Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Known World Expands

I've been working on some more of my campaign world's maps.

Specifically, I've been expanding the north of the main continent out to the north-west and incorporating Færún's Sword Coast (from the D&D Forgotten Realms campaign setting) so that I can make use of Neverwinter and Waterdeep.

I started our 5e campaign with the Starter Set and its Lost Mines of Phandelver module (which, incidentally, we're nowhere near completing), and all the action in that adventure takes place on the Sword Coast. So, it seemed like a good idea to shoehorn it into my own world.

Progress thus far. Clickupon to enlargenate.
The geographical features are more or less all present, but I still have to add all the place names and roads and what-not in the eastern half of this map — the overlapping area with the existing map of the North. Also, I have to come up with names and terrain for the islands out to the west. I haven't really thought much about what they're like.

Adding roads is way easier since Photoshop finally started supporting dashed and dotted strokes on paths — I think they started that at long last in CS6.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Reaper 91008: Desert Thing

91008: Desert Thing
Here's another monster from the Bones II Kickstarter — 91008: Desert Thing, along with an old Grenadier figure for scale.

It didn't sit flat on the table once assembled, so I mounted it on a washer, extended its nest of rocks, and gave it a gullet (and uvula, though it can't be seen in these pics.)

It will do for any of the ground-burrowing ambush critters, like trappers and what-not.

Looking straight down the gullet

Underneath - with a honking great washer for heft

Bring-and-Buy Booty

A few months ago, the Christchurch Wargaming Society held its annual bring & buy sale, at which I didn't sell much, but I did find some stuff to buy. My best score of the day was a shoe-box full of C-in-C micro-armour and resin buildings for $50.

That works out to just a few cents per vehicle or building or whatever. Score!

It's all stuff intended for a late-WWII Soviet army. I don't really have much interest in that particular genre, but I just couldn't resist. I mean, fifty bucks! How could I not?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Reaper Roper

I'm not sure exactly what Reaper's product code is for this; it came with their Bones Kickstarter II, and they don't appear to have been added to their store just yet.
Edit: Turns out it is 77227: Stone Lurker.
Whatever Reaper choose to call it, it's clearly a roper. It doesn't look precisely like any of the ropers described in various D&D Monster Manuals, but it's a stony pillar with six long tentacular arms, so really, what else could it be?

SquareHex Game Mat

I really must get around to painting Annette's figure properly.
This is my 25mm square-hex game mat. Thanks to Living In The Future, getting this printed and laminated at A1 size cost me about thirty bucks, whereas not that long ago it would have been hundreds, and thus unattainable. When I first started gaming back in '81, this sort of thing would just have been a dream.

I like this offset-square layout for gaming on; it provides all the benefits of a hex map (which I've also got several of) while being much, much easier to draw accurate room layouts on without getting lost in counting hexes. We don't go all-out tabletop-miniatures-wargaming style, but it does reduce the chance of mutual misunderstanding when it comes to determining just who is eligible to be brutally dismembered at any given time.

I draw the layouts in dry-erase whiteboard marker. Some colours (red, for example) are a lot harder to erase without solvents than others, but I mostly just use black, so that hasn't been a big issue.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Krita - magic in the dark

There is a free, open source image-making app called Krita that I have just discovered, and this is an early result of playing around with it. His proportions are a bit out of whack; I didn't do any preparatory drawing and just leaped straight in.

It seems to be aiming for the same sort of niche as is currently filled by Corel Painter, and though it's not (yet) as capable as Painter, it has definite potential. Krita could do with some fine-tuning of its user interface, and its brush design capability, though considerable, is a bit opaque to the casual user.

One point where its textural painting falls down is that the texture is defined by the brush, so if you resize the brush, its texture also gets bigger (or smaller), unlike Painter in which a texture is applied to the "surface" you're drawing on, so it remains consistent even when you resize brushes.

Anyway, I'll be keeping an eye on Krita. My most recent version of Painter is VIII, and I certainly can't afford to upgrade to the current version, so something free and good has definite appeal.

Toad demon

I've recently upgraded my copy of Photoshop to whatever the current version of CC is — about 15, I think — and I'm slowly finding my way around the new tools and capabilities. Since my last version was CS3, there are a few of them to search out. I must say, although I was sceptical at first, a $10/month subscription turns out to be a lot more cost-effective (and affordable) than paying $600 every few years to upgrade.

This guy doesn't use much in the way of new tools except for some of the newer brush definitions.

As I look at it now, it's a bit flat. I probably should do something about giving it a bit more three-dimensionality and weight, but whether I can be bothered labouring any more over what is, at best, a pretty mediocre picture — well, maybe. probably not.

Or then again, maybe.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Lesser Lesser Restoration

 This spell is designed as a stop-gap, temporary remedy for ability loss.

Lesser Lesser Restoration

2nd level abjuration 
Casting Time: 10 minutes
Range: Touch
Components: V,S,M (powdered stimulant herbs mixed with brandy) 
You draw a magical circle of runes and sigils around a creature and, while chanting the verbal component of the spell, have them drink an infusion of stimulant herbs in brandy. The spell will temporarily reverse 1d4 points of one characteristic loss. If more than one characteristic is below its normal maximum, the characteristic to be targeted by the spell must be specified when the spell is cast.
The spell can be cast multiple times on the same recipient, affecting the same or different characteristics each time. 
The spell will not raise a characteristic above its normal maximum, nor does the spell address any underlying condition causing the characteristic loss — it will not, for instance, neutralize poison, nor cure a wasting disease. 
Characteristic points restored by the use of this spell disappear at the rate of one per casting per six hours. 
For example, if the spell is cast twice to restore, respectively, 3 points of STR and 4 points of DEX, after six hours one point each of the restored STR and DEX would be lost. If it were cast twice with both castings affecting STR, after six hours, two points of STR would be lost — one for each casting of the spell.
Casting the spell using a 3rd level or higher spell slot increases the amount of ability points restored by 1d4 per level above 2nd.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Size of Money

These should be pretty close to actual size
if your monitor is running at 100ppi or thereabouts.
In our last D&D session, it actually became relevant exactly what size were the coins the characters were carrying. Thanks to the internet, and especially to the miraculous Wolfram Alpha, I can now give a categorical answer to that age-old question.

The assumed weight of coin is 50 to the pound, which means that any coin, regardless of its metal, weighs 9.07 grams. With that information, and knowing the density of the three primary metals for coinage (gold, silver, and copper), Wolfram Alpha gives us the respective diameters for cylinders 2mm high (or thick, if you prefer) of  17.3279mm, 23.421mm, and 25.419mm respectively.

So, there you are. That's how big your coins are.

Friday, March 6, 2015

More toys

A new box full of figures finally arrived the other day, courtesy of Reaper's second Bones Kickstarter. It's been a long wait — a lot longer than expected — but I have to say that this time around, once they finally started shipping, my order got to me pretty smartly.

I'm not sure what this guy's official designation is, but last night he was standing in for an empty throne, because I don't have any empty thrones. I clearly need a lot more in the way of dungeon dressing for my little dollies to play with. Yay for Barbie's Dream Dungeon!

As is my habit these days, I've just given this model a very quick shade-and-highlight spray coat, followed by a dark wash to bring out the detail a bit. I may or may not get around to painting him up fully, but this is good enough for most tabletop purposes.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Spell-casting house rules

Initiative : minus 1d6 + spell level 

So, if you're casting a cantrip, your initiative score is reduced by 1d6. If you want to cast a level three spell, your initiative count would be 1d6+3 less.

If you take damage, or have to endure some sort of environmental hardship before your initiative comes up, you must make a Concentration save to be able to cast the spell. If you fail, your action is used, and the spell is not cast (though the spell slot, nor any material components, are not used up). You can still move and take reactions and bonus actions if appropriate.

Rituals : casting time one hour per total levels plus 1d4 hours.

For example a level 4 ritual would take 1+2+3+4=10+1d4 hours to cast. Note that partaking in a ritual, either as caster or recipient, does NOT count as resting.

Corruption : casting without a patron or via ritual may result in corruption.

Note: I haven't really thought this one completely through, and I'm not sure quite how workable it would be. I really just want some mechanism that might encourage people to consider before using magic willy-nilly.
Channelling magical forces directly through one's own body, without the buffer created by a ritual or magical intermediary, is potentially hazardous to one's spiritual well-being. There are certain physical signs of magical corruption, but more important are the mental effects: gradually (if it's not already there) the magic-user's alignment shifts around towards chaos and evil.

There are rituals designed to remove magical corruption, or to transfer it to some other unfortunate.

When you cast any spell, make a DC 5 + spell level save vs. your magic-using characteristic. If you fail, you gain one point of Corruption. I'll let you know what that means as and when it occurs.
Note: Warlocks, Clerics, and Paladins are deemed to get their magic through magical intermediaries. Other spell-casters will have to come to their own arrangements if they want a patron.
Note: It occurs to me that this would make an excellent game-mechanical reason for a spell-caster to have a familiar, which would act as a magical conduit as long as it's within line of sight and thus remove the risk of corrupting one's own self with all this magical jiggery-pokery. It would also explain the intimate psychic connection between familiar and "master". I shall therefore Make It So.

The Joy of the Tomb of Horrors

I'm currently running the party through the good old Tomb of Horrors, much to the disgruntlement of one of the players who has been complaining endlessly about how everyone is going to die horribly. Whine, whine whine.

Anyway, it's a bit of a side-step from the main campaign, and I've been struggling with the old D&D3.5e freebie version, trying to run it pretty much on the fly and convert to 5e at the same time. That rewrite was, as I've said before, not very good, either in terms of layout, nor as regards the placement and explanation of various features of the dungeon. I've missed (or misinterpreted) several things simply because the full description of what should be going on was located in some completely different location in the document, and it's really been pissing me off. Add to that the fancy-schmancy 3e-style map, which adds a whole lot of needless fooferaw and consequently decreases its actual clarity and usefulness.

I've just got hold of another rewrite, this time one that appeared in Dragon #213, for the then-named D&D Next — the working title for the playtest version(s) of D&D5e. It is so much better in every way than the 3.5e version. It is a model of clear, rational layout and description (with the exception of a couple of stat-blocks that crowd the text somewhat) and I really wish I'd had it to begin with.

Ah well, not to worry. I can switch over to it quite seamlessly as far as the players are concerned.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Attack Of The Mega-Spells of DOOOOOOM!

As we make our way into my new(ish) D&D5e campaign, I'm finding quite a few things that have changed from Ye Olde Dayes that have a tendency to make PCs into unstoppable superheroes. The new hit-point recovery rules are one, though I don't really have too many issues with that; it improves survivability at low levels and keeps things moving along a bit more than they did when a party had to hole up to recover for a week after half an hour of dungeon-bashing.

The idea of having to take a character down below negative their hit-point total to kill them starts to get problematic once they get past the first couple of levels; a mid- to high-level character pretty much needs have no fear of death from a one-shot unless it's an attack that's doing hundreds of points of damage. Add to that the use of Hero Points to guarantee successful Death Saves, and a PC with more than 30hp or so is pretty much unkillable.... unless.....

Intelligent creatures will be aware of the issue, and if they spend a bit of effort after the PC has gone down whacking away at them to make sure of automatic Death Save failures, then the unconscious PC is in real trouble. This is where being swarmed by vicious little bastards like goblins or kobolds gets very dangerous.
Note: I believe, during play-testing, death was set at negative CON+Level; I'm not sure why they decided on the current system. I suppose to give players as much opportunity as possible to save their characters.
I've previously made my disdain for the new Find Familiar spell known. What a stinker.

Another spell that is giving me pause is Lesser Restoration. This is a real uber-spell. It requires no material component, and it pretty much gives the PC four spells for the price of one 2nd level spell slot: it replaces the old Cure Disease, Neutralize Poison, Cure Deafness/Blindness, and Remove Paralysis. That seems amazingly powerful for a humble second-level spell to me.

I think that what I will do with it is, first, make it a lengthy ritual spell, and second, give it a reasonably rare and expensive material component that varies depending on what it is that the caster wants to heal. That still leaves it a very powerful spell to have in one's repertoire without letting it become overly dominant.


Lesser Restoration

2nd level abjuration
Casting Time: 3+1d4 hours (ritual)
Range: Touch
Components: V,S,M (50gp worth of powdered gemstone, which is consumed by casting the spell — diamond to cure a disease, amethyst to neutralize a poison, aquamarine to cure deafness or blindness, or emerald to remove paralysis.) 
You draw a magical circle of runes and sigils around a creature and, after a period of 4 -7 hours of chanting and magical jibber-jabber, can end either one disease or one condition afflicting it. The condition can be blinded, deafened, paralysed, or poisoned.

I think that should do the trick. At least it will make it a bit less egregious.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bah! Humbug!

I'm supposed to be running a game this evening, and I am feeling generally disgruntled and out of sorts. I shall have to BUCK MY GODDAM SELF UP, or else there is a distinct possibility that rocks may fall and everybody dies.

I've been waiting and waiting on a fucking timber merchant to let me have some fucking timber, and they are being fucking useless about it, so I can't get on to the fucking project I want to get on to, and I am fed up to the back fucking teeth with them. Apparently, when they tell me "Wednesday afternoon, or first thing Thursday" (after I've rung them repeatedly to find out what the fuck they're up to), what they ACTUALLY mean is "Ahahahahahahahaaaa.... yeah, fuck you".

So, bleeagh. And also, poop.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Giant Bat

Here's an old miniature of a giant bat I've had hanging around for decades, along with a 25mm Ral Partha wizard for scale.

I don't know the manufacturer of the bat; I suspect it was GW, but I can't be sure. The wings were monstrously thick, and I had to carve them down substantially just to get a thin edge. Its original base was missing, so I've mounted it on a piece of wire soldered to a steel washer.

I wanted to get its wings looking translucent and skin-like, but that proved to be beyond my powers in the time I felt the miniature warranted, and I got leathery instead. That's OK, I guess.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

D&D 5e DM Screen update

I've added another couple of pages to my DM Screen, adding tables for Chases, Traps, Carousing, Crafting and Selling Magic Items, and Madness.

I don't have these two pages permanently mounted on my screen; I've just printed them double-sided and laminated, and keep them with — but not of — the screen.

The PDF is now 6 pages, and about 260 KB. You can get it here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wave Echo Cave

Here's the map of Wave Echo Cave I gave my players after they cleared out Cragmaw Castle, failed to save the dwarf from having his throat cut or find the dastardly evil-doer they were actually looking for, and got 25% killed by an enraged owlbear which saved the rest of them from being butchered by the remains of a depleted century of hobgoblins.

Whether or not they'll ever actually get to Wave Echo Cave is now doubtful. I seem to have gone a bit off-piste with that adventure, and now they're in Neverwinter trying to find out what's going on behind a nasty plague of zombies and things, and people not staying decently dead as they should do.

I should note that I'm not actually using Faerûn as my campaign setting, I'm using my own world that I've been playing with for a bit more than thirty years now. I've just inserted Neverwinter's bit of the Sword Coast in the north-west of my main continent where it can't do too much harm.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Pond — water terrain experiment

This is an experiment in water effects. I painted on the back of a piece of clear 1mm acrylic and then laid the groundwork on top. It doesn't display to its best in these photos, but having said that, it's not a good as I'd have liked anyway.

In this photo to the right, with some 15mm Battlefront Panzer Grenadiers, it manages to make a small, scummy pond. With the 28-30mm Essex knight below, it's more of a small, scummy puddle.

Here's a more-or-less straight-down shot. I didn't get the effect of depth I was hoping for with the back-painting, nor was the surface texture using gloss medium terribly successful.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

D&D 5e DM Screen — updated

I've updated my D&D 5e DM Screen to include material from the DMG, and I also took the opportunity to fix a couple of errors that had crept into the first version. It's a four-page PDF, about a couplahunnerd KB. You can nab a copy here.

Here it is in use, in all its glory. I could maybe just fit another page and not quite have it falling off the edges of the table, but it would be more trouble than it's worth I think.

The fundamental structure of the thing is just box card; I've used much heavier card in the past to make other screens, but there's not really much benefit to that, or so I've found. The outside is covered with some antique Edwardian wallpaper I found in a junk shop, the inside is (of course) the laser-printed data sheets. It stands 175mm tall, so it's low enough for me to see over pretty easily. Laid out flat, it's about 1230mm long.

Monday, December 29, 2014


I wish I had said it first, but I didn't. Zak S said it, and I absolutely, thoroughly agree:
"Hobbit: Battle of 5 Armies may not be very faithful to Tolkien but it is really faithful to Warhammer Fantasy Battle which is a way better thing to be faithful to. It is the Warhammer Fantasy Battlest movie ever made . #wargoats"
 I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I liked the first two a lot better having seen the extended versions, which put back in a lot of bits and pieces that I'd missed, but of the three I enjoyed this one the most.

I will spoiler no spoilers (though I doubt that there's much there to be spoiled because frankly it's not a movie of great subtlety), but I will say this: you really, really don't want to piss off Galadriel, because she will fuck your shit up.