E.H.P.

Here's another Bones Kickstarter figure.

I don't know what the SKU is for this one, or even if it's for sale yet — it takes quite a while for the Kickstarter figures to filter through to the online shop.

I like it mainly for the over-the-top shield. I have a weakness for that sort of thing, probably from early exposure to the old Warhammer stuff back in the day.

For those unfamiliar with the term: E.H.P. stands for Evil High Priest. I don't know if it's still used, but it was common shorthand back in the distant primeval past.

Halfling

The newest character in my AD&D campaign is Oswalt Tenpenny, a halfling fighter-thief. So, I thought I'd better hunt out a halfling figure and paint it up. This is a plastic Reaper Bones miniature, but I have no idea what the SKU is.

As it turns out, Steve (the player) already has a halfling figure of his own, but never mind. I'm sure this one will come in handy one day.

Ford Trekker DUF 1940 (1:285)

Back to the 3d-printing mines again, and this time I've designed a 1:285 scale Ford DAF Trekker, used by the Dutch (and then the Germans) as a light anti-tank gun tractor and utility vehicle.

It came in various configurations, with two or three bench seats and a large or small trunk, and several different styles of engine grille. This is one of the 1940 models.

The single model is available from http://shpws.me/Ppur, and a much more cost-effective sprue of six is available at http://shpws.me/Ppxl

I don't usually start my designing in 1:285, I usually build the base model in 1:100 and then re-scale and re-design from that base. This was a special case though, as it was specifically a 6mm request.

SculptaMold Terrain Pieces

These are the finished test pieces I made using SculptaMold as the primary landscaping material. All the finishing is via my usual flocking and what-not, so they don't look appreciably different to any other pieces I've made — which is a good thing, I guess.

It's not a perfect landscaping material, but it does have many virtues, and on balance I think I quite like it.

More terrain-making, and a new material

I'm trying out another river segment, built in pretty much the same way as my first one, but this time I'm using a a material that is new to me, SculptaMold from Amaco. I saw it used on Luke's APS on Youtube and liked the look of it, so I popped down and bought a bag from Gordon Harris art supplies. It cost me about twenty-two bucks for about 1.3 kg, which should be enough to do a reasonable amount of terrain. It would probably get a bit pricey if you wanted to build a whole table, but for my purposes it's OK.

It's a plaster and paper (?) fibre mix; I don't know if there's anything else in there. Depending on the amount of water you use it can be mixed to a cottage cheese-like paste, as I've used it here, or to a more liquid slurry that can be cast in rubber moulds. It sets up more slowly than plain plaster; by the time I'd finished laying out the river banks and setting in all the gravel, it was still quite workable, so I slapped together a little rocky outcrop on a plastic cutting board, using some bits of pine bark and the left-over goop from the river banks. I wasn't really keeping track of time, but I'd guess that you probably have 15 to 20 minutes of working time, which is plenty for most things.

When it's wet, it retains a quite knobbly cottage cheese texture, which is fine if it's going to be under flock and stuff. If you want a smoother finish though, just leave it for about another ten minutes or quarter of an hour to stiffen up a bit, and then it can be smoothed with wet fingers or modelling tools, or just with a wet soft brush.

It's early days yet, but at first acquaintance I think I'm going to like it.

Later...

OK, so here are the two pieces, painted but not yet flocked and vegetated.

The SculptaMold takes longer to set fully than I'd assumed from Luke's video, but I have a little toaster-oven, and an hour or so in that at its lowest heat got everything set solid.

Something that this stuff has in common with regular plaster is that it's bright, bright white. I think it would be a good idea to add some ink or paint or something to the mixing water, to stain it it right through. That way, any pin-pricks of white left behind after painting will be avoided.

The river banks have been left just as the stuff goes on wet, and you can see that it has quite a knobbly texture. The SculptaMold on the little rocky outcrop was smoothed a bit with wet fingers after it had stiffened up, but not set fully, and it's a lot smoother where I did that. It looks a bit rugged in this photo, because the bark pieces forming the cliff face are facing the camera.

Painting the knoll has revealed that, though definitely tougher than regular plaster, SculptaMold terrain will still definitely need to be on a protective base of some sort. The edges are vulnerable to crumbling under handling otherwise, and as I haven't tinted it, any breakages are pretty obvious, being glaring white.

River terrain — test piece

Something that's missing from my gaming terrain collection are bodies of water, so I thought I'd better make some. Unlike roads, a river can't really just start or stop in the middle of the board, so I'll need enough pieces to cover about a two and a half metre length, enough to go from end to end of my table.

This is the test piece, trying out methods and colours. Overall, I'm pretty happy with it, but I feel that it's lacking something and I'm not quite sure what it is. Perhaps it's that everything is quite even in height, so there's no drama of composition.

The base is 3mm MDF, sealed with black spray primer, and the banks were built up with Das air-drying clay. The rocks are just bits of gravel. The grass is several colours of sawdust flock, and the taller vegetation is foam clump foliage.

The water itself is just three or four coats of acrylic gloss medium brushed over paint, with various depths indicated by lighter or darker tones. I didn't want a perfectly smooth surface, so it's just been brushed with a narrowish brush to indicate the flow of the water. I haven't added any indications of the direction of flow, such as ripple trails off the rocks, because I want to be able to flip the modules end-for-end to maximise flexibility of use.

The ends are 100mm wide, and this piece is about 350mm long.

Gelatinous Cube

Here's Reaper's translucent Bones 77305 Gelatinous Cube. Being translucent, it's a bit of a tricky thing to photograph.  I haven't put any paint on the cube itself at all; I've seen some translucent figures that have been tinted in various ways in an attempt to bring out the detail, but in my opinion the results are seldom successful.
It comes in three parts; two for cube itself, which I joined with clear silicon sealer, and one for what is supposed to be the contents of its last meal, a rather nice pile of skeletonized adventurers and their gear.

The hapless adventurers are supposed to form the base of the creature, but they're completely wasted as a model that way, as once they're inside the thing they can only be made out as a blurry, formless blob.

So instead, I've kept them separate, and they'll come in useful as dungeon dressing. A pile of skeletonized corpses will always come in handy.

PSC A9 CS (15mm) — first look

Following on from my initial look at the PSC 15mm (1:100) A9/A10 pack, here's the close support version of the A9, mounting the 3" howitzer instead of the 2 pounder anti-tank gun.

It goes together a bit more easily than the A10, as there's less to do with the hull superstructure.

The only issue I found with the A9 construction is that the socket for the starboard MG turret is too close to the driver's barbette, so it gets canted a bit to the right. It's easy enough to fix though; all you have to do is either shave a bit off the port side of the turret, or (more easily) carve out the starboard side of the socket a bit. If having a rotatable MG turret is important to you, you'll probably have to do the former, but I glue mine in place, so enlarging the socket was the easier option.

A New Adventure Begins...

After a bit of a break from DMing, I've started back with a new adventure for our lovable bunch of rapscallions....

The Seven Brides of Vecna*


The session logs are at http://mojobob.com/roleplay/campaign/eyeless05BridesOfVecna.html

The first episode is related here. It.... did not go as smoothly as it might have.

* Seven Brides For Seven Liches will be a title for another time, but that could be a good adventure hook too.

Bases Galore

These just arrived for me today — a box full of laser-cut MDF sabot bases, from a guy I know only as Catweazle, in Australia. I sent him some vector files for cutting the bases, and he sent me this lot in return. Score!

I haven't sorted them yet, but I imagine that this should be as many bases as I'm likely to need any time in the foreseeable future, unless I really go berserk and start playing gigantic mega-games.

PSC A9/A10 Cruiser (15mm) — WiP

 Some new toys arrived for me today from PSC, two boxes of 15mm (1:100) tank kits. I got some Stuart "Honeys", for future use when I get around to building up my Western desert forces a bit, and this one, the A9 or A10 cruiser, to pad out my B.E.F. force.

I already have a troop of A9, so this box will go to making me a troop of A10 gun tanks, and one each of an A9 and A10 CS (close support) tank.

Options
The sprues provide optional parts to complete  five variants: hulls for European or desert versions of the A9 or A10, and turrets for gun tanks of various marks (distinguishable by the different gun mantlets) or the close support tanks mounting the 3" howitzer.

Note that the hull tops for the desert variants have symmetrical track guards, which wasn't the case on the original vehicles — they were actually deeper on the port side than the starboard to accommodate the vehicle's cooling system. If that sort of detail is important to you, you'll have to do a bit of trimming.

Regrettably there aren't enough running gear pieces to build more than one tank from each sprue, nor enough turret components to be able to just make a spare CS turret. Still, I can't really utterly condemn PSC for that. At about twenty quid for five tank models, they're already pretty good value for money.

Instructions
Construction is pretty straightforward, though instructions are provided for only one variant — the A10 Mk.IIa for the European theatre. You'll just have to guess and hope for the others. The main thing is to make sure you're actually getting the right parts off the sprue for the variant you want to build, and with so many optional pieces it pays to double-check. The colour-coded layout shown on the other side of the instructions is useful for this.

The instructions given are very simplistic, but adequate (for the single tank variant shown) except for one part: Step 3 (highlighted here in yellow). DON'T DO THIS. Go straight to Step 4. It might be possible to force the running gear into place after the top and bottom hull pieces are glued without breaking something, but I doubt it.

I wasn't timing myself, but I'd guess that putting this first one together took me about half an hour.

Flying Carpet

I needed a flying carpet for my up-coming AD&D scenario, so I made one. It's bigger in real life than it would be if it was truly to scale; it's supposed to seat six people comfortably at about 7' by 10' long, so I need to accommodate six figure bases. I very much doubt that the scale differential is ever going to matter at all.

The carpet is just a print of a photograph from the internet, stiffened with epoxy and some cotton gauze, and the flying stand is chopped from a soda bottle neck. The rocks are made from rocks.

The figure is an old Grenadier wizard, and the most appropriately Arabian Nights-ish one I own, but quite a bit smaller than the Reaper figures I mostly use these days.

Enhanced Interrogation Client Containment Module

Amongst the Reaper Bones Kickstarter III offerings is a set of pieces to dress up your friendly local torture chamber.

One of them is this one, an iron maiden.

I've used a couple of Vallejo's GameEffects rust paints on it, and I quite like the effect they give. You can slop them on straight from the bottle, but I find they give best results in several layers of washes, not too thin.


This is the rest of the Torture Chamber set. I think there might have been some other bits and pieces in one or other of the Kickstarter expansions, but I didn't get any of those except the Cthulhu Mythos set.

Morris CS9 Armoured Car (15mm)


Not many of these came back to the UK after Dunkirk, but the Morris CS9 was a fairly common reconnaissance armoured car with the BEF in 1940. I've been using Humber LRC as proxies for them, and it's nice to have models of the actual vehicle to use instead.


Gug

 Here's one of the Cthulhu Mythos creatures from the recent Bones Kickstarter, a Gug.

I really don't know what that is; I've played a bit of Call of Cthulhu but never come across one of these. I suppose I could look it up, but I'm lazy.







Half-Orc

Here's another Reaper Bones plastic miniature. I don't know if it's actually meant to be a half-orc or not, but that's what I'm using it for.

I have a couple of half-orc twins in my campaign, a brother and sister, and they're in need of figures.



NOTE: Apparently they're actually meant to be hobgoblins. Too bad, they're half-orcs now.

Here's the other one.



Back to Painting Monsters


This is one of the Cthulhoid critters from the recent Reaper Bones Kickstarter. I think they call it Spawn of Shub-Niggurath, but I'm not completely sure about that.


Just a side note: Windows 10 did an update recently, and since then Photoshop's colour balance has gone entirely to shit. What I see in Photoshop has no relation to what I get as output, and I'm really struggling to figure out how to get it back. That's why all of these images are too blue.











Musings on Class

Druids? Or just grubby old men in blankets?
I have a fondness for AD&D, but one of the things that drove me away from it back in the distant past was the emphasis on restrictive and overly pernickety class definitions.

It seemed (and still seems) to me that it was just stupid that only a character with the Thief class could hide in shadows, and that only a Ranger could track things in the piney woods.

There are ways to play around this, of course, but as far as I can recall, the rules as written offer no really useful advice on the matter. It's just assumed that if you want to be able to find and/or disable traps, then you'll be a Thief. That's a Thief with a capital T.

It's a situation that came up for me not all that long ago, when somebody wanted to play a druid in my game. The difficulty was that the game, at that time, was taking place in a geographical region other than that were the Pseudo-Celts hold sway, so the player's character would be entirely divorced from their hierarchy and authority. It wouldn't matter much, day to day, but it would have been an issue when it came time to level up and what-not. That person ended up not playing in the campaign; I don't know if the social restrictions being placed on their character conception played a role or not, but I wouldn't be surprised.

The thing is, as I realised later (too late), they didn't really want to play a Celtic priest and law-giver. What they wanted to play was a crazy old nature-wizard who hung out in the forest and made friends with the little fluffy animals of the earth. I'd trapped myself, and them, into arbitrary restrictions based on preconceptions about a class title in the PHB, and there was really no need for a Druid (capital D) to be a druid at all. Or for a crazy old nature-wizard to be a capital-D Druid.

Names Are Important

When you name something, you immediately begin to define its parameters. That's a useful thing; it makes a thing immediately identifiable, and reduces ambiguity and confusion. If someone names an animal as a bird, then immediately the qualities of "bird-ness" jumps into our minds. It's probably going to have feathers and lay eggs. There's a good chance that it will be able to fly, but maybe it won't.

A name like "bird" is pretty general though; a kiwi and a condor, though both birds, have little in common. They both have feathers, but their feathers are, though fundamentally similar in structure, in actual use and appearance quite different. They both have a beak, but the condor's beak could never be mistaken for that of a kiwi, and they're used in fundamentally different fashion. Still, they are both birds.

I don't have a basic objection to the concept of character classes in roleplaying games; they provide useful archetypal starting points. However, where I do have a problem is when they become prescriptive and proscriptive. I don't want a player who wants to play a condor being forced to play a kiwi, just because a kiwi is what the author was thinking of when they wrote up the "Bird" class.

Class Names in Roleplaying Games

I believe, that for a class system to be useful in a RPG system, it needs to build from the very general to the particular, and the class names should reflect that progression. I also think that the level of particularity should be left entirely up to the individual player to decide.

A class separation I've seen somewhere (I don't recall where) that I rather like splits characters into one of just three fundamental types:

  • Magic Users — anyone whose focus is primarily on spell use, regardless of how that magic is defined. It would include both structured and free-form magicians (e.g. in AD&D, Wizards, Sorcerers, Clerics, Druids). The specific abilities and restrictions on the final character design are largely irrelevant except as special effects.
  • Fighters — anyone whose primary focus is physical combat. In AD&D, these would be the Fighters, Rangers, Paladins, and Monks, but those names might not be appropriate to the specific character conception, so let's not get hung up on them. It doesn't mean that the character can do nothing but fight, but fighting is definitely the most important part of the character conception.
  • Adventurers — pretty much everyone else. Jack-of-All-Trades characters like AD&D Thieves and Bards would be slotted in here, but again those names are less important than what the character can actually do. These would be your "Indiana Jones" characters.

So... What Then?

Re-jigging D&D to a more generic class system isn't entirely straightforward, but it's not impossible. The main difficulty is that we're dealing with a system that has been in print for a long time now, so its class system carries a lot of baggage.

Probably more useful than devoting vast effort to rewriting everything would be just to make a change of mind about how to manipulate the existing system. Think about what we want to do with a character first, and then see how the available classes can be used to achieve that end, rather than going about things the other way around. And, if the existing classes won't work for what we want to do, then CHANGE THEM. I promise you, nobody is going to lock you in prison for this.

Zvezda KV1 (1941)

 Here'a another 1:100 scale (15mm) KV1 from Zvezda, a slightly later model than the previous one with a slightly better 76.2mm gun.

I tried for a dusty look with this one rather than the mud and rust I've gone for before. I can't say I'm completely happy with the outcome though.

Zvezda KV1 (1940)

Here's my 1940 KV1 in 1:100 scale, from Zvezda.

You can tell it's the early model KV1 because of the gun — it has the recuperator above the barrel, which gives it that snouted appearance.



E.H.P.

Here's another Bones Kickstarter figure. I don't know what the SKU is for this one, or even if it's for sale yet — it takes...