Tuesday 30 January 2018

Why Infravision Sucks

Infravision, as it's described in AD&D and the like, is just a terrible idea, conceptually speaking.

For a start, let's look at its limited range. Most creatures with infravision can see with it out to 60', but why? Why does it stop? If it's a sense that distinguishes temperature gradients as a visual signal, then a man (or a dog, or a Ravenous Bugblatter Beast) standing at 50' and one standing at 70' should be pretty much equally visible.

The range limitation only makes sense — barely — if the sense is based on receiving a reflected signal from some sort of active emitter, like early night-vision equipment that used an infrared lamp and an IR-sensitive receiver. But where does the IR beam come from, in a creature with infravision? From its eyes? In which case, what's it using to see with? If it is coming from the eyes, then they'd be glowing like flashlights to any other creature with infravision, and they'd blind each other if they looked each other in the face.

Which brings us to another point: warm-blooded creatures are warm. If such a creature had IR receptors in its eyes, those receptors would be surrounded by a body-temperature bath. It would be like trying to see clearly with a light-bulb right next to your eyes — it might not blind you completely, but it will certainly impair your visual acuity.

For infravision to be sensitive enough to be able to distinguish an individual's facial features, the hot eye-bath would be crippling, making the whole sense mostly useless. Assuming the sense existed at all, at best it would be able to make out gross forms, maybe silhouettes, and if you were trying to navigate an area of a more or less constant ambient temperature, you'd be walking into walls and tripping over furniture a lot.

I don't expect D&D to strictly adhere to the laws of physics, but if it's going to pay lip-service to them, it could at least try not to be so blatantly egregious in its hand-waving.

Later editions of the game dumped infravision completely and just used a pretty-much undefined, maybe magical, thing called Darkvision. I don't really recall ever reading anything that tried to explain how it works at all, which is, I think, an improvement over the clusterfuck that is D&D infravision.

Note: I'm doing away with infravision in my AD&D campaign. Nobody gets it. I'll give those creatures that currently have it an enhanced ability to see in dim light, but they'll see like a cat, not like an Advanced Optics Night Vision Apparatus. I'll keep the Infravision spell though, because that's a magical effect and requires no more handwaving than saying "it's magic". 
Also: Why the hell should halflings have infravision anyway? They're basically meant to be short fat jolly rural rustic English peasants. Screw them.

Saturday 27 January 2018

Bog #01

Here's the first piece of bog terrain finished.

I originally intended to use a 5-minute epoxy and acetone mix for the water, but I can no longer find really cheap and nasty epoxy — I used to be able to get 40ml syringes for just a couple of bucks, but now the cheapest ones I could find are closer to ten. So, instead I used polyester casting resin, which costs about thirty bucks for a 250ml can.

There are down-sides to using the polyester:

  • First, it stinks to high heaven while it's curing.
  • Second, the disposable plastic cups I used for mixing are dissolved by it — I had to do a rapid transfer into another vessel before it ended up all over everything.
  • Third, it's very, very clear, which would normally be a good thing, but for this purpose it could have done with being a bit more murky. I added some colouring, but not quite enough, so the water looks more lake-ish than boggy.
  • Fourth, it's quite a bit thicker than water, so the meniscus is more pronounced, and it takes a bit of persuasion to flow into all the nooks and crannies. However, I was pretty much expecting that and I'm not heartbroken by it.

The vehicle in the picture is my 3d-printed 1/100 scale Burford-Kegresse machine-gun carrier.

Friday 26 January 2018

Bog Terrain - WiP

These pieces are going to be sodden boggy bits of land. They're each about 300mm x 250mm, on a 3mm MDF base, and the groundwork is built up from SculptaMold coloured with acrylic house paint. It all needs to be painted and flocked and what-not yet; I'll give it a day or so to dry out first though.

The one on the right is intended to go on the end of one of my river pieces, while the left-hand one is a standalone piece. I haven't made a final decision yet, but I'm leaning towards using pourable epoxy for the water effects instead of the gloss acrylic medium I used on the river pieces.

Turning Circle Templates

Turning Circle Templates — approx 35KB PDF (A4, 210x297mm).

These are designed for use in aerial dogfight games, but I guess they could also be used in naval games, or sci-fi Road Warrior scenarios as well. I was originally going to get them laser-cut, but that proved to be too expensive, so I just glued the print-out to cardboard and cut them out myself.

Each block is about an inch long. I use 1/300 scale aeroplanes for my WW1 dogfight games, and they work well for that scale. They're OK for 1/144 as well, but for larger scales you might want to scale up the templates as well.

Monday 22 January 2018


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.

Saturday 20 January 2018


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.

Thursday 18 January 2018

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.

Tuesday 16 January 2018

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.

Monday 15 January 2018

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.


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.

Saturday 13 January 2018

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.

Friday 12 January 2018

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.

Wednesday 3 January 2018

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.