Friday, December 30, 2011

Time To Do Some Camping!

I recently ordered a bunch of Star Wars minis from Miniature Market that I'm going to re-purpose for Mutants and Death Ray Guns by Ganesha Games (pics to follow soon).  This also got me looking at my terrain collection.  Though I have pretty good selection available the one thing that's really missing is some post apocalyptic pieces so I've decided to start building up that end of my terrain spectrum.

Shelter is one of the basic necessities of life so it seems like a natural place to start.  Rather than doing more permanent structures first, I decided to focus something more mobile such as tents.  This also gave me an excuse to try out some new modelling techniques so it was off to the workbench I went!

For my tents I'm using some pretty common household items.  The frames for the tents are actually some of those one serving fruit cups (minus the fruit of course) though you could also use some of the one cup plastic containers that you can find in the grocery store.  You could just leave the cup intact use the side of the cup as a door but the plastic is soft enough that you can easily cut them with scissors.

Now to actually have a tent you need a cover for the "frame".  For this I grabbed an old t-shirt and started cutting!  You could just use scraps of cloth instead of chopping up your clothes but you need to make sure that the fabric isn't to stiff since it's going to be draped over the cup.  Just make sure that you cut a slit in the fabric so you have an entrance, otherwise your tents are going to offer much shelter.

Next I put a liberal amount of glue on the cup and set it aside while I prepped the fabric.  An important thing to do is make sure you put some around the edge of the cup so that the fabric will stick firmly to it.

With the cup set aside its time to get some glue onto the fabric as well.  To do this I spread a liberal amount on one side of the fabric then crumpled it up and ran it under water.  This gets the glue to permeate through the fabric which will make the whole structure much more durable once it dries.

While its still wet, put the fabric onto the cup making sure to press it down so that it sticks closely to the "frame".  Also make sure that you press it down around the edges otherwise it might pop off later.  After this its time to put it down and walk away.  I'd give it at least a day to fully dry though you might want to trim off any excess fabric during this time before the glue completely dries.

This gives you plenty of time to make the rope that runs around the bottom of the tent.  For this I used thin gauge floral wire twisted around itself.  The easiest way to do this take a good length of wire and fold it in half.

Then stick a pen, pencil, dowel (you get the idea...) through the loop and hold the other ends with some pliers.  While you hold on twirl the pen around to get the wires to wrap tightly around itself and voila!  Somewhat instant rope!

Once the fabric is dry, its time to thread the rope around the base of the tent.  The easiest way to do this is use a drill to make holes through the hardened fabric and the cup.

Once you have holes spaced all the way around the edge of the cup thread the wire through.  I originally tried to do this by threading it through the way you would by sewing but I found it much easier to use several separate lengths of wire around the edge.  You can also do this up the sides or anywhere else you want but that's up to you.

With the wire attached, its time to paint!  I originally went for just dirty browns as I like how it fits with the whole apocalyptic feel but I then I decided to through in a green as well just to mix it up.

And there you have it!  Yes, you too can have your own post apocalyptic tent city!  This project is a little time consuming because of the drying time but overall its really simple and I'm very happy with how they turned out.  If you give it a try yourself I'd love to know how it turns out or if you have any improvements I'd love to hear about those as well.  Until next time...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sometimes One More Option Is One Too Many

"So where should we go for dinner?"

"Well, I could do Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill. We haven't had Tony Roma's for a while.  Oh, and there's Applebee's or Joe's Crab Shack.  I guess I could do Sweet Tomatoes as well.  Or there's Beanos or Denny's."

"Ummm... okay?"

Having options is a good thing but there does come a point when too much is just that.  As I alluded to last week, this is something that I tend to think the Pathfinder game suffers from.  Now don't get me wrong; I've enjoyed every Pathfinder session that I've played in and I'm really looking forward to get back to SpacerGal's homebrew campaign setting.  The really daunting thing about the system, especially for new players, is the sheer number of options that you have available to you when you are trying to build a character.

The core rulebook contains eleven different classes.  This is not too bad really as the choices run the typical gamut for fantasy from spell slingers to sword wielders and everything in between.  Where things start to get a little more complicated is when you bring in the Advanced Players Guide.  Six more basic classes to choose from and more than half dozen alternate class features to apply to each the original eleven classes.  Then throw in Ultimate Magic which only adds one new magic class but gives all the existing magic classes half dozen or more additional options and Ultimate Combat which does the same for the martial classes.

Now that is a ton of options which is great... unless you have no idea what you want to play and you are just trying to see what your options are.  Then you're looking at potentially having books worth of material to go through as you try to figure out what works best for you which can be kind of overwhelming, especially for new players.

So how do you deal with this glut of information that has been handed to you?  Well, as a player I'd suggest really thinking about what sounds like something you want to play and then asking the GM for their advice.  Which kind of a magic user would you enjoy exploring and which would fit best in their campaign?  The GM is also usually very familiar with the game system and can really help you fine tune your choice.

From the other side of the screen, I'd suggest the GM offer some guidance and maybe even limitations on the options available to players.  Setting these kinds of guidelines can also be helpful for laying out and shaping your story.  Maybe you're aiming for a low magic setting.  Take some of the magical classes off the books right from the start so you don't have to worry about fitting a wizard or sorcerer into the world you've created.  The same can be said for a more civilized setting.  How exactly would you fit a barbarian into that kind of game?  Admittedly that sounds like it could be an interesting twist but unless you were trying to focus on that character fitting into a completely different world you run the risk of either leaving that character our of the loop or leaving the rest of the characters hanging out to dry as you focus too much on that story.

Ultimately communication is the key to making sure that everyone buys in and has a good time with the game so ask the GM and if you need to put them on the spot.  Likewise as a GM don't be afraid to say "No" if someone is trying to pull something into your game that doesn't fit in.  You're all in this together so make sure that everyone is having a good time with it.  Until next time...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Listening To The Pipes Of Peace

When I was much younger I saw a video that stuck with me even after all these years.  I always remembered the story but I never could remember the name of the song.  It was sung by Paul McCartney but other than the story that played out in the video I couldn't remember anything else.

This year I decided to look around to see if I could find it and after a quick Google search it popped right up, along several other pages about the historic Christmas Truce of 1914.

As the first year of the Great War drew to a close, thousands of British and German soldiers along the Western Front engaged in an unofficial ceasefire.  Rifles set aside, soldiers from both sides sing Christmas carols across No-Man's Land and in some stretches of the Front they even exchanged gifts and souvenirs.

British and German soldiers meeting in No Man's Land during the Christmas Truce

High command on both sides were furious when they heard about this happening and issued strict orders forbidding friendly communication with enemy troops.  Though a few units disobeyed these orders later in the War, it was never on the massive scale that occurred that first Christmas.  Even so it's good to know that during one of the most brutal conflicts in the history of man people were able to set aside their differences for even just one day in celebration of the season.

Happy Holidays to you and yours, and we hope that all of you have a joyous and safe holiday season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Skinning One Cat To Re-Skin Another

With our latest Pathfinder campaign I decided to break out of the mold and try something that I've never done before; I'm playing a spell caster.  I've always stayed away from these classes in the past because of the limitations of the spells.  "Okay guys, I've cast my one spell for the day.  Guess I'll just hang back and read a book while you guys finish exploring the dungeon."  I mean really, what fun is that?

Thankfully Pathfinder addresses that problem by giving you access to some minor spells that you have unlimited use of.  Sure they're not going to stop a raging demon out of the Nine Hells but something's better than nothing.  Of course the problem after that was which kind of spell caster.  After all, one thing that Pathfinder isn't lacking is a ridiculously variety of classes to choose from (but more on that another time...).  After digging around (and listening to what everyone else was playing...) I finally decided to try my hand at being a sorcerer.  Of the magical classes it seems to be the one that's easier to grow with.  Wizards need to be able to spend some time researching and studying to really advance themselves whereas sorcerers just have the stuff more or less pop into their head.  Gotta love that, right?

Next I choose my race, bloodline, what color socks I'm wearing, etc, etc... All the little details that go into making a Pathfinder character.  Then I hopped right over to Reaper Miniatures to search for the perfect mini.  Not a requirement for an RPG but I really like having my own little mini me to call my own so its a must in my book.  It was while I was searching for my round 25mm bases that I stumbled on this little blast from the past.

This figure is one of a familiar set that was released by Reaper years ago.  I love all the figures in the set but this one was always my favorite.  With this old treasure in hand, I headed right back to my character sheet to rebuild my sorcerer so I could somehow have a familiar which of course is where the problem came in.

This little guy is obviously not an animal which is the "normal" familiar for the magical classes.  In fact the closest that I could come up with was a homunculus but that's a higher level spell than we were starting with and I wanted to make sure I could use the little dude in the game right from the get go.  That's when the old gears really started grinding away in my melon and I came up with a plan.

Getting SpacerGal on the horn I explained my dilemma and asked him if I could re-skin one of the familiar types into something completely different conceptually but leave it the same mechanically.  He thought for a second and decided why not so off I went to the books again to figure out just what he was going to be.  After much hemming and hawing I finally decided to base him on the cat familiar that wizards have.  This makes him somewhat effective in combat and makes him ridiculously stealthy which I really liked the idea of.  One second he's there and then he suddenly seems to vanish and reappear somewhere else.  After some minor tweaks, my new wizard/sorcerer character was ready to rock... along with his own version of "Toto" too.

The idea of re-skinning some aspect of your game is something that I don't think many people think of but its always an option you should keep in mind.  Just because the rules say "You have a dog that obediently follows you around wherever you go" doesn't mean that you can't change it up and make it some kind of manservant that your family sent out to keep an eye on you.  Doing this not only gives you more creative freedom to make an exciting and interesting character but also makes that character your own.  Talk with your DM/GM/Keeper/whatever they might be this week and tell them your ideas.  Work together and not only will you be able to create a character that you're really interested in playing but you might even throw the GM something to play with too.  Just think of how many times has Batman had to go save Robin's butt over the years or vice versa.

So remember; just because you can't find exactly what you have in mind in the book doesn't mean that you can't do it.  Look beyond the confines of the rules and talk it out so that you can make it a great gaming experience for everyone at the table.  Until next time...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gettin' Fancy With Technology

Hey y'all! Once again I return from the Warp with a big review, this time in video form! Get crazy, right? This one is a Child at Heart review looking at Marvel Slingers from UDE, a fun little fast-paced dexterity game aimed at that ever-so-valuable 8-12yo demographic. Hope you like the review, and maybe we can get a steadier camera for next time. This is from my Windows Phone, so I apologize for the low quality in advance. Catch me next time with a playthrough video and review of the World of Warcraft TCG Dungeon Decks and the corresponding Fall 2011 Starter Decks geared towards play with the Dungeon Decks. 'til next time, Vegas gamers. SpacerGal out!

Now This Is Pretty Awesome

Someone on Google+ posted this one and I just had to pass it along.  Very cool action and effects, not to mention the little surprise at the end.  Check it out!

What can I say?  I'm a Star Wars geek.  More coming soon, including an article of some kind about something or other by the ever elusive SpacerGal.  Until next time...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Getting Back To The Torment

Unfortunately our gaming group is still on hiatus (ah, the joys of Christmas retail...) so I decided to go way back and start looking at some of the things I've touched on before here to try to find a little bit of gaming inspiration.  Took a bit but after doing a bit of digging I remembered my Songs of Torments Reach hack I was working on and decided to dust it off and give it another run through.

So where is all this going?

To a battle report of course!

Once again I had my Guild crew take the field against my Arcanist crew.  A very small game (only 400 points total...) but still enough to try some stuff out.  So how did it go?  Read on to find out!

Sonnia and her small band of enforcers had tracked down Sasha Dubois and her gang at a small cabin on the outskirts of the bayou.

Sneaking forward they hoped to gain the element of surprise... and almost managed to do it!  Sonnia ordered the two Guild Guards forward but appartently they weren't expecting to lead the way and instead did nothing at all.

Hearing the attempted battle cry from Sonnia, Sasha and her crew quickly sprang into action.  Sasha ran over to activate Boomer before taking cover behind the cabin while Taryn took a covering position.  Valeria boldly strode forward and let loose a barrage of shoots at Sonnia but her magical screen proved to be too much as she effortlessly deflected the bullets.

Boomer then thundered forward on his massive iron feet, getting into position to attack the next turn.

Realizing the threat that Boomer posed to her crew, Sonnia moved into the open and let loose a blast of magical flames which sent the metal beast hurling back into the building and knocked him to the ground, but did little else.

Samael and one of the guards opened fire on Valeria but their shoots went wild while the convict gunslinger Jeremiah Smythe quickly moved around the far side of the cabin to try to flank the Arcanists.

Valeria charged towards Samael with her guns blazing and pushed him back into the small copse of trees while Taryn clambered over the prone form of Boomer and let loose a couple shots at Sonnia.  Once again her shield proved to be too much and the bullets were harmlessly deflected.

Boomer then sprang into action.  Virtually leaping to its feet, the metal monstrosity charged forward and smashed into Sonnia, sending her crippled form to the ground.

With their leader dead, almost all of the Guild crew paniced and headed for the hills.  In the end only Samael remained and with blood in his eyes he quickly moved to attack his prey.

Effortlessly skirting through the woods, he made a beeline for Sasha and his volley of shots drives her to the ground.

Her quickly regains her composure and returns fire at the trapper but to no avail.  The rest of the crew was also caught offguard and only Valeria is able to react to this new threat.  Even so her shots go wide and Samael remains undetered.

Again Samael opens fire on Sasha and again he forces her to the ground but isn't able to get a solid hit on the Arcanist.  Having realized what was happening, Taryn runs forward and helps Valeria finally take Samael down.

Overall, I liked how the game played out.  I used the ranged combat modifiers from Flying Lead this time and it actually did make the guns more effective over all.  Not too many shots connected but unlike my first play through with these groups they were at least able to try shooting at each other.  I am thinking that Boomer might be a bit too overpowered at the moment.  Currently he has a Combat 5 which makes him nigh unstoppable to most attacks so I think I'll knock him down to a 4 in the future.  I also liked how Sonnia was such a glass cannon.  At range she was virtually untouchable but as soon as Boomer got into hand to hand it was over.

Now I just have to see what other crews I can scrounge together to get to the table.  Several are in the works but none are finished yet.  Still gives me something to do until we can get the group together again.  Until next time...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Talk About A Blast From The Past

I thought I'd do something a little different for this Monday's pictures. I was recently sent this link and I just had to pass it along.

Yeah, who's going to trust some random link you happen to find on someone's blog, right? There's just a few too many mentally scaring images out there that are the last thing in the world you would want to see but this one is different.

The Aluminum Overcast is a restored B-17G-VE operated by the Experimental Aircraft Association.  This group tours the country and gives people the opportunity to tour or sometimes even fly in this WWII aircraft

The photos on the site were taken by amateur photographer Bernard Zee and you can find more photos at his home page.  Even if you don't take a look at what else he has there, I definitely recommend taking at look at his shots of the Aluminum Overcast as they are really impressive.

Interested in finding out more about this historic aircraft?  Well I've got a link for that too!  You can find more information about this plane, tours dates, and prices at the Fly The Fortress website.  Hope you all enjoy!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Throwing In A Touch Of Home Brew

For our games of Gamma World and D & D 4e I've decided that I'm going to throw in a little bit of a home brew on the rules. Not sure exactly how well it will work but I like the idea so I figure I'll give it a shot and see what happens.  The first of these has to do with hit points.

I think this is one of the things that bugs people the most about D & D.  You hit somebody with a huge sword and they stand there, smile, and then return the favor.  Doesn't really make that much sense when you think about it even for a fantastic setting.  I mean come on, its a frickin' sword!  No two ways about it, that's gonna leave a mark.

What I've decided to do is take hit points in a slightly different direction so that they make a little more sense.  Instead of them representing purely how much physical abuse you can take, they are also going to represent fatigue in the battle.  If you think about it, parrying or dodging that massive sword is going to start wearing you down almost as much as being hit by it.  This isn't to say that the players lose hit points just for moving around or being missed; that would be a little too harsh in my mind.  No, instead this will represent them blocking or dodging the blows in the narrative though they'll still take some damage.  Only hit for 5 hit points?  Well, that's probably at best a scratch and might even just be a solid punch.

So the question is "Where's the house rule?" That comes into play when players (and monsters... gotta be fair after all...) take a massive hit, say equal to their bloodied value.  A blow like this is truly devastating and it makes sense that you're not going to be performing up to par after that. In game terms this is represented by a -2 modifier on all rolls except for damage (seems like that would be a little too harsh).  Of course its not too easy to inflict that much damage in one blow so I'm also going to apply this when a creature becomes bloodied as well.  To me the name says it all; you're bloodied.  You've taken a beating and while you're not ready to lie down and die, you're not going to be as nimble as you normally would.  This also helps the idea of the second wind make a little more sense.  It isn't some kind of magical healing that is flowing through your body, its you pausing in the fight to catch your breath for a second.

My other idea is a little more... dramatic.  Normally in 4e your character earns action points that you can spend to take another action on your turn.  I really like this mechanic as I think it really pushes forward the idea that the characters are supposed to be big damn heroes and helps them live up to it.  In addition to the regular action points, I'm also going to introduce drama points (though I might call it something else...).  

Unlike action points which have a limit on how often you can use them, the drama point is more open ended and can be spent to give you a re-roll any time you want.  Choke on a crucial to hit roll?  Spend a drama point and re-roll it!  Fail that diplomacy check and make an ass out of yourself to the dragon?  Pop a drama point and try again!

So what's the catch?  A free re-roll?  Heck yeah I'll take that!  The catch is that you have to earn them with role play.  It could be something as simple as a good concept in character generation or strong back story to some solid role play around the table later in the game.  This is supposed to be a role playing game after all so why not encourage it?

Of course the real question is how do these ideas work in practice.  Theories are wonderful things but until they're successfully applied they don't really mean much.  For that we'll just have to see what happens when we get back to the table.  Until next time...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Martians And Monsters And Ravens, Oh My!

For some reason just started getting links to movie trailers on my FB page.  Must've clicked something somewhere but that's neither here nor there.  I did what to point out two of the trailers though as they look incredible.  First up is John Carter.

Based on the character from the Barsoom novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the trailer just blew my away.  I must admit that I've never read any of the novels (though I'm looking to rectify that asap...) but visually this just looks stunning.  Here are a couple of shots that I managed to scrap up.

Martian cityscape

Some kind of martian flyer

Just these two look beautiful to me but I really recommend checking out the official trailers here.  Not only do they look to be good to watch but man the gaming ideas you can rip from these!  The crazy thing is there are already miniatures out there for most of the main characters and creatures from the movie.  Where can you find these you ask?  Bronze Age Miniatures.  Not only do they have a John Carter mini in their catalog (though not under that name), they also have the four armed apes and martians as well!  Just an FYI though, apparently the folks at Bronze Age tend to feel that tops are definitely optional for women so don't say I didn't warn you.  Now I just hope that somebody makes toys/models of those martian flyers....

Oddly enough the next movie is not from Disney though they did make it popular the first time around.  This time the story has a slightly different spin as the Snow White appears to be something of a badass.

This is probably a good thing for her too as this time the evil queen isn't just trying to kill her, she wants to eat her heart too!  This is another trailer that looks really impressive and it sounds like an interesting twist on the old story.  No link to the trailer for this one I'm afraid but I definitely recommend checking it out when you have a chance.  Oh, and make sure that you look for Snow White and the Huntsman as there is another Snow White movie called Mirror, Mirror which comes out next spring as well.  Unlike the SW&H which has a dark and grim feel to it, the other one looks like more of a mindless comedic take on the whole thing.

Until next time...