Thursday, 5 December 2013

Space Hulk on iOS - A first impressions video review

David Neumann's iOS News Blog on Boardgame Geek is a must read if you're an iPad owning boardgamer and I was over the moon when I read that Games Workshop had signed a deal with Full Control to develop an iOS version of Space Hulk.

12 months later...

It's finally here.


Available to download from the iTunes App Store

Reaper Bones: Flaming Sphere LED Tealight Hack

As some of you may know my Dwarf Ranger Shadrain Coppervein is uncovering the horrors that lie deep in the Temple Elemental Evil at the moment.  Our 6 strong group is ably assisted by one of the scenario supplied NPCs, a female human sorceror, who I also play from time to time.  She recently levelled up and acquired a new Flaming Sphere spell, which has to some degree supplanted Magic Missile, as the "go to" spell for her combat casting.

Tired of using a red d6 to mark the spell's position, I decided it was high time I rectified this by hacking an LED tealight into the Reaper Burning Sphere mini which came in my Bones Kickstarter box.

This video goes out to fellow mini hacker, Peter Cruickshanks (aka Uber-Mensch on the Reaper Forum) who, after seeing my recent success with the Fire Elemental LED Hack, wondered what I could do with LED Tealights.

No full blow by blow this time as all you need to know is in the video below.

Enjoy


Bones Progress 


Reaper Bones: 245 - Painted: 34

Related Posts:






  • Reaper Bones: The Marathon Begins - Where I paint a dozen Giant Rats
  • Reaper Bones: Kobolds, Are They Dogs or Dragons? - Where I paint a dozen kobolds. 
  • Reaper Bones: A Carcase of Skeletons - Where I paint a half dozen skeletons
  • Reaper Bones: A Shuffle of Zombies - Where I paint five zombies.
  • Reaper Bones: Introducing Shaina Coppervein, Dwarven Orc Hunter - First PC mini
  • Reaper Bones: Mimic, Treasure Chest and How I re-base my Bones - Where I paint furniture
  • Reaper Bones: Fire Elemental Meets Novelty Lamp - Where I hack a mini with LEDs
  • Sunday, 24 November 2013

    Reaper Bones: Fire Elemental meets Novelty Lamp

    One of the standout pieces from the Bones Kickstarter has to be the big translucent Fire Elemental and it was always going to get some special treatment from me.

    Reaper Bones Fire Elemental

      
    Xanderhook on the Reaper Forums got there before me and his post comes highly recommended as an excellent tutorial in painting the transparent bones.  I chose a slightly different route for my LEDs which required drastic plastic surgery!!

    Disco Inferno


    I picked up a fibre optic novelty lamp in the pound shop some weeks earlier, for another project, which I discovered had a neat design.  3 coloured LEDs (blue, green and red) mounted on a tiny circuit board with a momentary switch feeding a pulse to a chip which regulated the power from the 3 AA batteries to the LEDs.

    The plan was simple:
    1. Extricate the board from the housing.
    2. Swap the batteries for Dry Cell (watch batteries) - as AAs are too big for the base.
    3. Swap the 3 colour LEDs for Red ones with long wires which can be inserted into the mini. 
    4. Add a longer throw momentary button switch.
    5. Pack it all into a custom 40mm MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) base. 

    Tools and Supplies

    To complete this project you'll need:
    • 1 x translucent miniature
    • 1 x base 
    • 3 x bright LEDs (I used red ones) 
    • 3 x dry cell batteries (I used 3v CR 2032) and holders
    • 1 x momentary button switch (I got 20 on eBay for £1.50)
    • component wire
    • solder and flux
    • soldering iron
    • dremel hobby drill
    • craft knife
    • superglue
    • milliput or similar modelling putty
    • hot glue gun or insulation tape

    Where to Drill and Cut


    I wanted to embed 3 LEDs, one in each hands and one in the head, a scan of the mini showed that it was possible to drill holes from the elbow to the end of each hand and down between the shoulder blades and into the head area.  Getting the wires through the mini was going to be difficult, but cutting the mini in half across it's waist meant I could get the wires up through the middle and out about half way up the back.  This left the three pairs of wires branching out in an inverted arrow on the surface, untidy, but easily concealed with a bit of milliput.

    Cut along the white line, Drill in the yellow direction
    Cut along the white line, Drill in the yellow direction

     The Base


    I made the base from three discs of 2.5mm MDF which I cut out roughly with the dremel and then mounted each disc to an arbour and sanded into a circle.  The three rings were then cut out using a file to score the surface of the MDF as it spun on the arbor (WARNING... only use this method if you are using a dremel which spins at a slow speed otherwise you are highly likely to either fire the file into your hand or get an MDF frisbee in the head!!!).  The safe method is to drill lots of holes around your inner ring and then join them up using a file.  Once you have 4 parts glue together with super glue as in the diagram below.

    Base Dimensions and Construction
    Base Dimensions and Construction

    Of course if you don't want to go through the hassle of making your own base out of MDF you could just use something like a coffee jar lid.  Anything will do as long as it has enough space underneath for you to cram in all the components, like the battery holders wires and circuit board.

    Keep Calm and Solder On 


    A soldering iron is a must have for this great little circuit bending project but they are a handy tool to have for those odd bits of electrical DIY and can be bought pretty cheaply these days. 

    Here's a closeup of the circuit from  my fibre-optic lamp.  You'll need to connect a pair of wires of appropriate length to each of the LEDs and work out (through trial and error) which leg needs to be soldered to which spot on the board, fortunately they are very close to each other so its not too tricky.

    Fibre-optic Lamp circuit
    Fibre-optic lamp circuit showing major components

    Once you've done that you can connect your batteries together in series to give yourself enough voltage to light all of the LEDs at the same time.  There are plenty of videos on YouTube which show beginners how to solder so I won't go into any specifics other than a few directions and top tips.
    • Soldering LED legs neatly is tricky, I straddle the LED over a metal ruler (as a third hand and then solder the wires on top.  The ruler dissipates the heat quite effectively and you get straight joints.
    • Use a hot glue gun to insulate your LED legs from each other other wise they won't light up.
    • Flux is a necessity, don't solder without it.
    • tin your wires before attempting to solder them to the circuit board.

    Construction Video

    Here's a video of the construction and more importantly the illumination effect.


    Bones Progress 


    Reaper Bones: 245 - Painted: 33

    Related Posts:


  • Reaper Bones: The Marathon Begins - Where I paint a dozen Giant Rats
  • Reaper Bones: Kobolds, Are They Dogs or Dragons? - Where I paint a dozen kobolds. 
  • Reaper Bones: A Carcase of Skeletons - Where I paint a half dozen skeletons
  • Reaper Bones: A Shuffle of Zombies - Where I paint five zombies.
  • Reaper Bones: Introducing Shaina Coppervein, Dwarven Orc Hunter - First PC mini
  • Reaper Bones: Mimic, Treasure Chest and How I re-base my Bones - Where I paint furniture
  • Tuesday, 22 October 2013

    Review: Dungeons & Dragons: Arena of War (iOS)

    Bob Dylan sang "Oh the times, they are a changing..." and never a truer word was said about how the advent of tablets has changed the fortunes of boardgame and RPG companies.  As a long time Mac user I'd long since accepted my platform as an afterthought from games companies like Wizards of the Coast when making e versions of their popular products so you can imagine my surprise when bumbling around on the App store I found a new official Dungeons & Dragons game!!  Minutes later the download was done and I was ready to get my dungeon bash on...

    D&D Arena of War


    NOT WHAT I WAS EXPECTING...

    I'll get this out there at the beginning of this review. If you want a like for like simulacrum of a D&D encounter, this app is not for you as once you're past the initial character generation screens and into your first "tutorial" adventure, your carefully imagined plans of strategic movement go out of the window when you realise that this is ANGRY BIRDS D&D!!. Yes that's right, the only way you interact with your character is by using a bizarre slingshot technique to fire yourself at random monsters dotted around an arena.  However, as this is WotC's first iOS release I'm going to give them the benefit of doubt and delve a little deeper. 

    CHARACTER BUILDING & DEVELOPMENT

    You get a nice selection of characters to begin with which cover the usual spectrum of races and classes with options to change clothing and gender.  The main thrust of character development is reserved for a system of powers much like 4th Edition D&D.  These powers can be enhanced to increase damage (and oddly HP) and you can swap powers between quests to take full advantage of each new ability or upgrade. 

    QUESTS

    There are 3 Quest Books to begin with (Baldur's Gate, The Trade Way and Northern Sword Coast) each of which you will unlock as you progress through the game.  You will be also be rewarded with Daily Quests for levels you've already cleared and for two days of the week you get to have a crack at the Undermountain quests (a sort of ranking tournament).  Each quest costs Quest Energy (QE) to join and you have 100 QE to begin with which recharges on a timer system.  You can also use Potions to recharge your QE instantly and each time you level up it automatically recharges to full.

    Each Quest is essentially an encounter in a single location comprising of a bunch of monsters which attack you in waves.  The locations are nicely rendered but a little monotonous and reflect the overall theme of the Quest level you are on, so dungeon quests are inside rooms and wilderness quests are in forest glades.  The edges of each location have features like walls, teleportation portals, gas vents or spring traps which you need to utilise (or avoid) in order to maximise your combat potential.

    The reward for completing quests varies but essentially is a combination of powers, enhancement scrolls or potions of Quest Energy.

    COMBAT

    As I mentioned earlier you use the slingshot interface to fire your character into monsters with a charging attack. As soon as you start to drag backwards (ie away from your intended target) a small power bar will start to extend from the circle to indicate how far you will charge. Whilst this is fine when your characters are in the middle of the screen, if they are close to a wall you can end up being restricted in the amount of power you can apply and coming up too short. When using Heroes with a missile attack you need to pull back only slightly, they will then move forward a small amount (or not at all if you're really good) and fire off an arrow, thereby stopping them charging across the room straight into danger.

    Although this is a weird (and to be honest a little random) interface it does force you to use a few interesting techniques:  

    Ricochet: When you charge (or shoot an opponent) they get pushed back into another hero, enemy or bomb. When it's pushed back into a hero, they suffer an attack of opportunity, if it's another enemy then they both take additional damage; if it's a bomb it explodes damaging anyone in it's blast radius.

    Rebound: A variation on the ricochet occurs when an enemy is pushed back into a wall and rebounds into the original attacker who then automatically attacks again.

    The real trick in the game is to strategically chain these two techniques together to clear each wave of monsters as efficiently as possible.  On occasion I've manged to wipe an entire waves of enemies with just one move, but it was more luck than any type of strategy.

    POWERS

    Each basic character comes with two power slots which you get to use during combat to cause effects or heavy damage, additional slots are unlocked as you progress through the game and unlock the Tier 2, 3 and 4 characters.

    Powers are ranked from Common (C, C+), Rare (R, R+), Ultra Rare (UR, UR+) to  Legendary (L, L+) and can be enhanced by fusing identical lower level cards to them with the Fuse Power option.  Scrolls or different powers can also be fused, but are less effective.

    You can then use the auto equip button to assign the strongest powers to your character and increase their Attack and HP values to take on tougher monsters in higher level quests.  Whilst this is a simple enough mechanism, it is a little obtuse and I have yet to understand how to get the best out of my upgrades.

    OVERVIEW

    The graphics, animations and interface are all flawlessly rendered and very reminiscent of other WotC products.  The quirky catapult mechanism is fun once you get the hang of it and whilst this will leave most experienced role players left wanting, it is quite a fun use of the D&D brand and has potential to bring younger players into the hobby.  It has some of the iconic elements of D&D such as monsters like the Gelatinous Cube and Beholder, a turn based combat system which feels like initiative and a simplistic system of character progression. 

    However, I still yearn for an experience closer to a simulation of an actual game, so come on WotC you've given me a taste of what you can do on iOS, I'm salivating to see some real D&D.

    8/10 - Can't wait to see what else you've got in store.

    VIDEO REVIEW OF ACTUAL PLAY

    You can also check out a video walk through showing some actual game play on my new You tube channel Roleplay Geek TV.

    Tuesday, 13 August 2013

    Reaper Bones: Mimic, Treasure Chest and How I Rebase my Bones

    There are a handful of miniatures from the Vampire Kickstarter that I've been looking forward to painting, and this mimic is one of them.

    I've never used one in a game, but now I have one in my arsenal you can bet you're bottom dollar I'll be throwing it at my players.
    Reaper Bones Mimic (Front)
    Reaper Bones Mimic (Front)
    I really struggled with the eyes, I tried several different paint combos until finally settling on fluorescent orange with a dab of white for the reflection.
    Reaper Bones Mimic (3/4)
    Reaper Bones Mimic (3/4)

    Reaper Bones Mimic (Back)
    Reaper Bones Mimic (Back)

    Of course you can't have a mimic without having the treasure chest it's mimicking.

    Reaper Bones Treasure Chest and Mimic
    Reaper Bones Treasure Chest and Mimic


    How I Rebase My Bones


    All Purpose Filler and a Craft Knife
    In comments Welleran asked, "When you rebase these, how are you cutting off the old bases? Are there any tricks to it?".  The simple answer is no I'm not cutting off the bases and there are no tricks, just a tried and tested method I've used for years.

    For this you'll need a scalpel or craft knife and some all purpose quick drying wall filler, the sort of thing you use to hide cracks in plasterboard (aka gyprock or rockwall) you should be able to buy some in the discount shop for about £1.

    Tutorial


    1.  Superglue your miniature to your chosen base material, for me that's old 2p pieces.  As you can see in the photo, the miniature's base stands proud of the new base and we need to hide that cliff edge.

    2.  Dab on small amounts of the filler and use the craft knife to smooth it out in a nice transition from  the base edge to the height of the miniature's base.

    Smooth out the filler to transition from the miniature's base
    to the edge of your new base.
    3.  Use the blade of the craft knife (or other implement) to texture the filler to taste, or to extend the existing base style if it had one.  I like to give dungeon dweller bases a paved look, which is easy to recreate by gently pressing a blade into the filler before it dries.  Wilderness creatures get a mud base which is just dimpled with the end of a paintbrush as the surface is going to be hidden with flock.

    Texturise your base before the filler dries

    Bones Progress

    Reaper Bones: 245 - Painted: 32

    Related Posts:

    Thursday, 11 July 2013

    Reaper Bones: Introducing Shaina Coppervein, Dwarven Orc Hunter

    Last Friday saw a new campaign start at the Hobbits Hole with Andy donning his DM's hat (truly a thing of majestic beauty which I will have to snatch a photo of) whilst I assumed the role of Shaina Coppervein, Female Dwarven Orc Hunter.  Of course a freshly minted PC needs a freshly painted mini and the Vampire Kickstarter came to rescue in the form of Freja Fangbreaker, Dwarf Sergeant (14085).

    Reaper Bones Freja Fangbreaker
    Shaina Coppervein (aka Freja Fangbreaker)


    I found her incredibly tricky to paint for some reason, I guess I'm just getting old and my eyes and technique are getting long in the tooth.  However, she turned out okay and this will be the first mini that is used in actual play so we'll see how she stands up to everyday wear and tear.

    I also have to own up to having given one of my bones minis away to fellow club member Stig, who deserved a nice new gnome rogue more than I had the desire to paint it.

    Bones Progress


    Reaper Bones: 244 - Painted: 36

    Related Posts:

    Tuesday, 2 July 2013

    Reaper Bones: A Shuffle of Zombies


    It's zombie time at roleplay-geek as more undead bones got finished today.

    Reaper Bones Zombies Front
    Reaper Bones Zombies (front)

    Reaper Bones Zombies Back
    Reaper Bones Zombies (back)

    Bones Progress


    Reaper Bones: 245 - Painted: 35


    Related Posts:


    Wednesday, 19 June 2013

    Reaper Bones: A Carcase of Skeletons

    The Reaper Bones Painting Marathon continues, this time I have a carcase of skeletons.

    So far I've been pretty impressed with the PVC material the bones minis are made from.  It's much more robust than the plastic that the WotC D&D or Paizo Pathfinder plastic miniatures are made from and the sculpts have been intentionally strengthened in some areas to ensure that they don't break or bend excessively.

    The skeletons are a prime example of this as during transit they tend to get a bit bent, particularly in the polearm and base/ankle areas, which means when you unbox them they can have some weird lean angles. I had to use the hot water / cold water dipping technique on a few of them to refresh the plastic's memory and return them to their intended poses.  If you want to change a pose slightly you can, you just have to overbend them slightly as the plastic really wants to go back to its original shape.   

    Six skeletons (Front)

    Six skeletons (Back)
    From the pictures you'll see that these are the first Bones I've tried to mod.  I was pretty unhappy with the flexibility of the upper bow limbs, so I decided to string them to give them a bit of extra realism and to give the bow limb a bit of support. This involves a few steps:

    1.  Heat a thin guage sewing needle over a naked flame until it glows cherry red, then pierce the miniature between the bottom limb of the bow and the skeleton's leg.  This will create a hole through which you can feed your bow string. 

    2.  Cut a suitable length of solid thin wire to form your arrow and glue this between the drawing hand and the thumb with small dabs of superglue.  My knocked arrows are way too long to fit into the skeleton's quiver and I should really cut them down, but I like the way that they fit the skeleton's half draw pose so I'll leave them for now.

    3. Take a length of sewing thread and knot one end.  Then thread it through the hole you made in the bow in step 1 and set with a dab of superglue.  Stretch the thread in as straight a line as you can to the flight end of the arrow (ie the bit the skeleton is pulling) and set with a dab of superglue.

    4.  Make a loop in the end of the thread and hook it over the topmost bow limb.  Tighten this thread until both bow limbs are symetrical and then set the knot with superglue.

    5.  Coat the thread in superglue on both sides.  Once the superglue dries, the string becomes rigid and supports the upper bow limb and prevents any excessive flexing.

    6.  The final stage is to cover up the drawn end of the bow with a flight.  Make this by pressing a small amount of modelling clay (milliput or green stuff) into a thin diamond shape on a cutting mat.  Whilst still pliable cut the diamond into two triangular halves and then stick one to the end of the bow.  You don't have to be too great at modelling to do this, just patient.

    Bones Progress

    Reaper Bones: 245 - Painted: 30

    Related Posts:

    Monday, 10 June 2013

    Movie Watch: The Brass Teapot

    I like indie films, they can often get away with things that Hollywood wouldn't or couldn't get through its exhaustive audience testing process.  The Brass teapot is one such film, it's essentially a morality tale disguised as a comedy with a supernatural focus in the form of a magical teapot which gives you money in exchange for pain.


    The tale follows the likeable, but struggling young couple, Juno Temple (Atonement, Killer Joe) and Michael Angarano (The Forbidden Kingdom, Sky High) who discover a magical, money producing teapot and set about using it to change their lives.  The pair are likeable although a little stereotypical, and are surrounded by a plethora of family, friends and enemies who are all exploited by the pair as they gradually fall under the spell of the teapot. 

    Add in the pair of Jewish grandsons and the strange Chinese Professor of Antiquity who both know the true power of the teapot and things turn comically dark. 

    What's in it for role players


    Well obviously it's the magic teapot.  I loved the way the story of this cursed item played out for the couple and it would pose a challenge to any greedy character in your game.   Essentially the teapot rewards you financially in exchange for experiencing pain but the longer you use the teapot more it's power grows, and it moves on to the next stage of its reward structure.
    • Stage 1: Accidental Injury to oneself. 
    • Stage 2: Self Inflicted Injury
    • Stage 3: Injury inflicted by another
    • Stage 4: Injury to a stranger
    • Stage 5: Injury of a friend
    • Stage 6: Death of a stranger
    • Stage 7: Death of a friend
    • Stage 8: Death of a thousand
    • Stage 9: Death of a town
    • Stage 10: Death of a Nation
    • Stage 11: Death of a species or race.

    I'd make sure that it was found as a side treasure in a tomb and be pretty but mundane looking, either functional or at best semi-valuable, so as not to become an instant trade. 

    Have the items power hidden for a time and only revealed to one or two characters (preferably a thief) who can keep a secret.  Allowing them to gradually discover the teapot's secret should add some interesting side story to your party.  As the owner becomes blasé about using the teapot's power, it should start paying less, or stop altogether.  They won't get a similar payout again until they find a new way of causing pain, which could be fun in it's own way.

    Enjoy...


    Sunday, 9 June 2013

    Cleopatra and The Society of Architects

    I've been trying to get a copy of this sadly out of print game for a few years now and thanks to eBay managed to bag an un-punched German language copy last week.

    Cleopatra and the Society of Architects
    Published in 2006, by Days of Wonder, design by Bruno Cathala (Shadows over Camelot) and Ludovic Maublanc (Cash 'n' Guns), Cleopatra and the Society of Architects is a sumptuous 3 to 5 player game with an Egyptian theme.  Each player is an architect trying to impress Queen Cleopatra (and guarantee a prosperous afterlife) by constructing architectural features for her new palace project.  These adornments are represented by gorgeous plastic miniatures in the shape of 6 Sphinx, 2 Obelisks, 9 Column sections, 2 Door frames and Cleopatra's Throne and pedestal.

    The Completed Palace
    Ingeniously, the game utilises the box lid as a 3D game board onto which you lay the tessellating Mosaics of The Gods, Cleopatra's Throne and its Pedestal.  Columns and Door frames are placed around the sides of the box and interact with each other to score even more cash when built.  This gives the whole game a wonderful 3 dimensional feel which adds to its appeal and to be honest Days of Wonder could have made this game using traditional card components but it just wouldn't have had the visual impact (but would not have deserved the £40 price tag) or the tactile element which is so fun.

    The game itself has a simple concept, collect resources from the market and build various items to decorate Cleopatra's new Palace.  Each time you build you earn money and the object of the game is be the richest surviving architect.

    A smorgasbord of components
    Yes, I did say "Surviving", because along the way you will inevitably acquire corruption amulets for having to use "tainted" resources, not offering enough cash to the high priest or simply trying to do dodgy deals with various "Worshippers of Sobek".  These corruption amulets get counted up in the end game and the most corrupt architect is fed to Cleopatra's crocodile.

    There's a ton of different mechanics in the game from area control to trick taking and even a blind auction so there's plenty of opportunity for you to different strategies to try to win.  The multiple mechanics for gaining and removing corruption tokens means that you never really know who is in the lead at any time making for a tense and fun end game.  This is always something high on my priority list when I look at a new game.

    As I said before my copy is German, and I foolishly thought that I could get away this as the majority of the cards just have the German names for Wood, Stone, Marble and Craftsmen.  However, the "Worshippers of Sobek" (aka the tainted character cards) had other ideas.  These cards have complex instructions on their use which needs to be readily available to the players.  My solution was to photoshop the German Summary Cards and replace the text with English, no mean feat I can tell you.  If anyone has scans of the English summary cards to donate, I would be most grateful.

    Playing the game with 4 players

    Wednesday, 29 May 2013

    Outrider: My First Print On Demand Experience

    I've been buying PDFs from the likes of RPGNow / DriveThruRPG and printing them at home for a few years now, but recently I took the plunge and decided to order my first Print on Demand (PoD) product.  Being based in the UK, I've always been reticent to use the PoD option as the costs have been quite high to have things printed in the US and shipped to the UK, but a couple of things made made me take the plunge.
    • I had an interesting conversation with the CEO of OBS, Steve Wieck, via his blog OneBlogShelf, which re-energised my passion for making games.  I've had a few ideas for card games in the past and so this was a great opportunity to try out the PoD option particularly with respect to cards.
    •  Another advantage of OBS was that I could convert some of the proceeds from my own product sales into credit with which to purchase the PoD copy of the Outrider cards
    • Following the recent launch of DriveThruCards, a One Book Shelf (OBS) site which specialises in printing card games, I discovered Outrider, an auto duelling tabletop game by Dice Fest Games which featutures an innovative movement/manoeuvre mechanism using cards.  I'm a sucker for post apocalyptic road racing games and sook took advantage of the Launch Discount and got the whole PDF + POD Cards for £17.04 including delivery.

    What Makes Playing Cards so Special?

    I've made my own cards in the past for things like my DM's Decision Deck and My Item Cards and whilst I'm really happy with the results from my own prints there are a few things unique to playing card printing which are pretty insurmountable for the Print-at-Home (PaH) user.

    Double Sided Printing - The major advantage of PoD over PaH is that you get access to commercial grade print technology Yes with a little lot of trial and error you can get pretty good results, but you will never match commercial printers which use registration marks for alignment.

    Print / Paper Quality - Home printers have come on in leaps and bounds but there is no escaping that with every incremental increase in quality you have an exponential increase in cost.  High grade papers are really pricey and tend to drink ink like a vampires drink blood.  If you want a photo quality result you have to suffer that slightly tacky feel which as you can imagine does not make for good playing cards.  Casino's are very particular about their casino quality cardstock which has a very high opacity preventing stopping people seeing the card values through the substrate.

    Cutting - Several cards are usually printed on a single sheet and unlike books are not bound together before guillotining.  I've had some great results at home, but inevitably you do end up with cards either not having precisely the same dimensions or being gaffed in some way.

    What You Get

    The Outrider download consists of 8 files; the rules, a scenario booklet, a series of optional Terrain Tiles and 5 files of cards, counters and dashboards.  The printed cards which will be delivered to you from the printer consist of:
    • 18 x Manouevre cards.
    • 8 x Vehicle cards (double sided 16 vehicles in total).
    • 8 x Dashboards (double sided 1 for each vehicle).
    • 15 x Counter cards (require cutting up before use).
    • 3 x Range Cards (double sided single/double fire lanes).
    • 1 x Turn Order/Control Loss Reference Card.
    • 1 x Lucky/Second Wind car.

    A sample of the 54 different cards contained in the deck

    I would have preferred to have multiple sets of the manoeuvre cards included in the PoD element rather than the included tokens.  Personally, I find thicker cardstock counters are easier to pick up during play and would have been happy to do a little bit of DIY before being able to play.  Similarly the included Dashboards and Vehicle cards are double sided meaning that you can only play one of each style of vehicle unless you print your own duplicates.  At the end of the day you have all the files necessary in the PDF element so it's not too much of a hassle to print additional cards.

    From the point of order it took about 12 days for my order to arrive, which is pretty good considering that it has to be processed, printed and delivered to the UK.  I suspect that if a UK printer/distributer  could be sourced this time lag would be greatly reduced.


    A really nice poker style plastic card box was supplied for free (sadly, mine had a little crack in the lid)


    The cards come cellophane wrapped, with a nice plastic poker style protective case.  Print quality is superb with a nice glossy finish.  Although the cardstock used was nice enough, it is slightly thinner in weight to regular playing cards.  This may become an issue in the future as I'm not confidentt it will stand up to normal gaming wear and tear from a bunch of hamfisted boardgamers.

    How did the costs stack up


    As I mentioned before, the discounted price for the PDF and POD Cards was £17.04 (which includes USPS First Class postage to the UK at £6.73) which compares favourably with say a Fantasy Flight Silverline game such as Bruno Faidutti's Citadels.  The cost of postage from the US to the UK is a significant proportion of the price (almost 40%).  This is of course largely out of the hands of either the printer or OBS and is the one issue which needs to be overcome if PoD as a concept will become generally accepted.

    Final Thoughts


    For me although the cost was comparable to a mass printed card game, the quality of the cardstock was a little dissapointing.  I also hope that the guys at OBS can source some UK based printing companies to add to their cadre of US ones.  This would certainly go a long way to making me choose PoD as a viable alternative to just buying from one of the big games manufacturers.  At the moment it's a bit of a 50/50 choice, which will most likely be decided by how much I lust after a particular game or not.

    I have yet to actually play the game, so stay tuned for a follow up review.

    Monday, 27 May 2013

    Fiasco: The Sins of Anarchy's Sons

    On Friday night I ran a FIASCO using the Sins of Anarchy's Sons playset created by Chris Groff and Rob Wakefield which is loosely based on the hit FX TV Show, Sons of Anarchy.  If you've not seen the show it's follows the exploits of an outlaw motorcycle club (the Sons of Anarchy MC) trying to keep their powderkeg of criminal activity from blowing up in their faces.

    I've run FIASCO a couple of times before with varying degrees of success and decided to change things up for this session.
    FIASCO by Bully Pulpit Games

    This time I decided to be the "Director"


    FIASCO is cinematic in concept and I've found that players can often struggle with closing a scene because they try to resolve all of the loose ends right there and then.  I've put this down to in part to their lack of experience with FIASCO but mostly because they all want to get in on the action and develop their own stories.  The role of the director is to look at the whole picture and shout "CUT!" when he spots a great cliff hanger, one liner or that the players are drifting from one scene into something else. 

    As director I also get to play any NPCs which get created and through them drive the story in interesting ways, primarily to stop the players from having meatshields, but also to create conflict.

    My players are very familiar with other RPGs which contain concepts of self preservation, character progression and achieving goals collaboratively.  FIASCO is about going to hell in a handbasket in the most messed up way possible and this is difficult for players to reconcile.  It really only works, If they manage to put away any silly notions that they're going to come out of this alive and start to selfishly concentrate on achieving their own NEEDS.

    How it went

    Here's the setup for friday's game (with TILTS)

    Friday Night's Sins of Anarchy's Sons Setup (Click image to enlarge)
    Mel Carver's high school friend Misty turns up at the Junkyard (which doubles as the MC's Clubhouse) claiming to be on the run from a Federal Taskforce Agent (Mario Marquez) who used her as an informant against the Colombian Cartel.  She wants the MC to kill the fed and destroy his list of informants and is willing to pay the club a lot of money in return.

    Flashback to a couple of months ago when Spanner, Dice, Blanco and Bull are dismantling a stolen car that Bull and Blanco acquired.  Inside the door pockets of the Red Ford Taurus are 8 kilos of coke.  A heated debate ensues as to where they got the car from and how they're gonna turn the uncut coke into a huge amount of cash.

    Flash forward to Blanco and Bull burying a teenage meth chef in the desert after having just shut down his laboratory.  His wallet has fallen on the ground and they discover he's Ernesto Marquez.

    Bull and Blanco have set up a meet with Agent Marquez to buy the list of informants from him.  Marquez is receptive to this as he is trying to rebuild his life after his wife kicked him out, blaming him for the disappearance of their son Ernesto.  During the exchange muffled cries can be heard coming from the trunk of the agent's SUV.  For some unexplained reason a very pissed off Mel is being held captive in the trunk.  She manages to get free and stabs Marquez in the groin with a tyre iron, Bull and Blanco finish him off by shooting him in the head and they take his car and body to the Junkyard.

    At the Junkyard the MC agree to meet with the colombians and give them Marquez's head as a gesture of good faith.  The rest of him gets put in a bath tub full of battery acid... (nice).  They also decide that Misty is too nice to hand over to the Cartel (particularly as she was very grateful to Arnie) who will end up killing her for being a narc and so Dice doctors the list of informants and removes her name.

    Flashback to Puff and teenage Meth chef Ernesto in bed at Puff's house.  Bull calls asking Puff to come to the clubhouse to discuss how they're going to cut 8 kilos of coke and distribute it.  With hindsight this scene doesn't quite work in the timeline (as Ernesto should be dead) but nobody noticed at the time.

    The MC members meet with the Colombian Cartel's representative General Garcia who is grateful to the MC for disposing of Agent Marquez.  He then asks them to help locate the people who stole his 8 kilos of coke for which he will pay them $250K.  As he departs in his Humvee he tells them that he will contact them in two weeks, if they haven't found the thieves he will kill them all.

    Back at the clubhouse Puff, who still carries a torch for Bull, has just observed him getting freaky with Misty and so shoots her in the head from outside his window.  Bull throws the Misty onto the floor, grabs his gun and leaps through the window.  The back of the clubhouse is littered with junk and he ends up cutting his foot on something and giving up the chase.  Dice goes to look around outside and finds Puff's monagrammed derringer outside Bull's window.

    Arnie calls a chapel meeting to decide what to do about the mexicans and Bull and Blanco decide that two of them have to be given up to the Cartel and it isn't going to be them.  Bull punches Arnie who then pulls his gun.  Dice tries to ring his FBI contact and relay the whole confrontation to him but in the fracas his phone is knocked from his hand and spins out onto the chapel tabel.  Everyone's eyes are transfixed by the phone as a voice crackles "Hello... This is Agent Johnson".  Arnie shoots Dice through the head.

    Meanwhile Mel has taken Agent Marquez's SUV out of the junkyard to dispose of it when she is followed by a rival gang of mexican bikers intent on killing the taskforce agent for some reason.  She runs one of them off the road but the others open fire on the SUV causing her to veer into oncoming traffic and getting hit by a semi-trailer.  The SUV spins off the road and down an embankment.  Barely alive she is beginning to think about how to get herself out of the crumpled vehicle when the bikers turn up to finish the job.

    Unfortunately we ran out of time to complete all the scenes, but as there were only white dice left in the pool everyone just took one.

    Almost everyone survived the Aftermath but in typical FIASCO fashion most were "dead on the inside"  The final scene was Puff trying to hitch a ride down a lonesome desert highway with her life in tatters.

    What I'll do differently next time


    Character Generation - We usually manage to get about 3 hours of actual gaming done on a Friday night, character generation (in my experience) normally takes a group of 5 players (or 6 in this games case) about 50-60 minutes of dice rolling consulting charts and mulling options.  This leaves about 60 minutes for each act which means it's quite a push to get round the table four times and allocate all of a players dice.

    I put this delay partly down to my players coming to the table burdened with other RPG experience, and partly the "picking" aspect of the games character gen, so next time I'm just going to give them the option of either rolling two dice (finding the result and then choosing which relationship card to write it on) or choosing one of the available pregenenerated setups.  I hope that this way we can reduce the prep time and get down to the enjoying the mayhem.

    Roles with Conflict Built In - Even using all the presets, the players managed to engineer characters who all had some connection with the MC and were not in roles of direct conflict, for example no-one was playing a cop or other town luminary charged with shutting the club down.  This may have been a direct result of the playset's design and to be fair we didn't really need it to create a good enough game, but I felt it didn't reflect the feel of the show where the MC are beset on all sides by authority figures trying to crush them.  Hopefully future games (with different playsets) will result in PCs with roles which already have the conflict built in to them.

    Did They Enjoy it? 


    Only two of the players had any experience with FIASCO, and about half were familiar with the TV Show.  Despite this, everyone said that they'd had a good time, it was refreshing to play something totally different and would definitely play again.  It was by far the best FIASCO I've run so far and I can reccomend the playset to those gamers (and fans of the show) wanting to recreate their own little version of Charming.


    Thursday, 23 May 2013

    Reaper Bones: Kobolds are they dogs or dragons?

    The next milestone of this marathon painting challenge is the kobolds.  Just like the Giant Rats I painted last time, these are one of the monsters in my Monster Mini Box: Level One and are a classic low level minion and dungeon pest.

    Lots of people have gone before and written heaps about The Ecology of Kobolds, how they are Reimagining Kobolds and even how Kobolds are the D&D equivalent of Star Wars Jawas.  I'm not going to be going into that level of detail about their origins or whether or not they're the offspring of dogs and dragons (unlikely).  Suffice to say that my kobolds are both, they share some draconicon physionomy as well as canine.

    They are hairless scaly bipeds with tails, their dog-like heads have vestigial horns and spine crests.  Their tails are not prehensile being used primarily for balance and as a way of conveying emotion.  The skin on their abdomens and upper tail is much thinner (and of a different colour) to that on the rest of their body.  They can be any colour (just like the various hues of dragonkind) but the ones I'm painting today are red.

    Muttley (Hanna Barbera)
    They are scavengers and any weapons or armour they use is cobbled together from items lost or discarded on battlefields or at the roadside.  In fact it is not unheard of for them to scavenge from the edge of a battlefield during the night, despatching any dying soldiers in order to loot their bodies.  During research I discovered that there was a 17th century expression "to laugh like a kobold" so now mine laugh nervously like Muttley.

    The 4 Stages of a Miniature Paintjob


    Stage 1 - Primer - As I've said before I like to paint over a black basecoat which helps me to build up the layers of colour from dark to light.  I use an acrylic car primer in a spray can, and any areas that get missed like undercuts can be touched up later.

    Stage 2 - Basecoat - Blocking out the colour areas on a figure with base coat helps you to pre-visualize a colour scheme (ie: work out where your contrasting colours need to go), what your midtones and highlights need to be and finally avoids any need to blackline.

    Stage 3 - Midtones - Pick out your midtones by painting smaller areas of colour within the basecoat patches you applied earlier.  Midtones are usually halfway between your basecoat colour and your highlight colour and should match the colour of any material or skin your are trying to simulate.  For example if you are going for a woodland green cloak, then your colours will be:
    • Black Primer
    • Basecoat - Woodland Green + Black, Navy Blue or Brown)
    • Midtone - Woodland Green
    • Highlights - Woodland Green + White, Grey or Yellow
    A well stocked range of colours will enable you to paint "straight from the pot" as it were, without any need to mix colours together.  This is very important when painting large numbers of the same figure as you'll end up spending the majority of your time mixing colours.  Acrylic dries pretty fast so remember kids if you're using Dad's paints (or Mom's, cos girls likes gaming too) blob a reasonable amount on your palette, don't actually use the pot lid to paint from, you could knock it over or worse end up with the pot lid getting all gunky, losing it's seal and drying out entirely. 

    Stage 4 - Highlights - Pick out your highlights in the same way as your midtones by painting even smaller patches inside your midtone patches.  The effect you are after is a subtle shift in shade from black all the way to your highlight colour.  If it looks too "stripey" then your colours probably need to be closer together in shade.

    Stand Back and Admire your Handiwork


    Remember it's a gaming miniature, for gaming, as long as it looks okay at "stand off scale then "jobs a good'un".  If you get good at painting there are plenty of people who will pay good money to get you to paint their armies.

    A dozen Kobolds, enough to challenge any 1st level party

    A Word about Variety

    The Bones Kobold miniatures are all well and good, there's a dozen of them (frankly enough to enable me to meet my Appendix C requirement of 6-18) but there are only 3 sculpts (Kobold with; Sword and Shield,  Sword and Spear, or just a Spear).  When gaming you need something to identify each minion and if you can't do it by their pose, you have to resort to other means such as painting something a particular colour, in the Bones Kobold's case they're either holding a shield, or wearing a waistcoat or mantle. 

    I've therefore painted a version of each sculpt in each of 4 colours, enabling my players to identify the target of their attack as "Red Shield" or "Blue Mantle" rather than me needing to paint or stick numbers on them (a less visually pleasing option).

    3 Bones Kobold sculpts in 4 different colour combinations (Purple, Brown, Blue & Green)
    gives me 12 uniquely identifiable minis.  A much better system than adding numbers IMHO.

    Oh and if you look closely you'll see that one of them has left behind a little present...
    You can tell this Kobold's shit scared.

    Bones Progress


    Reaper Bones: 245 - Painted: 24

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    Friday, 17 May 2013

    RPG Blog Carnival - What Campaign do I want to Play Next?

    This month's RPG Blog Carnival hosted by Age of Ravens is entitled "Campaigns I'd Like to Run".  The short answer to which is always "my next one".

    The Lands of Dual


    It's been over 2 years since I last ran my Castles & Crusades campaign world, The Lands of Dual, and high time that I revisit it.  Of course I can't go into much detail about what will be happening as some of my players may inadvertently read this blog and that would most definitely let the cat out of the bag.

    Geography

    The Lands of Dual (interactive map availiable via MapLib)
    In previous campaigns I've asked players to pick an unexplored area on the world map as their birthplace and write up a little description of it as part of their background. 

    This has been quite successful but there are a still quite a few parts of the world which could do with being explored or at the very least developed:
    • The Frozen North & South - no-one has ever visited the northern icecaps so no-one knows what's there.  Perhaps a hidden valley with it's own microclimate, perhaps even a tunnel into a hollow world below, on the other hand it could just be the land of the long white death.
    • Hjorselandte - The interior of the land of the horsemen is rumoured to be inhabited by a race of wild and savage centaurs.
    • Kharis and Haki - These two warring domains, one a Matriarchy, the other a Patriarchy, could be of interest to the ladies in my group.  Think Amazonia, She-Ra, Xena Warrior Princess, Wonder Woman.

    Races 

    I'd like to expand on my demihuman races a little:

    Salamankari (Lizardfolk) - Early on in my last Dual campaign one of the players chose to be a Red Salamankari (Red Lizardman).  We had a blast with the species racial history,  particularly in setting up some great bio-religious schism which caused the species to fork into two distinct coloured subtypes, the green marshdwellers and the red desert dwellers.  I'm thinking about adding at least one more subtype, but the details will have to stay secret.

    Elfenkin - In Dual, Elves also have subtypes which are very closely aligned with their respective environments and elements.
    • Sea Elves (Vassadhim) - I'd like these elves to be something like the mariner from Waterworld, semi aquatic they can breath underwater and cruise the deep oceans in boats crafted from driftwood and kelp.  Their magic is restricted to the elements of Air and Water crucial to their survival on the high seas.  Their skin has a lightblue colouring and shimmers like fish scales.
    In my world Kevin Costner is blue, honestly it will make sense, I promise.
    • Cloud Elves (Aerohimm) - The Aerohimm have broken the bonds of Earth and risen into the clouds in their glimmering floating cloud fortresses.  They keep a watchful eye over all the lands and are said to resemble angels being very tall and lithe with long flowing white hair.  They have a longstanding pact with the Grand Caliph of the Djinn, who supplies the Aerohimm with Elementals to power their great crystal castles.  It is said that they are the most cultured of the Elfkenkin and are fond of humans, often having relationships with them which bear children.  Their magic is largely concerned with the element of air although they are the only elfenkin who practice all forms of elemental magic.
    • Green Elves (Woedhimm) - Woedhimm shun contact with the other races of Dual and are rarely seen outside their woodland kingdoms.  They are reclusive and secretive, the few sitings of them suggest that they are the most diminutive species and their mastery of camoflague is exceptionally.  Their magic is restricted to the sphere of Earth and Water.
    • Desert Elves (Desierto, literally "The Abandoned") - Desierto are a peculiar species of elves in that they are a loosely knit community of fierce nomadic tribespeople who roam the great deserts in large caravans ekeing out an existence.  They are legendary masters of desert survival and their skills are highly prized by caravanserai who employ them as trackers and guides for journeys through the treacherous deserts.  They have ruddy skin, and wear brightly coloured gallebya, their dreadlocked or braided hair is woven with complex beadwork which is said to be a record of their life.  Their magic is restricted to the elements of fire and wind, but they are alo excellent desert animal handlers.

    House Rules


    I have been doing a fair bit of blog reading and some of the house rules I've seen have piqued my interest:

    No Alignments at Level 1 - I first read about Character Funnels in the Giblet Blizzard article DCC: Funnel Runners, and it struck a chord with me.  One of the things that has always bugged me is the chasm of difference between what a PC's character sheet says their alignment is and how it ends up getting played.  This is sometimes the fault of the player but it can equally be a reaction to a party dynamic.

    Whilst I don't think I could convince my players to go the whole hog by using the Character Funnel approach to create zero level PCs (check out Purple Sorceror's neat DCC Generator), I think it is perfectly acceptable to only let them decide what alignment their character is at the end of a few sessions of play when they level up.  I might even knock up some quick alignment tokens to award players during play or have Karma Points or something.

    Magic Corruption - I wrote a little D20 table of Corruption Effects for Mage Levelling and I will be getting my players take on whether or not they like it and if they would still choose to play a mage knowing that this house rule would be in effect.

    Magical Prosthetics - Loved this random table of 100 Magical Prosthetics so much that I will definitely have to use it in my campaign should anyone lose an appendage through combat or the above corruption effects I shall be deploying prosthesis.  This might become even become a bit of a hook (pardon the pun), King loses his nose in an ill conceived duel and requires PCs to find him a replacement.

    Meat Shields - In all my years of DMing and playing I've never used or utilised hirelings.  The closest that I've ever come to is when my fellow Hobbits Holer, Richard Wells, had us playing each others sidekicks in his Victorian Science Fiction game, but they were more than just hirelings.  This worked brilliantly and gave everyone the opportunity to be in two places at once.  So I think I'll return the compliment and do it in my game with mandatory meatshields.  Perhaps I'll utilise the DCC Party Generator to furnish them with stats or just stick with the meatshield generator.

    The Desert of Desolation

    It's been my long term ambition to run the Desert of Desolation series of modules (I3-I5), but I think I'll be having a mixed 1st and 3rd level party this time around so they're safe... for now

    Plenty of food for thought I think you'll agree.

    Wednesday, 15 May 2013

    Optical Illusions in RPGs

    In a previous post I wrote about the Droste Effect, a form of optical illusion using recursion, which provoked an exploration of other illusions, particular those of a physical or architectural nature. 

    Now I'm sure everyone is familiar with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and remembers the final Grail test where Indy has to make "The Leap of Faith" out into the chasm to find a hidden walkway.  This is a good example of a forced perspective illusion, the walkway is painted in such a ways as to  render it invisible from the only perspective that the hero can have, the ledge.



    This limits your options in a collaborative group scenario, as either requires you to bottle-neck the party or limit the number of viewers to force the illusion to work. However, perspective can also be used to make something visible (or at least legible) from only a single point of view. In otherwords an Anamorphic Perspective, the word itself being derived from the Greek words 'ana' meaning back or again, and 'morphe', meaning shape or form.

    Anamorphic Perspective in Art History


    One of the more famous paintings to demonstrate this trick was "The Ambassadors" (Hans Holbein the Younger 1553). In this we can clearly see a strange random grey shape which floats at the bottom center of the image.
    The Ambassadors (Hans Holbein the Younger, 1553)
    If the painting is viewed at an acute angle from the left side (as demonstrated above) the strange grey shape resolves into an image of a skull. 

    Many art historians have come up with explanations as to its symbolism, which is unsurprising as the painting contains many cryptic clues as to the identity of the two sitters, although my favourite is that Holbein did it to show off his skill as a painter.

    The painting hangs in London's National Gallery and well worth a visit, if you can't and want to learn more, the curators have put together a few nice videos to explain the painting's symbolism and how Holbein might have achieved the effect.

    At the same time Erhand Schön a prolific woodcut designer from Nuremberg was using the technique to hide naughty pictures in his art.  This example is held by the British Library.
    Jonah and The Whale (Erhard Schön, 1537) containing the anamorphic Squatting Peasant (highlighted in red)

    More Modern Examples


    One of my favourite modern exponents of the technique is Felice Varini who uses striking geometric shapes painted on the walls of rooms and even on the outside of buildings.

    Rettangoli gialli concentrici senza angoli al suoo (Felice Varini, Switzerland, 1997)

    Here's a great example from Brusspup, which uses a sliding glass door and coloured paper.


    So how the heck do I use this in an RPG?

    Anamorphic Illusions can be simulated in RPGs in one of two basic ways, either:

    Room as presented to players
    In Plan View - By presenting presenting the players with a map of a room (either as a handout or as a battlemap) in which are contained several prominent architectural features. 

    In the example below it would something like:

    "Beyond the door lies an undecorated and austere looking 100ft square room with no exits.  Against each wall stands a large statue which appears to be pointing with it's right hand outstretched at a series of large urns which stand in front of the northernmost statue.  Each urn appears to be sealed shut with wax and is large enough for a man to climb inside.  On the front of each urn is pasted a label adorned with strange eldritch symbols".

    Room with solution (in red)
    The solution (if you spotted my deliberate misdirection) is that the statues are not pointing at the urns at all.  They are in fact pointing to a floor tile (red square) which if smashed will reveal a secret under ground tunnel.

    You could of course allow the party members to make copious spot hidden checks to determine the true target of the pointing statues.  If they cross the red square whilst traversing the room to reach the urns, their footsteps will cause an echo in the tunnel below.

    Or you could just fill the urns with unspeakable horrors and watch the party dash across the room to their doom.  Your game your choice.


    As a Handout - One of the simplest types of anamorphic uses layers which need to be positioned above one another to produce the effect.  Consider the three images below, trace these out onto some semi transparent paper (such as grease proof paper) or print them on OHP paper.  Tell your PC's that they have been written on the finest almost translucent animal skin or that they are etched onto sheets of glass.

    Handout AHandout BHandout C

    Message is revealed when
    the images are combined
    Individually they don't really much, but when combined together they read "This is a Hidden Message".

    It's best to keep the handouts square, as you should let them spend some time puzzling over each one before they get them in the right orientation.

    This is a massively oversimplified example for a fantasy game.  In a modern or future game glass and other transparent materials are common place and the handouts should seem matter of fact.

    I've been toying with the idea of presenting my players with some DNA Chromatographs where the little blobs spell out a message when overlayed.  Luckily the extent of our knowledge of biology or medicine is limited to CSI Miami, so the science of chromatography shouldn't get in the way of a good reveal.

    On a Serious Note... Dwarves and other little people


    Whilst writing this I discovered a real world application of an associated technology to produce a similar effect.  Lenticulars have been atound for years, you see them on stickers, movie posters, postcards, anything where you want to show movement, animation or to reveal a hidden image.

    The Spanish organisation, Anar Foundation, has recently produced a poster campaign which uses lenticular printing to reveal a hidden message including the telephone number of an anti-child abuse help-line.  The lenticular is arranged so that the message is only visible to children (or people of children's height) and not any adults (or potential abusers) who may be accompanying them.  A great idea and I'm sure you'll agree a worthy campaign.


    This technique is of course something you could use in a delve of an old dwarven (or other half person) stronghold.  The original builders may have left messages to their kin in the walls which are only visible to persons of dwarvish height.  These could be anything from simple sign posts, elaborate trompe l'oeil vistas or warnings about the trap a bit further up the corridor.

    Enjoy...

    Tuesday, 14 May 2013

    Do you blog blog about the OSR from the UK

    On the blogosphere the other day I spotted a list of Canadian OSR blogs (If it was your site thanks for the inspiration).  I thought this was a great idea and that us UK based Old Schoolers should have something similar.

    Join the UK OSR BLOGROLL


    Do you blog about the OSR? - Your blog doesn't have to be "OSR, all OSR, all the time" but you should lean towards the OSR side of the force.

    Fanboys: "Rule number one, In my van, it's Rush. All Rush, all the time."
    Are you UK based? - Do you know what Tizer, Irn-bru, Jaffa Cakes, Kinghtmare and The Adventure Game are? This is a chance for us UK based gamers to band together and fight the good fight using our unique sense of humour, quaint accents and stif upper lips.   

    Walmington on Sea - "A great holiday hotspot" (Timeout 1943)

    If you can answer YES! to both these questions and want to celebrate your unique UK centric take on the OSR, then add your blog to the list then post your URL in the comments below.

    Thanks

    Monday, 13 May 2013

    DIY Rot Grubs

    As I alluded to in my Monster Mini Box - Level One post, there's no point buying rot grubs unless you're a serious D&D mini collector or have oodles of cash to throw about.  So I'm gonna show you how easy it is to make your own.

    You will need:

    • Coins, washers or other basing material - In the UK our second lowest denomination coin is the 2p (worth about 3 cents) measuring exactly 1 inch across.  I've used them as bases for my miniatures for decades despite the fact that it's technically illegal (sorry Queen) but where else can you get readily available metal bases for 2p a pop?
    • Modelling Putty - I use milliput (mostly because I have it) but other putty's like green stuff, fimo and DAS Pronto would work just as well.  Obviously you may have to modify these instructions if you your putty needs to be baked to cure.
    • Modelling tools - I use a metal ruler, a craft knife and a cutting mat, but to be honest you can use just about anything as long a you don't tell your wife.

    Rot Grubs A-go-go

    Build up your base with putty
    Step 1 -  Build up your bases. 

    Tear off some putty and squish it onto your base to make a decent base for your pile of grubs and to cover up the face of whichever monarch or dead president is staring at you with dissaproving eyes.  Pile your putty up in the middle, if you want to have a big writhing mound of grubs or you can spend hours modelling a crazy paved floor for them to crawl over.  The amount of time you spend on your bases is entirely up to you.

    Step 2 - Make some sausages. 

    Make a putty sausage and score it
    A sausage sandwich would go down really nicely at the point, but you should concentrate on your sculpt and start rolling out some putty sausages using the ruler and a flat durface.  These sausages can be any length but try to keep them about 2mm in diameter. 

    Step 3 - Score your sausage. 

    Using a sharp edge, like a craft knife, roll grooves all the way along your putty sausage to simulate the segments of your rot grubs.  Take care not to cut all the way through other wise you'll be making little slices of black pudding and we ain't modelling them this week.  Varying the spacing of the grooves can give you options for heads or tails when you get to the next stage.

    Croissants or Chippolatas?
    Step 4 - Chippolatas and croissants. 

    Chop up your sausage into small lengths, about 1/2 an inch is perfect, and put a bend in them to resemble semi-circles or croissants.  You can try longer ones with more complex curves, it's entirely up to you.  In a short while you should have about 10 to 12 grubs, that was easy don't you think?  Try having longer segments at the ends to simulate either heads or tails.  If you're confident with your modelling skills you could even try opening up a mouth at one end with a cocktail stick.

    Step 5 - Plate them up. 

    Rot Grubs curing in the noonday sun.
    Start piling your grubs onto your base in as random a fashion as possible.  You can rinse and repeat steps 2 to 5 as many times as you like to get the perfect pile of grubs, the great thing is that unlike a production miniature each one of yours will be absolutely unique.  When your satisfied leave to cure as indicated by the instructions for the material you're using.

    Step 6 - Presentation is everything -

    Your rock hard grubs will need a lick of paint to really finish them off.

    Painted, but finished? the question is do I give a flock?

    How to Play Them


    Despite the fact that rot grubs feature in Head Injury Theatre's hilarious Celebrating 30 Years of Very Stupid D&D Monsters, they are an effective way of making challenging choices that bit more icky or just punishing failure.  Use them sparingly when your party has just got a little bit too cocky or blasé about this dungeoneering lark.  It reminds them "Who's the Daddy?"

    I'm an Adventurer, Get me out of here!!


    Let's make no bones about it, they live in shit (and other nasty fetid places) and that's nasty.  If you've not seen Jo Nesbo's Headhunters then I suggest you rent that puppy now.  Simply put, Aksel Hennie's lead character has to make an unpleasant choice to avoid a confrontation with Nicholas Coster-Waldau's bad guy Greve.  You can make the "eeeeuwwww" factor even worse by keeping this to yourself until they're half way across the river of merde and they start feeling the little blighters nibbling at their extremities or worse burrowing into their faces.

    Where there's muck there's Brass

    How easy it would be just to let the PCs root through that pile of corpses to recover the awesome treasure.  Woah Stop!! where's the fun in that?  Remember how fun it was to bob for apples as a kid? Well bobbing for booty is more fun when there's rot grubs in the pile of poop.

    Don't Cross There!!

    Sometimes you need to subtly railroad (also known as convincing or dissuading) your players using obstacles which, although not impenetrable, have obviously undesireable outcomes.  So you ignored my warnings, eh?  Well not only have you just fallen into the poop but you now realise that the poop is infested with rot grubs.  You get the point.

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