Friday, August 28, 2015

More shiny toy soldiers

 Here are some more 54mm plastic toy soldiers from Armies in Plastic.

Ive painted and varnished them in exactly to same way as the infantry figures I did a little while ago.

Compared with the 20mm plastic toy soldiers I've done before, these cavalry figures feel gigantic.

 I cut the pennants off the soft plastic lance shafts and put them on to lengths of brazing rod. The plastic lances were just too bendy and noodly, and refused to stay straight.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Paladins and their ilk

I've been having a bit of a think about how I want to handle paladins in my game, and at the very heart of the matter is this concept:

Paladins are religious fanatics.

There is a war going on between the opposing forces of Law and Chaos. Sometimes it's a cold war, sometimes it's hot, but it never, ever ends. The various divine powers are ranged along either side, with a few remaining more or less neutral. There are allies to be dominated or appeased, there are fence-sitters who might be swayed either way depending on their own interests and there are enemies to be obliterated. And the battlefields are, of course, the various inhabited planes of existence, of which one is the home of Our Heroes.

As in any war, most soldiers are just trying to make it through, and with a bit of luck, getting their buddies through too. They may think their opponents are kind of dicks, but they don't dwell on it. They may even get along quite well with individuals from the other side, depending on circumstance. The war is just background noise, except when it gets up close and you have to scramble to get through with a whole skin.

Paladins are a different matter entirely. If a paladin comes upon a group who are worshipping, or even just supplicating, one of their own personal deity's enemies, they take it personally. They do not tolerate, they do not come to accommodations, they just GO TO WAR.

I don't mean by that that they're necessarily mindless berserks, foaming at the mouth and going into a homicidal frenzy at the very sight of a shrine to Floaty Bobbles, Lord of the Rubber Ducks. That might be the case, but not always. Many paladins are intelligent and calculating in their never-ending quest for the utter annihilation of all enemies of their god, everywhere.

The key thing is that they're always at war. They're obsessive.

You may have noticed that I've said nothing about goodness or evilness, and that's on purpose. Those traits are irrelevant to the war as a whole. They will certainly affect the way a given paladin approaches the problem of destroying the cult and shrine of Floaty Bobbles and punishing those who have collaborated with the Bobblites, and certainly a good paladin is less likely to entertain the idea of Acceptable Collateral Damage than is an evil one, but each is just as obsessively driven as the other to the final aim — the utter defeat. and destruction of their enemies, wherever they may be.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The lustre is getting dulled already

I am not displeased with D&D Mark V, but now that I have the three core books for the system, I doubt that I will buy any more.

When D&D Mk.III came around, in an excess of enthusiasm, I bought ludicrous amounts of splatbooks and trapbooks and monsterbooks and what-not. I feel no urge at all to do the same this time around.

No urge, and no need. I find that converting 3e, 3.5e and Pathfinder monsters on the fly is pretty much a doddle, so buying dedicated 5e monster books would really be mostly pointless duplication (and expense).

I'm actually kind of tempted to just take the concepts from 5e that really appeal to me (like the Advantage/Disadvantage system, which is great) and graft them on to my increasingly divergent rewrite of the Swords & Wizardry rules. Of course, that would require some effort on my part, and besides, if I changed the system I'm using for my FRPG campaigns again, I suspect I might encounter some petulance and surliness from my long-suffering players.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Superhero Bloodbath of DOOOOOOOM!

I was wondering why creatures that should be mighty and fearsome tend to do more poorly in combat with Our Heroes than I would have expected, so I did some sums;

  • Bea, getting two attacks a round with her magical flail and one with the shortsword, assuming she hits with every blow (which is not unlikely since she gets +7 or +8 to hit), will do an average of 28 points damage a round. Double that if she doing her superheroic enemy-blender "Combat Surge" thing.
  • Roe, whacking twice a round with her great-axe, does an average of 22 points a round. Again, double that if Surging.
  • JZ, assuming she's doing a puny 1st-level version of Dissonant Whispers, adds another ten points or so. Up to 18 points with a good roll, more if she uses a higher-level spell slot.

So, on an average combat round, the party is dishing out 60 points of damage a round, and up to double that if they're rolling well. If the fighters are Surging, the average party damage goes up to 110 points, and possibly (though improbably) as much as 220. Bloody hell. And if anything, the situation is only going to be getting more imbalanced as they rise in level.

Even HUUUUUUUUUGE critters seldom have more than 100 hitpoints, or maybe 120, and most have considerably fewer. Pretty much anything that is whackable is going to be mince if it makes the mistake of getting anywhere near our lovable gang of mincing machines.

Clearly, big hulking brutes of monsters are just not going to be an effective challenge when they can be swatted aside without Our Heroes even raising a sweat. I shall have to get a lot sneakier. And fiercer.

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Apparently "Hobbit III: The Revengening" extended cut is due in November. Not precisely sure what there is to extend, except MORE WARHAMMER!


Note: I am not a fan of WHFB because (a) it's stupid, and (b) I'm kind of a wargaming snob. Plus, I hate GW with the white-hot fury of a thousand suns*, so there's also that.

* Actually, meh, I don't really care about GW one way or another. They are an irrelevance.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Haven't got mush room on board this boat...

Tonight, Our Heroes got to paddle through a bayou and across a lake in coracles made of giant mushrooms.

I am happy that this hardly even rates on the Weird Shit RPG Characters Get Up To scale.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Shiny Toy Soldiers

These are some 54mm (1:32 scale) plastic toy soldiers from Armies in Plastic WW1 range. They do quite an extensive range of figures in this style; they're clearly toy soldiers, not diorama-quality collectors' items, and I rather like them for that. Though stylized in form, they're generally pretty accurate as far as uniform and equipment goes.

I've block-painted them quite quickly, and then given them a shiny coat of Army Painters' QickShade varnish which instantly provides the shading effects. Well, when I say "instantly" I mean "when it eventually dries in my freezing cold workroom". I've used their Heavy Shade on these, which is maybe a little dark, but I don't really fancy paying another $45 to get a tin of a lighter shade.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Banana For Scale

That huge guy is nominally 28mm scale,
which makes him over 7' tall.
Skeleton-cyclops-dude is about 65mm
from the soles of his bony feet
to the top of his bony skull.
(Note: Not actually a banana.)

This guy with the stripy pole is an old Essex Miniatures figure I've had since the mid '80s. At that time, they were being sold as 25mm figures, but they were HUGE compared with other manufacturers' 25mm ranges, such as Minifigs or Hinchliffe. I don't know if they were actually responsible for the scale-creep that has resulted in 28mm being the default mid-size ancients/fantasy wargaming scale, but they were certainly an early adopter. (I suspect Games Workshop were more to blame.)

I never did get around to finishing the 25 (or 28) mm medieval army I was planning on: partly due to cost, partly because I found 15mm a more convenient and congenial figure scale.

I've painted his spear in 5mm bands, so that I can make use of him as a scale marker. It's about another 5mm from the base of the spear to the ground (i.e. the figure base is about 5mm high), so I can count that if I want to know the height of a figure from ground up.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Dungeon dressing — magic pools

This is another of Reaper's plastic Bones line. I think it came with their first Kickstarter, or maybe I bought them separately; in any case, I've had it sitting around unpainted for quite some time.

It's 77136: Well of Chaos ($3.29) by Bob Ridolfi.

On the red one I've tried painting on a bit of light reflection to give the impression that the pool is glowing. It's pretty much my first go at this technique, and it actually doesn't look too terrible I think.

Friday, July 31, 2015

When Great Cthulhu Rises...

from Goblin Punch. As a campaign idea goes, I find it curiously appealing.

Random Generators of Things

I'm in the process of trying to teach myself something about Javascript. And I am finding it really hard, a lot harder than I thought it would be. Every time I think I'm starting to come to grips with it, it kicks me in the balls and runs away giggling. And unfortunately, I don't know enough to know what I'm doing wrong.

Anyway, as an exercise in Learning Stuff, I've thrown together these random Generators of Things from various dice tables I've collected from various places over the years.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


This is Westhead, on the western side of the River Norflowd as it exits Roddenberry Gorge. There was originally a matching head carved into the cliffs on the eastern side of the river as well, but it has weathered away to the point of being virtually indistinguishable from a natural mountain-side.

It is one of the most southerly of the great stone heads carved into the hills of the Headland. There is only one further south than this, at Southead.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Green Screen Experiment

 I thought I'd try a bit of an experiment in photographing miniatures.

I bought a sheet of fluoro green card to use as a green screen, and tried it out with this Reaper Ettin. Then I removed the background using Photoshop's colour range selection.

It was not a complete success, though to be fair it was a pretty bodged-together job, and it might be better with a bit more forethought and effort.

I would need to adjust the lighting to remove as much shadowing as I can for a start, though that doesn't address the biggest problem, which is colour reflection on the model itself. It would also be useful to be able to take spot light readings, but my camera isn't really that clever — I'd have to adjust exposure manually, by trial and error, or else rely on its bracketing feature (which I'd have to set manually anyway).

With green screen
Green background removed

Levels and saturation adjusted, layer defringed, new background added.

It hasn't been a worthless experiment by any means. I'm not precisely sure how to deal with the reflection issues, but possibly a variety of background colours to suit individual subjects might be a solution? maybe.

Hmmmm..... one thought occurs to me: perhaps if I bring the model forward, out of the immediate reflection zone, and put it on a green-painted pedestal so that I retain the green background without contaminating the model itself? It's worth a try I think.

Monday, July 13, 2015



Sunday, July 12, 2015

Rust Monster

Last Reaper miniature for the day is this one. I think they call it an Oxidation Beast, presumably so as not to anger the Litigation Gods, but to me it is clearly a Rust Monster.

Intellect Devourer

Another plastic figure from Reaper. I don't know what they call it, but it looks a bit like the old D&D Intellect Devourer to me, so that's what it shall be.

Plastic Basilisk

This is a quickie paint-up of the Basilisk from Reaper's Bones Kickstarter II.

I don't know what the product number is because it's yet another mini from that collection that isn't yet available in their online store, and I can no longer be bothered trying to find it in their preview gallery because its 'search' functionality is, frankly, garbage. They are really stretching out the general release of the KS-II minis; in my opinion, too far. Much too far.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Random Name Generators

As pretty much the first fruits of my javascript self-teaching labours, I've made these Random Name Generators for my D&D campaign.

Because I am but a pathetic n00b at javascript, they are pretty basic, and no doubt they could be built much better. They do seem to work, however, so I'm quite pleased with myself.

Motivation Challenges (Whining, Basically)

I do really enjoy GMing, but it's difficult to maintain enthusiasm sometimes, especially in the face of constant negativity. It saps the fun out of the game for me, whether I'm GMing or playing.

Another big motivation hurdle is wasted effort — I like to think up Weird Scenes Inside The Goldmine, but it's just a fact of life that nobody else really cares, and the chances are pretty good that the players will just ignore all that shit and go off and do something else entirely*. I'm not generally in favour of railroading an adventure, but it would be nice to be able to use my lovingly-imagined creations from time to time. It sometimes feels as though curiosity and adventurousness are an unwelcome intrusion into the game, rather than the underlying stimulus for the whole thing.

And another thing — I'm really not a big fan of constant city and/or detective and/or political and/or wilderness adventuring. It's fine as a leaven, but not all the time. I'm not good at acting and presenting NPC interactions, and all of those genres tend to require quite a lot of it.

I'm beginning to think that drawing a world map in the first place was a terrible idea. I should have just stayed with dungeons. In fact, I'm tempted to just send the whole campaign to Hell. Not metaphorically.

* The most recent example of that has come back and bitten the players in the arse though; if they hadn't ignored everything around them in their haste to go somewhere else, they would have found something that would have taken care of a certain problem that one of them has been whining about incessantly. Well, they missed it, so tough.

Monday, July 6, 2015

"Sculpt Spells" modification

From the D&D5e PHB, p.117, the School of Evocation:
Beginning at 2nd level, you can create pockets of relative safety within the effects of your evocation spells. When you cast an evocation spell that affects other creatures that you can see, you can choose a number of them equal to 1 + the spell's level. The chosen creatures automatically succeed on their saving throws against the spell, and they take no damage if they would normally take half damage on a successful save.
This is a pretty cool ability, and I like it, but I think it's just a little too potent. If a warrior has to think twice about the cost/benefit ratio of shooting arrows into combat, I feel that a wizard should likewise have to weigh up whether or not they really should be dropping a Flame Strike right on their own location.

To that end, I intend to modify it thus:

  1. The "pockets of relative safety" become truly only relatively safe. The Evoker can shape their spell to flow around creatures, but the effect is this:
    • The creature being avoided gets to add the wizard's spellcasting ability modifier to their saving throw. (If the wizard includes themselves in the spell area-of-effect and already gets to add their spellcasting ability modifier, they don't get to add it again.)
    • If they save, they take no damage. If they fail, they still take half damage. If they fumble their save, they take full damage.
  2. Creatures in intimate physical contact — e.g., if grappling, or being swarmed by hundreds of flesh-eating beetles — count as a single creature for the purposes of shaping the spell around them. The wizard can choose to affect both of them or neither.

I think this should have the effect that I want, which is basically to keep the ability's usefulness, but remove the guarantees, so that the wizard actually has to consider whether to cast a spell that might damage their allies.