Thursday 24 March 2022

You Are Here

 At last, a genuinely useful galactic map for space-operatic tabletop roleplaying purposes.

I don't know who originally made this wee masterpiece. If you know, I'd love to be able to give credit where it belongs, so let me know.

NOTE: Sectorbob, in the comments, tells me "That was made by VENGER SATANIS for his Alpha Blue setting/rpg. Mostly a silly fun rpg with a lot of slease." I've  heard of Alpha Blue, but never seen anything of it in real life.

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Saving Throws

 I don't know the exact history of the saving throw mechanic across the various editions of D&D and its ilk. I do know that it has changed considerably in detail, but not in essence — regardless of the specific implementation, it gives the player a chance to avoid or ameliorate some sort of effect, be it damaging or not.

AD&D has a fairly byzantine system, in which saving throws are split into categories depending on the effect. Some effects, however, fall into two or more of those categories, and as far as I'm aware it has never been unambiguously stated how those categories were originally conceived. The Rod Staff or Wand category, for example, would seem to embrace the agility needed to avoid the magical rays cast from them, but the trouble is that the effects created by rods, staffs, and wands are by no means limited to dodgeable rays.

The categories, in order, are

  1. Paralyzation, Poison, or Death Magic
  2. Rod, Staff, or Wand
  3. Petrification or Polymorph
  4. Breath Weapon
  5. Spell

I've read opinions that this is supposed to be read as a hierarchy of effects, but the arguments are not compelling.

Like the concept of hit-points, AD&D saving throws are pretty abstract. The exact way they work isn't really spelled out, and is left largely to the imagination.

D&D3e introduced a three category saving throw system:

  1. Fortitude
  2. Reflex
  3. Will

They were based on the character's abilities: CON, DEX and WIS respectively, and instead of basing the saving throw on a class of effects, the important thing is to decide how the attack would affect the character and assign a save category accordingly.

The character's level is still the most important influence on the likelihood of making or failing a save, but now (some of) their characteristic totals also become relevant.

One side-effect of the change to this system is that saving throws become a bit less abstract, and there's no implicit mechanism to reflect pure luck. How does a warrior, pinned spreadeagled to a rock wall, save vs. the breath of the dragon who is about to incinerate them? None of the characteristic-based saving throw categories would really apply without an unconscionable amount of hand-waving.

I know little of D&D4e, and what I did see of it I hated. let us pass it by.

D&D5e ties saving throws even more closely to the character's ability scores, and now they're implicitly a STR save, or a CON save, or an INT save, or whatever. On the face of it, it's a simple, logical system, and for the most part it works fine. Just like D&D3e, the effect on the character and the nature of the attack are the most relevant things, and just because an attack comes from a wand, there's nothing specifically wand-ish to be considered when determining which characteristic to save against.

D&D5e reduces the abstraction of the saving throw mechanic even further than D&D3e, and again, there's no specific method of reflecting a save based purely on luck.

The saving throw mechanic used by the Swords & Wizardry retroclone simplifies matters considerably. Each character class has a single Saving Throw target number. There's no worrying about the nature of the effect, or the character's abilities, or any of that. A saving throw is just a saving throw; it'll always be the same at any given level regardless of how or why a save is required.

Fighters have the worst saves (though not by much). Wizards are better. Thieves have the best saves (though not by much). As with other variants of D&D, the saving throw target number gets lower as the character rises in level, but there's just the one target number at any given level.

Having a single save is also advantageous if one wants to go the characteristic save route, as used in D&D5e, since you can just add (or subtract) any ability modifier to (or from) the target number, and Bob's your uncle. In S&W that's unlikely to make much of a difference; as it's a 0D&D retroclone, ability modifiers tend to be small.

This is the most highly abstracted, and in my view the most elegant, saving throw system within the extended D&D fold, and I like it very much. It performs the basic function of the saving throw (allowing the character to escape some or all of an effect) but it is not tied to anything but the character's level. Want to avoid some falling damage? Make a saving throw. Being attacked by an acid-spitting dong-worm? Make a saving throw. Want to remember something your character knows but you can't recall? Just make a saving throw. Easy-peasy. How did the save work? I dunno, make it up. These games are supposed to be games of imagination.

Sunday 20 March 2022

6mm Napoleonic Brits (3d printed)


I've printed some of Henry Turner's 6-15mm Napoleonic British sculpts at 6mm on my Mars Pro, and made some 40mm two-rank sabot bases for them on my Ender 3. I like his proportions for 6mm, but I find them just a tad too chunky and dwarfish for 15mm.

At the moment only the front rank strips are glued in place; they'll be painted along with the base, while the rear rank strips will be painted separately and then be glued in place. The battalion colours will also be painted separately, and then be glued in place — the colour bearers' hands can be drilled out to accept a pin, and the colours themselves will be made of paper.

There have been a few casualties amongst the muskets and bayonets when I removed the printing supports, but never mind.

These five bases would make a full medium-sized battalion for Black Powder in 6mm. The left and right bases are half-and-half line troops, with the woolen puff epaulettes, and flank troops with the swallows-nest epaulettes. The difference is visible if you look really closely, but in this scale I think differentiating them in this way is largely pointless. Nevertheless, I've got them, so I might as well use them.

I've photographed them here with some Heroics & Ros 6mm Spaniards, on 3mm MDF bases, for comparison. They are more detailed than the H&R metals, but how much of that extra detail will be visible on the wargames table is yet to be seen. I guess it will depend a lot on the quality of one's eyesight, and mine is pretty crap these days.

Couple of days later...

This is the first test base, painted and flocked. The 3d printed sabot base seems to have worked as planned; the ranks aren't perched up on little mounds as they would be if they were glued straight to a flat surface.

The figures are just block-painted over a black primer, and then sploshed with Army Painter Dark Tone which does successfully delineate a bit of the detail present in the prints — detail that will be only minimally visible at tabletop distances. It's not a painting standard that will reward close scrutiny, but they'll look okay en masse on the table.

These two strips suffered even more than most when I took the supports off, but hopefully the flags will distract from the missing bayonets.

There are a pair of colours still to go on this base; I'm waiting on some toner for my printer for those. Normally I'll print them to get some precision in the outlines, mount them on their pins, and then give the paper a bit of flowing contour and finish by painting in some shadow and highlights.

Tuesday 15 March 2022



I've recently been introduced to a two-player game called Onitama, which has similarities to several other games but uses a move mechanic that I've not encountered elsewhere. Each game uses a set of five cards, two for each player and one pending, which show the allowable moves for that turn. All the cards are open, so you can see not only your own permitted moves, but also those of your opponent, as well as the pending card which they will get next. As they're used, the cards circulate around.

Each side has an Emperor piece and four Soldiers, and the game is played on a 5x5 grid. The centre square on each side is the Throne for that player. The game is won by either taking the opposing Emperor, or by having one's own Emperor occupy the opposing throne.

Anyway, it appealed to me enough that I thought I would make a set of my own. The pieces shown here are turned from oak, and at least one side will need to be stained to distinguish them; the Soldiers are about 50mm tall, and the Emperors about 75mm. I'm in the process of making a board from kwila (and some other timbers for inlays). The turn cards are the trickiest bit; I'll probably have to print and laminate some.

Next day...

I've finished the Onitama board and pieces, and now all that remains is to do the cards. I think I might do them as woodcuts on 450gsm card, and fill in the coloured bits in watercolour.

The board is made from kwila planks laminated together, and I've inset a little block of the appropriate colour for each side. The tabs are made from ash, so the dye looks quite a bit brighter than it does on the playing pieces, which are oak. To be honest, I much prefer the tone that the oak gives to the dyes.

The board has had its coat of finishing oil, and when that is well and truly cured I'll give it a coat of wax, just as I did with the pieces.

All in all, I'm fairly pleased with the way it's turned out.

Next day, the cards

In the end I piked out with the cards and just whipped them up in CorelDraw, and printed and laminated them. I might get around to doing the fancy-schmancy hand-made versions at a later date. Maybe.

A bit later

I made some boxes to hold all the bits.

If I had thought ahead a bit more, the cards could have gone into the same box as the pieces, but I did not. It's not quite deep enough.

Thursday 3 March 2022

More 3d Printed Napoleonics


These Frenchies are a freebie sample from MC Miniatures on

They're described as "15mm w epic size", whatever that means. They are indeed pretty close to 15mm from foot to eye.

The British soldier alongside is a metal figure from a manufacturer I don't recall. It was sold as "15/18mm", and it's definitely nearer to 18 than 15mm. Too large for 15mm, too small for 20mm. They're nice enough figures, but neither fish nor fowl as far as scale goes.

I have a bit of a yen for Napoleonic horse-and-musket wargaming, but the sheer number of figures required has always put me off. I've made a start on a British Peninsular army of about 1810 vintage using  20mm plastic HaT figures, but progress on that has rather stalled. I haven't looked at them for a couple of years.

I speed-painted the single strip of Frenchmen and then slathered them with Army Painter Quickshade Dark Tone. This is an oil-based glossy varnish-stain, and I probably won't matte-coat them at all. I really don't mind small-scale Napoleonics being all shiny and glossy like toy soldiers, because that, after all, is what they are. The gloss varnish enhances the brightness of the colours, and compensates to a degree for the grubbiness that the stain leaves.

I know very little about the vast array of Napoleonic uniforms, so these have been painted largely by guess, though with reference to some pictures I found on the internet. If I got deeply into Napoleonic wargaming I'd probably start looking at reproducing specific regiments and what-not, but for the present I'm quite happy with generic crapauds.


I nabbed some STLs by a chap called Henry Turner from

This particular one is a freebie, and it is (of course) Napoleon Bonaparte.

Turner's figures are marketed as 6-15mm, and as supplied they seem to be about 7-8mm. Therefore they need to be rescaled to about 200% for 15mm, a fact of which I was unaware before I printed the first batch. You can see Napoleon's little Mini-Me in the front there.

Their proportions are probably better for 6mm than 15mm, as they tend to be rather dwarfish in stature — big heads and short legs, and a fairly chunky build. However, the detail stands well proud of the surface of the figure, which makes it quite easy to paint, and there's good facial detail which is always a help. Although their proportions aren't naturalistic, they do make for good, sturdy wargaming figures, and en masse and painted up I think they'll look fine.

In terms of modeling, I do prefer the MC Miniatures figures, but Turner has a much wider catalogue of Napoleonics to choose from.

And later still...

The strip bases of the MC Miniatures figures are all 28mm x 6.5mm x 1.5mm.

Simply gluing them to a flat group base would mean a lot of effort in basing, and would most likely mean that each rank would look like it was marching on top of a grassy mound of its own.

I whipped up this 30x30mm sabot base and printed it on my Ender 3. The ranks of figures sit down into the base so that their feet are much more nearly level with the ground, so there will be much less need for messing about with basing grout and the like — I could pretty much just paint the base and then go straight to flocking.

I did this base in three ranks, because of the French habit of attacking in column, but it does make the base quite crowded. I'll try another with just two ranks and see how that looks — if it's okay, apart from anything else, it will cut down on the amount of painting required per battalion by a third.

And here is the two-rank version of the base.

It's okay, but it definitely has less of the feeling of the attack column about it.

Wednesday 2 March 2022

Aussie M13/40


I finally got around to testing out my method for painting the Aussie kangaroo that they painted on their captured equipment, and I'm reasonably happy with the results.

This is a 1:100 scale M-13/40, printed on my Mars Pro. The figure is a very old one from Battlefront.

I just realised that the kangaroo on the starboard side of the turret should be going the other way. Oh well, too late now. Somebody at the depot will get a bollocking.