Saturday, January 28, 2012

Flagrant Cross-blog pimping

Right now, I'm in the midst of a huge creative surge on the roleplaying side of the hobby.  You can check out the idea behind my superhero RPG over at Graph Paper Games.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Clockwork base coated (WIP)

So, back to my VSF walker project.  I haven't made huge headway on these guys, but at least the Ben 10 figure Clockwork has been primed and basecoated.

Now, I have to figure out how weathered a giant mechanical robot from the 19th Century is supposed to be.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

More Star Wars figurines

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm helping a friend assemble this scale model of Jabba's palace.  It's not a fabulous kit (I think he said he bought it for $3.00 on eBay) but it is kind of fun and I'm enjoying a little change of pace.  Anyways, Friday I went over to his house and banged out four figures in a couple of hours.
C3PO, Luke, Han, and Yarna
Did you know that practically every person who has appeared in a Star Wars movie has been given a name and a backstory?  It's true, "overweight dancer at Jabba's Palace" is actually Yarna d'al' Gargan.  The detail on these figures isn't fabulous, and they are about 1/72 scale, but I managed to do a passable job on them.  I don't do a lot of painting in scales smaller than 28mm, so I don't really know how to do points for them, but since they are close enough, I'm giving myself four points.  After all, they are aren't much smaller than a goblin.

Friday, January 20, 2012

That's Mr. Hutt to you

I seem to have a lot of side projects going on right now.  One of them is for a friend of mine who is building a model of Jabba's palace.  He asked if I could help with the detail work, namely painting up the figures in the diorama.  So, here's one of the first figures, the big man himself, Jabba the Hutt.

So, a bit of geek trivia.  Jabba's appearance actually changes between various iterations: The Return of the Jedi, the lousy CGI part they put back into Star Wars: a New Hope, the Phantom Menace, and all the other video games, comic books, etc. that are out there.  His appearance has actually changed quite a bit, making it a little hard to figure out exactly how to paint him.  But I decided to go with the original, green screen, no flying droids zipping around, yes-I-can-see-where-you-cut-the-film version.

And hey, two points to the painting goal.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

WotC to reprint AD&D

It looks like Wizards of the Coast is going to release all three core books of 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons to support the Gygax Memorial Fund.  $45 for the DMG, $35 for the PHB and MM.  I have all those books, and the OSRIC version, but I might pick these up as they are for a good cause (and might remind WotC that there is some interest in this style of game as they move towards 5th Edition).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book Review: Allison Hewitt is Trapped

I first read about Allison Hewitt Is Trapped: A Zombie Novel on Vampifan's blog as part of his regular reviews of all things about zombies.  I've had mixed success with zombie novels, tending to find that prose sometimes struggles to capture the dread I associate with the whole zombie milieu.  But Vampi waxed on about this book and so I thought I would give it a read.

I'm glad I did.  Allison Hewitt is Trapped is written by Madeleine Roux and the story takes the form of a series of blog entries written by the eponymous Allison as she experiences the Zombie Apocalypse (tm).  All the way along I wondered about how the post facto quality of the narrative meant that she would be guaranteed to survive every encounter, but then I realized that they could either go with the "post script written by someone else" option or the "I've been bit and now I'm going to write this before I shoot myself" option, so the drama persisted.

Allison is an employee at a bookstore in a shopping mall in the MidWest when the zombies first appear, and she and several co-workers secure themselves in a saferoom in the back of the store.  They are armed with only a baseball bat and a fire axe that Allison seizes as her own personal weapon for the majority of the book.  The narrative doesn't stay there, however, and in fact the book rarely settles into any location for the long haul, not to mention cycling many characters in and out of the story, some coming to a grisly end.

Like most good zombie stories, the focus isn't on gray hands reaching out of nowhere, but rather on the human condition, and in fact it is starvation, disease, and aberrant human behavior that pose the greatest threat throughout the novel.  There are the usual gangs of violent men, religious fanatics, and unscrupulous characters that appear in many of these stories, but there's also a very good treatment on the transformation of real relationships: friends, boyfriends, spouses, children, etc. that occur under extreme pressure.  As a first person story there's a lot about her own emotional state the roller coaster that finding oneself in the middle of the collapse of society can place can do.

So it's a clever, witty, and features a compelling main character.  As Vampi pointed out one of the side character's death is really poorly done, largely for shock value but also places a huge continuity hole in the plot of the story that never gets sewn shut, but that's really minor in comparison to a larger, very well written work.  Apparently there are other "girl zombie blog" novels by Roux in the works, so I'll have to keep my eye out for them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The first wargame of 2012

One of my goals for the year was to play one wargame a month.  I am actually more skeptical about this goal than I am painting 150 miniatures.  But, with some encouragement and a bit of luck, I got one in.

Brazen Claws vs. Biker Marines
Of course I lost.  It doesn't help when you forget an entire unit of terminators that you never brought in my deep strike.  Sigh.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

VSF Walkers from Toys (WIP part one)

A while ago, I picked up a copy of When the Navy Walked, and even reviewed the game briefly.  I've always liked the "look" of the game (even if I had some critique of the actual layout of the book). Moreover, it is in the 15-20mm scale range, which tends to be pretty inexpensive.

The other thing I liked about it was the chance to perhaps move into a different niche of the hobby--scratchbuilding vehicles.  And not just any vehicles, but funky Victorian science-fiction vehicles.  And as this has been slow-cooking in my brain over the last year, I've been slowly picking out items mentally that I've seen in stores that might be converted.  Well today I saw two toys in the clearance section of the local big box store, both priced under $5 and I finally jumped.

The two figures are "Clockwork" from the Ben 10 TV show and "Shel" from the movie Green Lantern.  Shel was $3.50, Clockwork was $4.50.

Like a lot of the Ben 10 aliens, Clockwork has really smooth lines to fit the animation style, so he really needs some added detail.  Shel is practically good as-is, a rickety, spindly robot with a bulbous head.  To get Clockwork up to speed, I decided to add some rivets.  Now some use a hole punch and plasticard, and God love them, but I'm too lazy right now to do that so I just dropped $2.99 on a huge bag of 4mm googly eyes at the hobby store, as well as buy some 1/12" birch plywood to cut bases for the two figures.  WTNW doesn't have standardized bases for Capital units, so these will both be 2" by 4".

I glued the googly eyes in what I thought were appropriate places across Clockwork's body, making him look a bit like the mythical figure "Argus" (which might just end up his name as a VSF walker).  I used superglue and a cheap pair of plastic craft tweezers to make sure I didn't end up attaching a little bit of human flesh to the walker as well.

Shel, as I said earlier, really needed no work, so I attached him to the base using E-6000, which is a sort of clear multi-purpose thick, gummy glue.  I had a staff person at Hobby Lobby say that most of the staff carry one of these tubes around with them at all times in case of emergencies.  It is a lot thicker than superglue, and I felt that with the smooth plastic finish of the toys I needed something with a little more heft to attach them to the base.  Then it was my typical practice of covering the base with watered-down PVA glue and then a layer of model railroad ballast.  For a little variety I glued on a couple of chunks of terrarium gravel as well.

Now these guys are all ready for priming and painting, which I'll cover in part two.  Comments welcome!

Happy Saturday the 14th!

I totally missed that yesterday was Friday the 13th until I checked the "blogs I follow" links and saw everyone celebrating that day.

For a notoriously bad day, mine was pretty great.  I finally decided to start up a little side-project I've been thinking about for a year: converting toys into 15mm Victorian Science Fiction vehicles.  I'm planning a big how-to post on that, so stay tuned.

I also played in my 4E campaign for the first time since before Christmas.  I'll admit that the game has once again hit its stride.  We've got a good group, a nice mix of PC's, and the story was good (including that all-important bit of player agency).  It makes me almost not want to take over when the time comes (especially because we may have two more players, kicking us up to seven players).

Finally, I had the chance to see some of the filming of small indie flick "The Sublime & Beautiful," which is being shot entirely in my home town.  One of the scenes was at my church, and I was able to bring my daughter, who is very interesting in acting, to see a real photo shoot.  What's even better, the lead actor and director was in the TV series FlashForward, which I loved, and he told me a bit about what they were kicking around for Season Two, which never happened.  Needless to say, Mrs. Q was very excited to hear all about it.

Anyways, for a notoriously unlucky day, I have to say it was all good.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Zombies and Living 2012 twice

I posted these over at Hard Boiled Zombies, but here they are--another round of zombies from Zombiesmith.

Boney, Yield, Pop, Homemaker, and Chubbs
I read an article out there (and of course now I can't find it) where this guy (a psychiatrist?) outlined this mental discipline by which a person sort of envisions the upcoming year and then speculates on what the biggest mistakes or regrets that might occur in the upcoming year.  It's a kind of tricky, but when you think about it, it is not that hard.  I can see myself, for example, failing to take up an exercise regime, watching too much television, or getting sucked into some drama with my extended family.  On December 31st, 2012, I can see myself ruminating on all those bad decisions.

Then, you decide not to do them.  You imagine your state at the end of that year and say, "I don't want that," and then act differently.  I'm oversimplifying this a lot, but I think you get the idea.  You can see how this applies to your hobbies as well, especially if you have a long history of impulse buying like I do.  Will I regret buying the latest edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles?  Probably not.  Will I regret trying to build a new Vampire Counts army?  Probably, because I've played VC before and while it might be a little different, it's still a pretty two-dimensional army without a lot of variation.  So at the end of 2012 I have an army that I probably won't like that I spent of ton of money on and maybe even didn't use all that often.

Buying Infinty? I'll probably regret that.
Painting up all the Zombiesmith zombies?  Nope.
Buying a copy of the latest Warmachine rulebook, despite the fact that I already own it (this happened in the midst of writing this post)?  Absolutely.

Monday, January 9, 2012

New York Times Article on the new edition of D&D


The article does a good job of pointing out a couple of the major shortfalls in the "let's get suggestions for changes," particularly the one about how this means that at least someone isn't going to get what they want.

WotC "charts a new course" for a new edition of D&D

From WotC's website:
That is why we are excited to share with you that starting in Spring 2012, we will be taking this process one step further and conducting ongoing open playtests with the gaming community to gather feedback on the new iteration of the game as we develop it. With your feedback and involvement, we can make D&D better than ever. We seek to build a foundation for the long-term health and growth of D&D, one rooted in the vital traits that make D&D unique and special. We want a game that rises above differences of play styles, campaign settings, and editions, one that takes the fundamental essence of D&D and brings it to the forefront of the game. In short, we want a game that is as simple or complex as you please, its action focused on combat, intrigue, and exploration as you desire. We want a game that is unmistakably D&D, but one that can easily become your D&D, the game that you want to run and play.
It's not really a surprise, since many had seen the creation of D&D Essentials as being almost a "4.5 Edition" of D&D.  What I'm trying to figure out is the somewhat incredulous claim that the new D&D will "rise above differences in playing styles, campaign settings,  and editions (emphasis mine)."

I'm not among the people who stridently point out the differences between B/X, 1st, and 2nd Editions. I know they were there, but fundamental mechanics were so little as to make it easy to pick up a Basic Edition module and run it using 2nd Edition rules.  But 3rd Edition radically changes everything about the way the game was played, and 4th was a huge shift from there.  So what is WotC saying?  That they'll do a magnum opus of optional rules that allow you to hen-peck which version you want to play?  That the whole game is being scrapped in favor of some abstract style?  I'm also curious about how much combat will really be sharing space with intrigue and exploration.  The "it is sort of a skirmish wargame" meant that the pre-painted miniatures business, not to mention the battle mats and gaming tiles, are a big part of their business model.  This is especially the case after the DDI came out that gave you access to all the character creation options without buying the books.

I'm enough of a cynic about this think that a lot of this is just smoke-and-mirrors, an attempt to both appease 4th Edition enthusiasts to stay on and not rebel about losing their game support and to attempt to lure the 3rd-and-prior holdouts that have been pumping money into retro-clones and Pathfinder.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sometimes it writes itself

I am wary of stating anything about my roleplaying game hobby with certitude, but in theory I am going to be taking back over responsibility of running at D&D game at my house in about two or three months.  In theory.

Anyways, yesterday I had one of those cloudburst moments of creativity where it all just comes together at once after weeks of wracking my brain for ideas.  It all starts with my brother-in-law's Christmas present to my son.  Ammo Grot, as I like to call my son, is a pre-teen and into video games.  My BIL decided this year to just give him for Christmas a dozen back issues of some video game magazine he has a subscription to.  It sounds cheap, but it is actually brilliant.  Tweeners are exactly going to be spending tons of money on cutting-edge games--they just want to look at pictures and read up on stuff and getting it all in one lump suits them just fine.  Plus it is recycling.  Win-win-win.

So I'm thinking to myself "what am I going to do for a story that isn't the same old monster lair raid" when I read an article for some video game from 2009 that was built around the idea of surviving a massive earthquake in the city.  Ding!  Here's the set-up: PC's are back in some major city doing their restocking/healing/etc. when the city is shook apart by a violent earthquake, leaving the party buried under a huge building.  First, do the PC's dig upwards to the surface, risking having more of the building come down on top of them, or do they go downward into the city's sewer system and try to escape that way [Player Agency].

While digging they uncover an NPC, a young person whose father is a bigwig in town [roleplaying opportunity, minor quest--get the person back to daddy].  If they ditch the NPC, then they will have a more difficult time navigating the city since they are strangers to the area, not to mention losing out on the quest reward.

If they go down, they get a few sewer-based encounters [oozes, vermin, lycanthropes, maybe a hag as the BBEM] but also get a couple of clues from the subterranean denizens that the earthquake isn't natural.  If they go up, they get to fight their way through the city [ghouls and carrion eaters, magical pets run amok, looters that could use the rarely-tapped PC race monsters from the Monster Manuals].  Either once back on the surface from the sewers or as they travel along the streets the PC's come across the residence of a local archmage that looks like it is in pretty rough shape: weird lights, sounds, etc.  If the PC's investigate, they will rescue the mage who rewards them [Player agency, side small quest, maybe three encounters] and get another clue that the earthquake isn't natural but the result of something being summoned to the area [roleplaying opportunity].

The home of the NPC's father is also under siege, but after the PC's deal with that the father informs them (being a local scholar or sage) that an earthquake of this magnitude would be normally impossible and must suggest something is amiss [major quest: uncover (and hopefully stop) the cause of the earthquake].

Here's where I use what I call the "Quantum Ogre Theory" of gaming.  If the PC's went into the archmage's house, then they already have some clue about what is going on.  If they didn't, the NPC father can send them back to the archmage's house or to some other location where I recycle the encounters from the archmage's house (retooling them to be a library, a university, or a temple).  At this point, the PC's can be pointed towards the location of the earthquake's epicenter and doubtless cause of the earthquake [something earth-related like a giant elemental or something].  But to get there they have to either a) travel below ground or b) travel through the city, whichever option they didn't take to get to the father's house, and I can recycle the encounters not used the first time.

This isn't really cheating your way out of Player Agency, it is just taking work you've already done and not inventing the same wheel twice.  If I want I could make the quest to the summoned creature have a few more encounters [may want to see how long the game is going].

In the end, the PC's find and stop the creature, but then uncover mysterious clues to who might be behind the summoning in the first place.  Is the city under attack from an unknown, perhaps subterranean power?  Can we say Underdark?

Anyways, here's a rough map of the adventure, where you can see how it all ties together. My apologies for the terrible handwriting--I've suspected that I have undiagnosed dysgraphia.

As you can see, I need to do about seven encounters, plus maybe another three for the arch-mage sub-quest, and maybe a couple for the final search for the earthquake-causing monster.  At a rate of gaming for three or four hours every other week, this should last me the better part of three gaming sessions or six weeks, minimum.  All cobbled together in an hour, which is pretty cool.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The First (Zombie) Miniatures of 2012

click for a bigger pic
I posted these guys earlier at my other blog, Hard Boiled Zombies.  This is the first set of zombie miniatures I have painted that are manufactured by Zombiesmith.  The zombies are named Skater, Brokeback, Jawbone, Overalls, and Gutshot on the Zombiesmith's site.  There's a lot of good character to these guys, and they painted up well using the basecoat-and-stain technique.  Overalls' head has been spun around by a vicious but ineffective cranial attack, and Gutshot has a hole going right through his torso!  I painted all five yesterday, stained them last night, and then finished the bases today.  Not bad for about a day's work.  Looks like they are lurking around the school looking for tasty kidlets to eat.

This brings up an interesting question.  Most of my hobby stuff will be on my zombie campaign, which has its own site, but not everyone follows it.  Do I double post, just put stuff here and maybe the AAR's on the zombie site, or leave this site without updates?  Comments welcome

Monday, January 2, 2012

My 2012 Pledge(s)

Well, I've been thinking about what I want to do, if anything, in terms of hobby-related goals for 2012.  Sometimes I think goals are counter-productive, causing me to stress about stuff that's supposed to be fun.  On the other hand, not keeping my own proverbial feet to the fire.  And I know myself well enough that I'm more likely to let my painting slide during moments of ennui than to stress out about whether I'll get all my painting done (especially since I have always met my painting goals).

So, with that in mind, here's what I got in mind:

Paint 150 miniatures  I can clearly get 150 painted, but I didn't want to ramp it up too much.  Leaving it where it always is allows me a little leeway to work on other projects as well.  What's interesting is that there are loads of people I know online for whom 150 miniatures is a pretty lightweight painting schedule, but around here 150 is this unheard-of herculean effort.

Wargame once a month  This might actually be harder than getting 150 miniatures painted, but I have really let this slide in 2011.  I'm not the only one--on my Christmas vacation I stopped by my old arch-rival Vince's house to see how he's been doing and he admitted to not having played Warhammer Fantasy in eight months.  But if I can either get over to my FLGS and subject myself to another humiliating loss at 40K, or get my ATZ solo campaign going at a rate of once a month, that will be a step in the right direction.

Be more positive  For someone who has a wonderful family, a well-paying job, and even a few friends I seem to mope around a lot.  Much of it has to do with the word "few" in my description of my friends, but I also know that I can tend to find the fault in anything.  It is not a great personality trait, and I'm trying to avoid looking for the critical flaw and instead focus on what's going right.  I think I also need to make sure I hang around in the internet in places a little more positive, meaning avoiding negative chatrooms or reading lots of comments to news reports.

Not exactly in the resolution category, but more in the category of New Year Blog Housekeeping:

Editing Pages  I'm removing the "Hordes of the Things" page, since that project has been completed for some time, and if you want to see what I did last year you can just go to the "Hordes of the Things" tag.  I will probably leave up the Brazen Claws page for now.  I'm not sure if I have a new page to put in its place, but we will have to see.

The Ever So Slight Monetizing of the Blog  I dislike the "below the post" advertising in some blogs, but my brother-in-law recommending doing the Amazon Associates option for the blog.  He does the same for his own (a blog about teaching and technology), and said to me "You read and review things that your readers are interested in, they are likely to buy it on Amazon, why not get a little something back?"  So I thought I'd try it out in a small and hopefully inoffensive way, namely the sidebar.  I read a lot of books in a pretty eclectic manner, so I thought I would share it with you, the reader, while at the same time getting the chance to get Amazon gift cards to buy more books.  If it is really awful and you hate it, let me know.

Monthly goals  I didn't want to set this up in the same category as the painting goal for the year, but I thought I would try to set up some short-term goals just to help keep me on track.  In the month of January I would like to paint ten zombies, four gangers, and one survivor for my ATZ game.

Okay, that's it!  I hope you all have a wonderful new year!


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