Friday, April 17, 2015

Tabletop Dungeon Mapping Modules

 I've been experimenting with using flat printed images on blocks of MDF for 3d (or 2½d) dungeon mapping pieces. Proper painted 3d resin pieces are very nice, but they also cost an arm and a leg.

These ones are my first "secret door" image, printed on self-adhesive label paper, and stuck to 12mm MDF. I might possibly go to 18mm for added stability, but I'll see how these go in play first.

The black edges are problematic. They'd be better covered with the stone pattern, but the edges of MDF aren't an ideal surface for sticking the label paper to unless it's sealed and sanded pretty smooth, which means more trouble than I really want to go to. Maybe as a partial fix I'll paint the sides of the blocks, where they're more likely to be exposed, in a roughly stone-like colour — it would still be a bit of a dislocation, but they wouldn't stand out quite as much when they're butted up against each other like this.

What I want to end up with is something like the Fat Dragon card dungeon bits, but with more weight and stability.

This is the image I've used for this particular module — I've got a bunch of other doors in the works at the moment, if these turn out OK.

I've saved it at 300dpi, but I don't know if Blogger's image uploader will preserve image resolution information. The physical dimensions of the image are 50 x 50 mm, so if it prints bigger than that, then you'll have to find some way to adjust it (such as embedding it in a word processor document, resized to the right dimensions.... though that sort of kludge makes me sad).


I later realised that I had a roll of 12mm double-sided tape, and since the MDF is fortuitously also 12mm, I could make my own block-pattern edge banding tape with relatively little travail.

Which I have now done.

As I suspected, it is a great improvement.


I tried out a single wrap-around image for a standard dungeon door, but I found that it made the location of the door sides centrally on the block on both sides difficult — impossible, in fact, without getting a lot more pernicketty about my measurements.

So instead I went back to separate individual images for each side, but this time with sufficient overhang to wrap around and cover about 60% of the width of the block. There is therefore a line up the sides where the two images don't tile seamlessly, but it's not at all noticeable unless you look for it, so I call that a win.

Here are JPG files for a couple of styles of door, to go on to 50 x 50 x 12 mm blocks:

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sluggy the Slimy Slug-Monster (revisited)

Continuing with colouring in some old line drawings as a substitute for actual creativity, this is one I did a couple of years ago to try out a new brush pen I'd just bought.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Eyes, Mouths and Tentacles, a Winning Combination

I originally drew this in 2009 in a little A7 rice-paper notebook I made.

Now I've Photoshopped it all into glorious technicolour, because why the hell not.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Slicey Leggy Scuttly Buggy Critter

Now here's a little something that I happened upon when I was looking through some old drawings. I must have done this about 1983 or '84 I think, and I'm pretty sure it was heavily inspired by creatures from The Dark Crystal.

I can't think why I didn't finish it off, since it was so close to completion. Maybe I had to go somewhere or do something, and just never got back to it.

I don't know that I'm all that happy with the position of the unfinished claw.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Big Wormy Maggoty Thing

I've made a start on Mashaaf, a gigantic maggot-like abomination that came with the Bones II Kickstarter.

It's a big lump of plastic, roughly 90 x 100 x 150 mm, and quite difficult to handle; I'm not really looking forward to trying to paint it. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to manage something like this in pewter.

It needs quite a bit of filling between the sections, but no more than would normally be expected with a miniature of this size. I haven't (yet) filled around its arm-sockets; that may not be necessary (I hope).

It's supposed to have a sort of panel-mandible on either side of its maw, but I was sent two of the same side and so one of them doesn't fit the moulded socket. I've filled both sockets, and I'll decide later on whether or not I want to try to mount the panels with pins. I may just leave them off entirely.

Also, there are a couple of smaller sockets moulded at the sides of the tentacly mouth section; I have no idea what they're supposed to be for and I certainly didn't get anything in the package that could go there. I've filled those sockets as well.

Next Day...

I decided I would add the mouth side-flaps after all.

I pinned them with dressmakers' pins and superglued them in place, and then reinforced the join with Green Stuff textured to look (hopefully) like wrinkled skin.

Now, on to the painting.

Priming. I use Vallejo polyurethane Surface Primers almost exclusively these days; they're the best and most trouble-free airbrushing primers I've found. And they're tough too; once properly cured, I've never before had issues with paint rubbing off with handling, and that will be important for a miniature this size.

I've done an initial coat in a mid-toned khaki, then a downward "zenith" coat of white to hit only the upper surfaces. I find this brings out the form of the miniature, and helps me to see detail that might be harder to discern with a single, uniform colour.

I'll leave it now to harden for 24 hours before handling the model any more.

Coupla Days Later...

I want the thing to have an unpleasant, pallid, fleshy appearance, so I over-sprayed the primer with Vallejo VMC Basic Skintone.

The rocks embedded in the back of it were washed with a mix of sepia and black inks, diluted with water and Klear.

The mouth, tentacles, and anal sphincter-claws I washed with a mix of artists' watercolours, a sanguine base with som crimson lake and Van Dyke brown, along with some Vallejo dilluant to make it water-resistant when dry.

I used the same wash to start the shading of the flesh of the beast — I don't want to go too dark here, just enough to pick out the form and details.

It's a decent start I think, but there's a lot more work to be done.

A Bit Later On...

I've made a start on the multitude of eyes (at least, I assume they're eyes), using a simple three- or four-colour "jewel" technique, which no doubt everyone has seen a million times elsewhere.

I don't have the steadiness of hand or sharpness of eye any more to do it with much precision, but I think they're looking pretty good as long as you don't look too closely.

I'm starting to think ahead to the feet and slashers — I'm in two minds, whether to keep them pale and go for a bone effect, or to try for a chestnut-brown chitin. I'm leaning towards the chitin, if only because I think the colour and tone would be quite nice; I've done it before on an old model of an Umber Hulk, and I think it turned out quite well.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


I've finally got around to painting the figure Annette is using for her current character in my D&D5e campaign. She's a two-sword-wielding leather girl, an ex-sergeant in the forces of the Little Sisters of Carnage — hence the red cloak.

Admittedly, at this very instant in the campaign, she, like pretty much everyone else, is pretty much nekkid and have lost nearly all their gear. However, I'm low on character figures that are mostly nekkid and have lost nearly all their gear, so this will continue doing the job until she eventually either gets more clothes and gear, or dies (permanently).

It's another Reaper Bones plastic figure; don't know the product code it's 77035: Deladrin, Female Assassin by Werner Klocke. For some reason my matte varnish refused to go properly matte on this figure, and I'm not really sure why. It was working last time I used it.

Wereshark... there shark

Here's another model from Reaper's Bones II Kickstarter.

I can't tell you what its product code is, because they haven't yet been added to the online store — the sooner that happens, the better, because right now finding any information on the Bones II models is an exercise in tedium, and sometimes futility.

Anyway, it's a wereshark, or possibly some kind of Moreau-esque shark-man.

The mottling of its upper body isn't quite as I would like it, but it will have to do.

As is my habit, I've mounted it on a great big steel washer to give it some heft and make it more stable. Now I shall have to figure out some way of using it in a game.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Demon (collage)

There's a little bit of painting in this image, but for the most part it's digital collage, overlaying elements from various photographic images to end up with this.

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Brought to you via the magic of insomnia.
There's a creature in Alan Garner's book The Weirdstone of Brisengamen called the Mara.

This is inspired by it to a certain extent, though it's not quite how I imagined the creature from the book, which would have been a lot less human-looking.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Swallow-Whole-er (thumbnail)

This thing would be a swallower-whole-er. It has a hugely expansible maw with little grippy fangs all the way back down its throat, to hold on to prey it's in the process of swallowing. Clearly the gullet and abdomen would also have to be able to expand to hold anything, say, human-sized, but I see no problem with that.

It's a creeper, an ambush predator, so probably not much chop in a stand-up fight. It's the sort of thing that would sneak up on stragglers in the dark and gobble them down without, hopefully, alerting anybody too dangerous.

It has a venomous sting on the end of its tail. I guess it would probably use that to silence and immobilize its prey before beginning the swallowing-whole. I imagine swallowing something as large as an adult human would leave it somewhat torpid and sluggish of movement, so it would probably want to drag such prey to a place of safety before eating them.

Friday, March 27, 2015


While sanding mindlessly today (so much sanding), my mind drifted away to thinking about initiative determination.

I was pondering a slight simplification of the process.

Rather than having everyone roll initiative separately, each side just rolls one d20. Everyone still gets to add (or subtract) their own modifiers for DEX, spell-casting and what-not to the base number, so there will still be a certain amount of variance, but there are only two die rolls that I have to keep track of instead of five or more.

So, the process would go:
  1. Declare actions (attack, cast a spell, run away, panic, etc.) 
  2. Somebody rolls initiative for your side for that turn (take it in turns, I guess) 
  3. Add/subtract modifiers to see if you go before or after the Bad Guys 
  4. FIGHT! 
Hopefully this would provide a nice balance between the ultimate simplicity of one roll per side without modifiers, and the complexity of everyone (including the four hundred goblins) rolling individually.

99% of the time, the only important thing to know is whether or not you get to act before or after your opponents; having your comrades actions spread all over the turn order is mostly just pointless and irrelevant.

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.