the terrain and set it up for my daughter to zoom her matchbox cars around on.  The pictures didn't turn out, though, so you'll have to wait for the weekend.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tavern on the Green

Alternative Armies has a great line of single piece resin buildings, but they seem more geared for town life than the bucolic village that I've been assembling.  Of course, any village worth its salt will have a decent tavern for the local yokels and the passing murder-hobos looking for a map to buy.

These pieces are even more undersized that the church.  Again, we're looking for representative terrain pieces here, not perfectly scaled.  This particular piece should match my houses very well - they all have that Germanic timber frame and plastered walls look.

I have one more building to finish and then I'll break everything out and see how it all looks when put together.  Maybe I'll even get a game out of the set-up!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Building Bridges, Not Walls

Another productive week on the production front with two and a half terrain items completed.  The first one is a bit of a 'gimme'.  This simple resin bridge is a Kallistra piece that needs no prep and no basing, just prime and a quick dry brush.



The village church took a bit longer, but as a single piece, it still based and painted up easy-breezy.  For the life of me I cannot remember where I got this nice looking church.  Which is a shame, because it's a nice piece and it was really inexpensive.
I added a few flagstones near the entrance to tie the building into the base a little better.  It's a little undersized, but that's what you want.  If the piece was in-scale with the figures, it would fill half my table!



Sunday, October 1, 2017

Completed Housing Development

My big box of fantasy grows ever larger.  Because of the recent additions, I found it expedient to streamline all of my terrain boxes.  The collection now includes one box of general ground terrain (drop cloth, woods, roads, streams, etc.), one box of sci-fi specific terrain (billboards, buildings, urban scatter), and one box of fantasy terrain (wizard's tower, stone circle, the houses below).  With so little room to spare it makes no sense to duplicate effort on universal items.

Two big houses and a barn.

The four small homes
These are all from the same manufacturer, Total System Scenics QRF Line.  Specifically from the Renaissance Scenics line.

At just four quid each for the smaller houses and six for the larger ones, they certainly are affordable, but the castings aren't the best quality.  These come in six flat pieces that have to be glued together, and the the thicknesses of the pieces doesn't quite line up correctly, particularly for the roof pieces.  Those I had to trim down by hand to get the right angle.  The peak of the house meet at 90-degrees, but the casts don't account for that, so you need to sand those edges down to 45-degrees to get them to line up right.  Without the right tools, I did what I could, but there was still a considerable gap along the peak of the roofs because I don't have a miter in this size and stink at filling in gaps.

Getting these put together took a lot more spackle and effort that I'd have liked, but if you have the time and are better with the zap-a-gap than me, you could do a lot worse than these buildings.

Here's an example of the sizing issue.  The left wall shown here extends beyond the roof line, and there was no way to fix this without making the right hand wall look worse.  This whole building leans to one side, so we'll call it the slum house if anyone notices.

I also picked up a few lengths of dirt roads made out of that latex rubber from these guys.  The roads came painted already and look great.  Those I can use right out of the box.

One of the things that I did to cover the gaps was use judicious placement of bushes.  The tall one to the left of the door shown here covers an issue with the wall and floor being mismatched sizes.

Oh, and check out that massive lintel over the front of this house.  Two of the four small houses came with fronts like this, and they don't line up with the roof.  If used as-is, that is to say placed such that the lintel can't be seen and allows the roof to overhang, then the sidewalls are too long.   I think they are meant to be used with the tall (two-story) houses and got mixed in with my order.  It's not that big of a deal - I just split the difference a little bit, and with the right tools you could just carve that lintel off - but it's one more thing that might seriously harsh a more serious wargamer's mellow.

In the end, considering the price and final look, I'm not broken up about this purchase.  They took a little more effort, but will really look sharp on the table.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Housing Development

I don't know about this.


In an effort to save some money, I bought resin houses for my fantasy villages that came in six flat pieces.  The guilty manufacturer shall not be named - they are likely a hobby outfit doing this in their spare time, so you'll have to look elsewhere for bad press.  (Unpainted lead mountains, like blood, are thicker than watered down paint pots.)

My assembly results were not so hot.  It took a lot of filing and shaving to get these things to look even halfway decent.  The glue didn't hold pieces together long enough to keep one corner straight while setting the other one.  Right now, the results look pretty haphazard, and not all of that is my fault.  Look at those houses int he front right.  They have some sort of overhanging eaves, but no matching sidewalls.  I split the difference, but it still doesn't look right to me.

A decent base and a stellar paint job might cover up for a host of sins, but I just don't know about this project.  I may have to chuck these in the circular file and start over before all is said and done.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Timber!

Sometimes these quick little posts represent a lot of work.  This isn't one of those times.  My forests took a total of around four hours start to finish.  I'm a fan of the Toob Trees for my wargaming needs.  They are a little undersized, but at a buck each for durable plastic that takes paint like a champ they are hard to beat.

Splintered Light 15mm Barbarian for scale.
Since these will be used on my skirmish table, I mounted them individually on metal washers.  These both provide weight and a little more size to help the trees stand upright, and give me a chance to paint and grass/flock them so that they blend into my terrain shapes a little better, too.  

The pine tree nearest the camera here has a larger base constructed of a pre-cut wooden disc.  These were used in a few cases to allow for the addition of a few rocks and logs to add to the variety of the trees.  This is my go-to system that allows for dense wood terrain pieces where you can move the trees around to allow unlimited movement of figures within the base, and adds the flexibility of using the trees individually as well.

By varying the painting styles a little, you can get a uniform look with just enough variety to help the trees stand out a little better.  I don't know if it shows up in the photos, but in this case every tree has the same base green, but I used three different mid-tone shades on them.  Then I used two different highlights (bone white and an ochre yellow) for a total of six different looks on the trees.  Using different weights of dry brushing provides for even more variety.  Trust me, these trees don't look nearly as white in person as they do in these shots.

My storage solution is a pair of flat plastic boxes.  Just a little something to keep them from banging around too much.  They have a matte varnish sprayed on to protect them, but every little bit helps.

These should work equally well in my sci-fi games as my fantasy games.  Which means I may have to reorganize my terrain boxes.  I think maybe I need just one 'generic terrain' box, with separate boxes for sci-fi and fantasy touches...



Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Terrain Base Quick Hit

You may have noticed that my wizard's tower included a wooden base.  That one was 3-mm thick wood, but after a recent pet shelf building exercise, I found myself left with a few extra pieces of MDF and Oh Em Gee is this stuff a lot easier to work with.  The scales have fallen from my eyes, and I now understand why so many guys use this stuff.  It's easy to cut with a coping saw.  It's easy to sand with a belt sander.  It's easy to paint and holds its shape like an aging supermodel.

The ones with more rocks don't need any extra items, they can serve as unwooded rough ground.  Any one of these can take a few individually mounted trees and serve as the bounds of a small copse of trees that block sight and make travel difficult.  The rock and logs come straight from my yard.

It occurs to me that I'm doing this a little backwards.  Normally I buy the drop cloth and match colors to it.  This time I've been too busy to track down the heavy canvas that is my first choice for drop cloths.  C'est la vie.  It will be ready when it is ready.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Tower of Skratch-Bi'ilt

Full confession:  I've spent a lot more money than usual on wargame terrain lately.  My side gig paid off, and I've dumped a lot of the extra dough into terrain that I don't have time to build.  Plus, it was my birthday.  You're going to start seeing a lot of pre-bought buildings which goes against the core mission of cheap, portable wargames on a budget.

But not this day!

I couldn't find a decent wizard's tower in 15mm scale, so I built one.  What you see here are three large cork stoppers glued together and secured with toothpicks.  A little plastic-card from a debit card that I think was left over following a trip to Dave and Busters makes for great decorative spiky flourishes, and a pair of gears from the box make for a fine magic wheel thing over the door.  The rest is pretty self explanatory.




After a quick paint job, we get a little something like this.


I originally conceived of the dome as a sort of observatory and tried to make a telescope bay, but it turned out rough and delicate.  A second wood ball was pressed into service and painted gold because MAGIC!

The blue symbols are the twelve signs of the zodiac, the sigils on the red doors represent the four Archangels, and the chalk above the door...well, it's a Catholic thing.  My Papists bros know what's up with that.

Friday, August 25, 2017

City of the Dead

Graveyards can be tricky terrain pieces to build.  They have a lot of fiddly bits that become very delicate and damage prone.  For my fantasy terrain box, that's one hassle I'd like to avoid, so I just bought a resin graveyard from Monday Knight Productions.  This piece measures four inches on each side, and with all those lines of tombstones, you need to be careful how it affects play.  Depending on the ruleset each lone of stones could act like a linear obstacle, or you could treat the whole piece as rough ground.

The piece is scaled for 15mm, but look how low that outer wall stands.  You could easily use this piece as a 10mm terrain piece, too.

As I was entering the tags for this post, it occurred to me that this piece is fairly setting and era independent.  People always have and always will die, and stone walls around the city of the dead crop up all over the place.  There is no reason that this piece couldn't be used on my sci-fi table with no changes, except that it will live in my fantasy box and I'm likely to forget about it when pulling out the sci-fi box.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Mined Out - Bloodstone Temple

Lead Mountain is tapped out.  There's no more gold in them thar hills.  How does that happen?  I mean, sure there are a few mounted Musketeers and an odd bit or bob that could use some paint, but I'm raring to add to the 15mm fantasy, and that means there's only one thing to do - hit the bits box!

One busted up Lion King CD, some card stock, a few wooden dowels and washers later and behold!  The lost Bloodstone Temple.  The round wooden disc under the sacrificial black stone might just hold the entrance to a lost tomb, but how to open it?  


This is one of those 'found mysteries' that make miniature wargaming so much fun.  I set out to make a set piece for a battle map, maybe a nice objective for two factions to war over, and the only decent stone that worked for a sacrificial altar was a little too slanted on one side.  Placing a wooden bit and painting it as a nice red granite slab elevated one end of the altar, but it also makes for the perfect covering for a short drop into a lost tomb.