Sunday, April 29, 2012

Review: Army Painter Quick Shade (vs. Crossbowman)

This is as much a review of Army Painter Quick Shade as it is a demonstration of me using it.

I decided to try an experiment with my Army Painter Quick Shade. I'd used it on a few minis I'd done detailed base coats on, but just couldn't seem to finish. You know, those minis that get 80% done and just sit there as you mull over how to wash and drybrush it best to bring out the colors, or why you debate the color scheme again, or where you just lost interest in the finishing process and want it done. They came out well, generally, good enough for tabletop use. But I wanted to do one from scratch, deliberately going fast, to see just how easily I could paint cannon fodder type minis.

My apologies for the so-so pictures; I have a camera for snap shots and I don't have a good miniature photographing setup.

Step One: Base Coat I took an assembled and grey-primed Warhammer crossbowman out of my collection (I think he's Empire Militia) and set to work. A quick base coat of black for his armor, maroon for his pants, crimson shirt, flesh tone, burnt umber boots, leather belt, brown and steel grey for his crossbow. I used a mix of Vallejo Colors, Reaper Pro Paints, and (mostly) Apple Barrel Colors.* I did no detail work here, I just painted within the lines.

Crossbowman - Base Coat

Step Two: Dip I dipped the guy and whipped off the excess. This was much easier with a plastic model. Notice his strong gloss tone at this point.

Crossbowman - Strong Tone dipped

Step Three: Dull Cote After 24 hours of drying, I took him outside and hit him with my Testors Model Master Dullcote. My next experiment will use cheap clear coat, but for now I went with the "good stuff" as I was also sealing another mini that wasn't part of the experiment.

As you can (probably) see, the shine is gone completely. He's sealed nicely, he's got a dark tone and looks battlefield worn, and the details on the minis are revealed not obscured. He's ready for flocking if I choose to, or I'll just touch up his base with some "flagstone" looking patterns, and he's ready for the tabletop.

Crossbowman - Dull Coat

Pros: This stuff works as advertised. Dip, whip, and dry. Then dull coat and you're good to go, with a tabletop quality mini.

The minis are easily dulled back down, and despite the heavy coating if you dull coat and then do touch-up painting, the new layer sticks. I've put silver edging on swords and brightened up gemstones post-dull coat and it worked just fine.

The stuff is also consistent. It mixes easily, stays well, and you can get identical quality results from batch to batch. No worries on the difficulty of maintaining identical results that can come with DIY mixing.


The stuff is expensive - I got my for less than 15% below list and it still cost me about $26 for a small can. It'll last a while but DIY painters who are willing to mix their own Magic Wash or vanish can save a lot of money. I've done that in the past but mine always dries up, I can't keep the mix consistent from batch to batch, and I have issues storing it. So I'm willing to plunk down extra money for the convenience and consistency of the Army Painter Quick shade but it's not cheap.

This stuff isn't for display figures, and I wouldn't use it for that. I just need strongly chip-resistant minis that look good on the tabletop. This is not to say you can't get pretty minis, just that it's not designed for "pretty" but for "fast and effective."

It stinks, and it's varnish. Get it on your hands and you better have some canola oil handy to clean up. Either way, it stains things, it's sticky, and the fumes are nasty.

The dip-grip-and-rip technique works best for 28mm plastics and gets less and less safe the larger and heavier the mini gets. Even gripping the base of a Copplestone ogre with strong pliers and a good solid grip, I was worried something would give and the mini would spike into the dirt like my first test mini did. It's a simple matter of physics, I think - the larger the mini, the more stress it undergoes at that sudden stop at the bottom that whips the paint off. For larger minis, I highly recommend you do the brush-on (or at least dip-and-brush-off) method described on the Army Painter website.

Overall: That's a lot of cons, against one real pro - it works. If you need to make tabletop minis, you don't have a lot of time for (or just not a lot of interest in) extensive detail work, and you want some damage resistance, this is a good tool. If you're painting for the display case, skip it.

* (And just as a total aside, most of my Citadel paints and Reaper Pro Paints died hard after sitting unused in my desk drawers for a few years. But 100% of my Vallejo paints and all but one metallic Apple Barrel color survived. Heck, my Ral Partha paints survived.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Who runs the hirelings?

When players hire help, who runs the help?

The GURPS standard for allies, summoned creatures, etc. is that the GM runs them. I take a different approach. In my games, I generally let my players run their direct hirelings and henchmen, and any mindless servitors (undead, usually). I'll run major NPCs, strange summoned creatures, and take over any NPCs if they get misused.

Generally I do this because I've got enough to do as a GM. Also, I want the players to be responsible for anything good or bad that happens to their hired help. They get the credit if it goes well, they can't look elsewhere if it goes poorly. Like their PCs, it's all on them. Plus it helps make truly independent types stand out more - you order your spear carriers around but you need to negotiate with the barbarian NPC who joined up for the expedition.

Looking back at AD&D, I don't see much discussion of who plays the NPCs. I checked the 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide, and it doesn't specify. It seems to assume you negotiate with NPCs to hire them, but it doesn't have much about ordering them, moving them around on the map, deciding on actions, etc.

In my AD&D days, hirelings and henchmen were really rare. We either had a lot of players and didn't need them, or a few players with multiple PCs. The one guy with hirelings was my friend's Unearthed Arcana-era paladin, who had a bunch of followers. I can't tell you now who ran them. Probably him with my input, but I'm not sure.

I threw up a poll on the side - how do you guys do it in your games?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Quick Post Apoc to Fantasy conversion

The critters of a science-fantasy post-apocalypse game tend to be very fantasy-creature-like, but with a twist that one just doesn't find in low-tech fantasy.

Here is a quick-and-dirty guide to conversion.

Post-Apoc <-> Fantasy
Shoots Electricity from its Eyes <-> Breathes Electicity
Breathes Radiation or Breathes Plasma <-> Breathes Fire or Breathes Cold (depending on climate)
Breathes Toxins <-> Breathes Toxins (no change)
Eye Lasers <-> Death Gaze
Paralyzing Beams <-> Petrifying Gaze
Sonic Beams <-> Death-causing Wail
Turns Metal to Rubber <-> Rusts Metal or Disenchants
Controls Robots <-> Charm power or necromantic spells
Death Touch <-> Death Touch or Level Drain
Immune to Radiation <-> Magic Resistant
Immune to Poison <-> Same
Radioactive Aura <-> Damage Aura
High Tech abilities <-> Well-armed and equipped

It's a bit tongue in cheek but it should work most of the time. A medusa would be a snake-headed woman with paralyzing rays in, say, Gamma World, while a hoop would have either a disenchanting or rusting touch in AD&D. A GURPS Eye of Death would shoot laser beams or super-science death rays in a Thundarr inspired setting. A dragon in fantasy is basically Godzilla in post-apoc. You can pretty much grab any monster book and convert quickly back and forth. You don't need a whole lot of rule work, either - a 5d burning attack from eye beams can be 5d electrical breath. Or keep the damage, etc. the same and just change the special effects.

Have fun with this!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchmen TOC

Over on the SJG forums, Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch (GURPS Line editor and DF15 co-author) posted the table of contents for the book in this thread.

You can check it out here:
DF 15 Table of Contents

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cumulative Wandering Monsters, or, Dogpiling

Over on Dreams in the Lichhouse there is a discussion of time-spaced wandering monster encounters turning into massacres. In other words, wandering monsters (and wilderness wandering monsters in general) show up far enough apart that players can safely expend the maximum amount of resources to blow the encounter away and then rest back up to full strength.

There are a fair number of ways to address this - time constraints, limitations on resources (example: AD&D spell components), multi-part encounters (the monsters are scouts for a larger follow-on group, the dragons are a hunting pair and the other will come rushing, the bandits are camping and waiting for their buddies to come back from hunting, etc.), and so on.

Another is to introduce the idea of one encounter attracting other encounters. I've done this before and it's not any special idea of mine. But I realized I could use some specific rules for it for GURPS. These haven't been playtested yet, so consider them an idea not an endorsement or or a finished product.

Simple Method Whenever a monster is encountered (set or wandering), roll for wandering monsters at the the standard level for the area. Roll another die - 1-2, the monsters show up during the fight, 3-4 soon after (1d x 1d seconds), 5-6 well after (1d x 1d minutes). Add +1 for wilderness encounters.

In any case, either use your wandering encounter table or have a nearby monster come investigate (your choice). To decide how they react, roll a reaction roll normally for both sides, so the new monsters may either attack the PCs, the monsters, or both.

Repeat for each encounter and each group that shows up!

Detailed Method As above, but roll again at the next level down (if the area is 9 or less, roll at 6 or less). Apply the following modifiers:

-3 if the encounter is effectively silent, invisible, or otherwise difficult to detect.
-1 if the encounter is especially quiet or hard to see.
+1 for a noisy, visible, or spread-out fight.
+3 for an especially noisy, visible, or spread-out fight (or, optionally, +1 for each very nosiy/visible/large area combat event - flying creatures, explosive fireballs, screams, horn-blasts on the Horn of Valhalla, guys yelling "Bree Yark," etc.
+1 for a long fight (30+ seconds)
+2 for a very long fight (1+ minutes in GURPS)
+3 an extremely long fight (10+ minutes in GURPS)

Roll for arrive time and reactions as above.

For AD&D-ish games Add +1 to the "X in Y" roll for each increased chance of an encounter. So 1 in 12 becomes 2 in 12, 3 in 12, etc. Or you can reduce the die size for a big jump - 1 in 12 becomes 1 in 10, then 1 in 8, etc. down to 1 in 4. Roll a normal reaction for each side, using the standard encounter reaction tables. Additional monsters might attack either, both, or neither side.

Notes This seems pretty workable, and it might be fun. The simple method is pretty much implied, sans the rules for when they show up and reactions, by the standard wandering monster tables. The rest, well, extra detail can be fun for especially complex fights.

If you try this out please give me any feedback on how it worked out.

Monday, April 16, 2012

DF Game, Session 10 - Felltower

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Vryce, human knight (286 points)
Nakar, human wizard (275 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (283 points)
Fuma, human thief (252 points)
Inquisitor Marco, human cleric (273 points).

Borriz was in reserve as his player couldn't make it.

We opened the session with the PCs arriving at Stericksburg.

Long story short, the dungeons just outside of town used to a be a mountaintop fortress of some dark cult. They were put down and the place shunned until self-proclaimed Baron Felltower, Sterick the Red, arrived with his small group of followers and set himself up. He founded a small town called Sterick's Landing, which rapidly grew into Stericksburg. He rebuilt the fortress above and put up a castle called Felltower. He then declared himself independent, the King rallied his forces and attacked, and he was besieged in his castle and defeated. The city was placed as a northern garrison and the south part (away from the dungeon) was walled, and it kept its name.

The dungeon to the north is the "lonely" mountain at the point of a south-facing "V" shaped range, with forests to the west and east of it. To the west and north is wild and wooly country; to the east is semi-civilized.

The PCs spent a week there. Honus spend extra on upkeep and housed himself in a nice inn, and proceeded to find the nearest bar catering to merchant-types and hung out there being obnoxious. Vryce went drinking with some of the private guards of the city's rich and talked to the militia types that guard the city. Nakar studied magic on his own and helped sell the loot from last time, and then penned a learned treatise on the Lord of the Maze and sold it to a bookseller. He then presumably turned himself invisible (a later question in game - "Are you invisible in town, too?" "Not always.") Fuma started to pick up goblinese from a one-armed "goblin hunter" and learned Current Events to get in with the merchants' gossip. Inq. Marco's player got there late so all he did was collect his spiffy new magic staff the group found for him and presumable rest and pray.

The drinking types picked up a few rumors, including a big one - there is a big goddamn dragon living in a cave on the mountain. Hasn't been seen close up in decades, and only untrustworthy types claim to know it's alive, although from time to time a distant shape that could be the dragon is seen by hunters and wanderers. The local talked about it like people living near Mt. Fuji talk about an eruption - yeah, it did happen, and it could happen again, but nah, doesn't seem likely, don't worry.

After a week in town, the group headed out at dawn to take a shot at the dungeons. They'd all heard rumors before getting here, and while the locals don't believe there is anything left after the sack of Sterick's castle, the PCs believe.

They crossed the drawbridge that connects to a stone bridge ("Stone Bridge") to cross the putrid-brown polluted Silver River to the slums outside of Stericksburg. They paused to check out the multilingual stone commemorating Sterick's landing, and look at the statues of a mounted Baron Sterick waving his sword and axe. They hiked up the rest of the day and reached the mountain's flat summit at dusk.

They briefly surveyed the place - partly intact castle with manor house, with a lone intact tower? Check.
Ruined two-street "town" stripped down to its foundations? Check.
Burned out ruins of outlying buildings? Check.
(For those of you who have it, I'm using the map from pg. 14 of the Judge's Guild Castle Book II with 30' hexes.)

Not wanting to investigate much at dusk, they set up at the nearest ruined foundation and built up camp. They set watches and went to sleep. On the middle watch, Nakar and Fuma heard moaning coming from the ruins. They woke up the others and went to investigate. Fuma and Honus climbed the intact southeast wall (the front of the castle). Fuma hand-scaled it and lowered Honus's giant spider-silk rope to him to climb up. Nakar levitated up invisibly. Vryce and Inq. Marco clanked up slowly to the southwest wall and then clambered over a ground-level breach. Unable to see where the sounds came from, Fuma went down, tossing his light stone ahead of him and then moving into the building. He climbed up on the roof as well trying to see in to the intact part of the structure. The others spotted a set of steps going down but headed into the intact portion.

They found a nice intact room used as a camp in the past, with a flimsy door propped up on the far side blocking an exit. Vryce kicked it down and they entered another intact room with a door (clearly leading into the intact tower) - this door nailed shut with three iron spikes and with a bar on the floor near it. A ghost passed through the door and immediately attacked with a horrid moan. Inquisitor Marco turned undead, and forced it back a short way. Vryce attacked with his flaming broadsword (his backup weapon as he's a greatsword Weapon Master), and Nakar hasted Vryce. The ghost kept pointing his finger at targets and paralyzing them, Inq. Marco unparalyzed them, and Vryce attacked to no avail. Finally, after Honus was paralyzed, Inq. Marco used a Command spend and told it to Leave. He succeeded, and the ghost left and didn't come back!

They headed back to came for the night. Nothing happened beside a (non-venomous) snake slithering too close to the camp during Honus's watch, and it became part of breakfast. They then hiked up to the castle again. They checked out the stairs and saw they had a high amount of steady traffic - no dust, no big obstructions (and signs what came down through the gaps in the roof was moved aside).

The went after the tower again hoping to find the ghost's body and lay it to rest. Fuma climbed up the tower and into it, under the conical roof and then down through a trapdoor to the second floor, and then down stairs to the first. Nothing in it. He helped Honus force the door open and the explored. Nakar's See Secrets revealed a very cunningly hidden trap door in the floor. Fuma sensed danger, but couldn't find a trap. See Secrets and Nakar's vision didn't show anything hidden or magic. So Honus stuck a crowbar in . . . and got limmed with black light and took damage and suffered fatigue (that came back slowly, as if it was used for supernatural powers). They abandoned that idea.

Nakar shaped stone to move it aside, overcoming some residual magic resistance from its anti-magical lacquer coating. He scraped the flagstone aside and revealed a round metal trap door. Again, no handles. They saw it was set into stone, so they did Shape Stone again (very costly for shaping worked stone) and scraped about a foot of stone aside - and found more metal. They realized this was a "tube" of trap door tunnel down, with a doughnut shape of stone around it.

Stubbornly they headed outside, determined to dig around the stone. They went to the SE side of the tower, facing the gate, and began to dig outside. Shape Earth move the earth aside and found a layer of stones placed as foundation reinforcement. That was quickly shaped aside to reveal a smooth layer of worked stone with -10 magic resistance on it. That badly reduced Nakar's skill, so he climbed down into the hole to cast while touching it. He kept failing, but tried again and again until . . . 17. Critical failure. He was stunned mentally by his failure, and the ground shook a little. The hole collapsed on top of him. Seconds later, Honus heard a creak and Fuma's Danger Sense warned him that the tower was a problem. More creaks, as Nakar recovered enough to shape himself an air hole. The tower creaked and started to shift towards the hole. The group scattered, except poor Nakar in his hole.


The tower fell to the SE, burying the trap door, Nakar in his hole, and the ground up to the gatehouse. The gatehouse was blocked with falling rubble, and so was the trap door. Dust mushroom clouded up.

Nakar dug himself free by tunneling into the earth and out from under the rubble and then letting it crash free once his spell ended. He was battered but alive. The group just laughed, joked about the tower counting as a kill, and decided to rest up and recover a bit. Then they took the "quitter's way" and went down the stairs into the dungeon.


They entered a big entrance room clearly designed as a deathtrap for invaders. See the map below:

Smoothed walls with no cover, a 20' wide 30' deep smooth-sided pit, two rooms full of arrow slits, a heavy central portcullis in front of evil-looking double doors, a portcullis on each side of a short tunnel leading to a metal-sheeted ironbound magically-resistant door that could be double-locked and double-barred from the other side and which lacks any latch, ring, or handle. The right-side portcullis was up, propped up with a sturdy 6' piece of wood.

The group checked the pit carefully - glistening wetness at spots in the bottom, but their lights revealed only some trash and bits of grue and piles of stuff. It stank of rotten flesh, urine, and feces. Vryce kicked dust and dirt over the pit to see if there was an invisible bridge (nope) while Nakar levitated himself and Fuma over to scout out the other side. They checked for traps, peered into the arrow slits (and confirmed the rooms were accessible only from stone trap doors), and put a grapnel onto the portcullis to string their rope across (which they did, tying it to an iron spike driven noisily into the floor).

Discussions started about how to get everyone across - three of the party are iffy climbers, but two (Vryce and Honus) and really heavy and so expensive to levitate, as Nakar kept pointing out. That led to this exchange, about how the inhabitants come and go:

Nakar: "How do they get across?"
Inq. Marco: "They probably have a mage who levitates them without fucking complaining all the time!"

The Good God clearly does not frown upon frank and forthright use of adverbs.

In the end all but Honus were levitated across, and thanks to the racket and the time it took, a Wandering Monster appeared. A yard-long centipede shot out from one of the "pillboxes" and ran straight at the rope Honus was hanging from. Vryce sliced at it but it dodged and ran across the rope. Honus said he'd kick at it but then retracted that when he heard the penalties.* It bit at his hand and he yanked it away, managing to hang on the rope at the same time. It ran to a corner near the stairs and hid.

They investigated the portcullises and doors, and then lifted the left one - Honus and Vryce combined to lift it, but there was no latch or lock. They held it up as Fuma checked the door (described above). They decided to check the next one. It was the same, so they decided to force it.

They got passed and saw the door could be locked and barred, but there were no bars. There was some discussion about smashing the locks to ensure they couldn't be locked again, but only discussion. They went past the arrow slits to the next (somewhat less fortified) door and forced it open with a crowbar. They entered a small room with three doors, and in which every sound they made echoed clearly around. They couldn't pick out any architectural or magical difference in the room, however.

From there they found rooms and corridors, mostly empty but clearly used. Dirty, occasionally stinky, sometimes mildewy or damp, sometimes dry, but empty. They kept to their "to the right" approach. They moved carefully (if a bit loudly) and found a whole lot of nothing - a secret door that led from a back corridor to a room (See Secrets spotted it easily, but the mechanism was hard to figure out), some assorted broken stuff and rags, and only a few interesting encounters. They heard noises (door slamming, metal-on-metal clang, some odd echos), smelled rot and urine and feces (hey, stuff lives here), and not much else. They fought three big spiders (18" body, 1 yard across with legs) and killed them easily, found a dead goblin with three arrows in him being eaten by rats (they killed a rat and drove the rest off) and found a damp, water-beaded door.

The door was watertight and Fuma's danger sense warned them off pulling it open. Later, they'd find a room with a suspiciously smooth wall on one side that Nakar said was magically shaped into place. It was very thin, so Inq. Marco smashed a hole in the wall - and water fountained out. He kept smashing, confident they were on the far side of the "water door." They were, and then spent some time trying to figure out why someone would cut a room in half with a stone wall and fill it with water. The outflow did put puddles everywhere and soak the party, but did no other harm. They could detect no source of the water. Fuma commented "This is a very obscure room." Yeah, odd, isn't it?

The only fight of the night after this was when the group, clearly tired and frustrated, bashed a door open without any preliminaries like listening at the door or whatever. Luckily for Honus he stated he'd have his shield and flail ready and boot it, because six arrows flew out. Two got past his defenses and one wounded him thanks to an armor-piercing tip. They recovered from partial surprise as six hobgoblins attacked. They rushed in and dealt with them quickly. Honus slammed one down and killed his friends, Fuma shot one in the face (max damage again, just like his first face shot on a hobgoblin last session), and Vryce waded in and killed two as well. The slammed one got up and attacked, but Honus blocked his axe, smashed his punching arm, and then took his weapon away. They partly healed the prisoner and Fuma used his broken goblin to tell him he's now their guide, or he's dead. He agreed to guide them.

Here they are, fighting my Hobgoblin Ale bottlecap hobgoblins:

Sadly the hobgoblins lived here, and were dead broke aside from their weapons. The PCs took those and returned to the surface thanks to their map (drawn in-game by Nakar, out of game by first Fuma's player and then Honus's). It was getting late in the real world.

We stopped there, with them on the surface in the afternoon, in camp. They chuckled at the idea of bringing their hobgoblin (they named him Friday) to town, but they haven't decided yet if they will or not. They want to interrogate him, and we'll see how that goes.

The expedition ended up with a net loss - they found all of a handful of copper pieces and some broken junk - but they did manage to somehow traverse a good portion of the megadungeon without encounter more than some wandering vermin and fighting some dead broke hobgoblins. They did end up with a prisoner, though, and a pretty good map, and some idea of what's in store for them.


* I let that slide this time, but I'm not going to in the future. "I'm going to do this crazy hard thing" "Okay, it's really hard, roll at minus something awful" "Oh, too hard, I don't do it." Ugh, I hate that. Next time I'm just going to say "Roll" and reveal the penalties after.

- so my megadungeon gets its first taste of exploration. I feel bad it was kind of lame and profitless, but all "we quit and make druids and don't come back here" jokes aside, my players seemed to have fun and seem convinced there is cool stuff down there.

- I need to work on my explanations of rooms and directions so the mapper has some idea what the hell I'm talking about.

- GURPS earth mages can make a mockery of dungeon walls. Or any walls. So I've usually resorted to anti-magical protections and careful design to ensure that Shape Stone doesn't become the way around any complex obstacle. Why build a wall if some mage can shape a hole in it? Some GMs might see this as nerfing, but I don't at all. If a mage can easily tunnel holes in fortifications, expensive anti-magical protections are critical. I just assume they are readily available albeit expensive. Whoever built this place didn't create fortifications you could shape a hole in with no problems - they built it with layered defenses designed to slow or stop a mage while the defenders worked on killing him. It's not always possible to make it impossible, but it can be made hard, so if something is valuable it'll be protected appropriately.

That said it is sometimes tiring as a GM to watch my players desperately try to avoid the direct way to do something in favor of brute magical force applied over and over again. It does work sometimes so I don't blame them for trying. But it does mean if you convert AD&D adventures, be very aware wizards in GURPS can start with dungeon-warping spells and (outside of DF) they can easily start with Teleport. And Nakar swears he's learning Shape Metal, next, so I need to check and see if it's available. Expert more magical solutions to things like "walls" and "floors" soon.

- Based on my XP system, this is a 3 point session since they failed to make a profit (-1) and didn't find anything of real significance (-1), but all survived (-0) and made it back out (base 5, so net 3).

- we started charging only a week's upkeep between sessions, no matter how long the actual gap is. You're assumed to somehow earn 150sp each week, but you can't use that week for other time-consuming things. If you want to rest, relax, learn things, do research, etc. you need to pay upkeep.

- we're trying a new rule out that'll give you benefits for dramatically overspending on upkeep - living it up to gain bonuses. Honus took advantage immediately.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Matte Finish & Army Painter

So yesterday I dipped a pair of minis in my Army Painter varnish.

The Grenadier hireling came out great. I did a very poor splash-and-drip paint job on him, and after the dip he looked really good. Like I did a much better job on him and a really even magic wash/blackwash. I sprayed him with Testor's Model Master Lacquer Overcoat #1960 Lusterless (Flat). It completely removed the shine, but the mini is just as hard-coated and well-colored as before.

I'm not sure I'd use this minis I want to look extra-sharp or which have very delicate detail painting. But most of my minis need a hard coat (I usually gloss-coat them and then flat-coat them), are just "tabletop" quality (more a limit of my skills than my intention), and aren't particularly well washed. So this is good stuff.

I'll queue up some plastics next and see how they do.

The ogre that I flung into the ground, well, he's doing okay. The bits of plant grue I couldn't get off is varnished on and it's there to stay barring a re-paint, which isn't going to happen. I'll re-base him and matte spray him later.

(I tried to take a picture but my camera isn't so good for minis detail, so it didn't come out well enough to post).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Army Painter 1, AD&D minis Ogre 0

So I got a pot of Army Painter dip

I did the dip-and-rip method in this video:

My Grenadier hireling did okay - he's looking pretty good after the dip. He was a test run - I knew the mini was just primed, quickly base-coated and didn't have a lot of detail work to worry about. Plus he's lead and old, so I wanted him sealed tight and strong to stand up to table use.

My old AD&D Minis ogre - well, not so well. The base he was on cracked under the force of my third or fourth swing and broke off and slipped out of the pliers. He hit the ground, bounced, and ended up in a pile of dirt, fluff, fuzz, and bits of flower petals. Ugh.

I took it upstairs and washed it off as best I could, but the varnish set well enough that a little dirt clung to it, but not enough for a good, rich wash. Oh well. We'll see how it comes out when it dries. It's not a favorite mini (I'm not experimenting on my favorites) but I'd tell you to lock the pliers onto the integral base of a mini, not the glued-on base. Next time I'll spread a wide cloth, just in case.

I hope this works as advertised - if so, my next minis will be some Warhammer plastics and some old RAFM lead I'd like to have table-ready.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

OGRE Designer's Edition

At long last, the giant mega-game version of the Microgames/SJG classic Ogre is coming out.

Ogre Designer's Edition

The Kickstarter for this massive game is already fully funded, so just go choose what you want and back it already.

I remember first seeing this game in the little basement gaming shop in the Bergen Mall. One unit versus an array of enemies? Oh, we have to get that . . . it took a while, but I did.

Now I've got the pocket box version, GEV, Shockwave, Ogre Miniatures, The Ogre Book (my second copy, someone absconded with my first copy), Battlesuit (the pocket box individual infantryman game), at least one of every single Ogre Miniatures boxed set, Deluxe Ogre, Deluxe GEV . . . and I'm going to get this eventually, too.

Now I just need opponents!

Recent Aquisitions

My recent acquisitions, via eBay,, e23, my FLGS, and Jerry's.

You'll have to imagine the copy of GURPS Power-Ups 4 I bought, since I left my printout of it at work, sigh. It's good though.

I recently had to refer to my copy of D1-2 to check something and it was pretty tattered and battered. So I decided to, what the hell, get the monochrome originals. So I did. I got Bone Hill because for some reason my cousin's copy disappeared between his ceasing to game and his mom asking me to come clear out his stuff if I wanted it. Plus, it was cheap, cheap, cheap.

I finally broke down and got some painting supplies: I got a container of Army Painter Quickshade (Strong Tone) to try out, and I decided that my long-battered W&N Series 7 size 0 needed replacement. It's just old, and I tend to paint with one brush for an entire session so that brush has seen immense usage in the 7 or 8 years (at least) I've owned it. I got a 0 and a 00. I'm a crappy painter and I use cheap paints (craft store acrylics, mostly, plus specialty game colors) but it's worth the cost - one brush that lasts 7-8 years is better than replacing $1 cheap brushes every 6 months.

And does GW not make inks anymore? None of the game stores I went to had them, and this kills my painting methods for skeletons:

Step 1: Prime White.

Step 2: Cover with Chestnut Ink

Step 3: Dry brush white and ivory on the bone.

Step 4: Paint equipment and/or eyes.

Step 5: Seal.

Now what the hell do I do? I hope the quickshade works to replace step 2 (I'd do steps 1, 3, 4, 2, 5)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

GURPS tools I like: Gemstone and Spice generators

I've been stocking my megadungeon with monsters, and now I'm filling in treasures.

A couple tools have really come in handy:

Collective_Restraint's Spice Generator and Gemstone Generator.

Both are automated versions of the tables from Dungeon Fantasy 8: Treasure Tables.

I've been using them a lot and they really speed up the process of making treasure. I just need ones for, well, everything else in the book. I'd really love a whole series of tools like that based on DF8, or even a giant horde generator. DF8 is chock full of good stuff but you do end up page-flipping a lot making up treasure. That's cool when you're doing a special item or five but not when you're making up bunches and don't actually care much about the basic contents.

My one suggestion (also sent to C_R) is that it would be handy if I could click the sizing buttons afterward, so I could, say, roll up a spice and decide it's not enough, I want 2x as much, without having to hand-figure it. For spices that's easy, but for gemstones (which are valued based on a formula that weights larger stones' values) it's far from trivial.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Minis vs. Monster Manuals

"When a man with a .45 meets a man with a rifle, the man with a pistol is a dead man."
- Ramon Rojo, "A Fistful of Dollars"

Ramon might have been a wee bit mistaken, being that the man with the .45 was Joe aka The Man With No Name. But for miniatures and monster manuals, I feel like the monster manuals are the man with the pistol and no clever tactic for dealing with the rifle.

When the miniature I plunk down on the table the monster manual description clash, the miniature wins.

A picture is worth a thousand words and a three-dimensional sculpture plunked down in front of your players is worth any ten pictures.

I find my players are willing to forgive minor differences - "all of these skeletons have cleaver-like swords instead of the axes and scimitars on the minis." They accept that somethings I want orcs with crossbows but I don't have an unlimited budget to go buy orcs with crossbows. Whenever possible, I try to match up descriptions and equipment and all of that with my minis but it's not always possible.

But not bigger, morphological differences, like "this minotaur is actually much smaller than this" or "this giant worm doesn't have teeth like the mini does" or "this grey dude with an axe is actually a blue dude with twin scimitars." It seems to undercut the suspension of belief too much. I'm much better off putting down a generic counter.

As a result, I spend a fair amount of time converting minis to GURPS, rather than the monsters the minis are meant to represent into GURPS. I'd rather match the sculpture than the book, for the impact of saying "this is exactly what you see. Give me an initiative roll. I recommend rolling high."

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mad Hasted Hill Giant

Steve Winter over at The Howling Tower posted an article on Kobold Quarterly about random encounters.

He had what might have just been a throwaway line, but which I found completely awesome:
"The tumbling dice might steer characters toward a few drunken bandits loaded with loot, or put them in the path of a rampaging hill giant driven mad by a permanent haste spell."

So, here is that Hill Giant encounter, first in AD&D terms (to honor the D&D terms used in the article) and in GURPS terms, using my own stats.

The Hasted Hill Giant.

Teves the giant has been cursed by a wizard with a permanent (AD&D: Haste; GURPS: Great Haste) spell. Living life in double time has snapped the giant's mind, and he has been rampaging around the countryside ever since. He's ravenously hungry, and quite dangerous. He'll take full advantage of his haste despite his madness, and will use ranged attacks (throwing rocks) and hit-and-run tactics whenever possible.

The giant appears a bit blurred at all times, but once slain he'll clearly be prematurely aged.

His lair is many miles away, and he's been tracking all over in his attempts to find food during the past few weeks. Tracking will be extremely difficult (AD&D: only a 10% chance, GURPS: Tracking -10) because of intervening precipitation and the length of time. Using magic to communicate with him after death may work, and he can relate his story of annoying a wizard and reveal his lair - although he only speaks Giantish and Ogre.

He carries a giant-sized club, a bag with a few rocks to throw, and some treasure (AD&D: 5,000 gp. GURPS: $5,000 in assorted gold, silver, and copper coins).

AD&D Stats: Teves the Hill Giant (AC 4, Move 24"*, HD 8+1-2, HP 37, AT 2*, Dmg 2-16/2-16, S: Rock 20" for 2-16, Catch 30%, AL: CE, Size: L)

* due to Haste

GURPS Stats: Teves the Hill Giant
ST 28 HP 28 Speed 6.00
11 Per 11 Move 6/12
9 Will 9
13 FP 13 SM +2
9 Parry 9 DR 3 (see notes)

Giant-Sized Club (13): 5d+4 crushing, Reach 1-3.
Punch (13): 3d+2 crushing, Reach 1-3.
Thrown Rock (13): 3d+2 crushing, Range 16 (for a roughly 100 pound rock) or 3d-4 crushing, Range 33 (for a roughly 40 pound stone).

Traits: Acute Taste/Smell 3 (Per 14 for taste/smell); Altered Time Rate 1 (Magic); Bad Temper (12); Enhanced Move (Ground) 1; High Pain Threshold; Intolerance (everyone); Stubbornness.
Skills: Axe/Mace-13; Brawling-13; Stealth-10; Throwing-13.
Class: Mundane

Notes: Altered Time Rate is from a permanent Great Haste spell - if it's somehow removed (Dispel Magic or Counterspell won't cut it, Remove Curse or Remove Enchantment might), he immediately suffers from 5 FP loss. DR is from Tough Skin (DR 2) and hides (DR 1). Insane; will not negotiate.

The GURPS stats are roughly based on the giants from GURPS Fantasy Folk, 3e, and ones I've used for my own games, modified for him being a warrior-type. I don't normally convert treasure on a 1 AD&D gp to 1 GURPS $ basis, but for simplicity I did so here - it does make him a fairly rich haul in GURPS.
And yeah, I rolled my one d8 eight times for his HP.

His lair? Well, if you find it, he's potentially got class D treasure there . . .

Review: The Wilderness Alphabet

The Wilderness Alphabet
By James Pacek
64 pages (6" x 9")

The Wilderness Alphabet, written by the author/blogger James Pacek. It's thematically a twin to Michael Curtis's The Dungeon Alphabet (reviewed by me here - it's an alphabetical list of entries, A-Z, all outdoor themes, each at least one table of random entries. Flip to the letter ("G is for Graveyard," for example or "M is for Mountain") and roll on the table for details about this particular graveyard or mountain.

Some of the letter choices are non-obvious, to ensure a 26-entry, one-entry-per-letter theme. Random rivers? Under "Y is for Yangtze." Random trees? Under "K is for Krokus." Others are more obvious ("O is for Obelisk" and "R is for Ruins and Residences.") Most of them are very cool, even if the names are a stretch.

The entries each get at least one table, and some get introductory text. Most do not. Some of the text is pretty campaign specific for the author's own game, while others are pretty generic. Otherwise the tables provide the meat of the information. I found the lack of text a bit unhelpful - I want at least a short discussion of why Hills are inherently interesting, or selling me on why I'd roll on the waterfall table. Sure, I can look at the tables themselves, but intro text really does help me decide if I want to or not.

Some of the table entries are a bit mixed. For example, for lakes, you might get "The lake is a swirly mass of dark water." Okay, so what? That's kind of weak, especially when it's on the same table with an entry that has the lake frozen over year round, regardless of weather, or a filled with magical fish. That I can work with. Dark water? Sure, we purify it magically or just ignore it and move on. If I'm rolling on a table for something, I'm not asking "Is it interesting or not?" but rather "How interesting is this thing?" I've already decided I want it to be unusual, so the more bland entries seem like filler to me. If the entry makes me want to say "This, plus roll again" or just "roll again" it's a bit of a turn-off.

My question with this book is - when do I use these tables? Some of them are really immediate (quick graveyard layouts, coming up on a festival and the activities therein, things flying by) while others require a vast amount of prep (a gate to another world, a flying castle flies by) or would have real impacts on the surrounding area (a river that turns to beer or wine part of the year, that frozen lake). Some of them are "thank goodness I have a table for that" (like the graveyard one) and others are more like idea factories for adventures. While I respect that mix, it's hard to tell which table is which, so by default that means I'll only dig them out when I have plenty of time to prepare, to generate some ideas. I'd contrast it with The Dungeon Alphabet, which has a lot more of "I have this lever, what should it do?" and "I need a book title now!" and "Fill this room, quick!" kind of tables. It seems more useful for filling hexes in a wilderness hexcrawl long before the players get close enough to hear about the contents. I get the impression that it's mainly meant for this kind of stocking of hexes, which makes it a very different tool than The Dungeon Alphabet. Not a bad tool, but because so many entries seem to demand more detail or more thought ahead of time you'll probably want to use it earlier in the process. But then if you do, the mix of fairly mundane and quite exotic stuff means you've really got to be open to a given hex being pretty mundane or a gateway to something exotic. That's going to be fine for some users but not all of them.

I like the book, but I wanted to like it more. It's great idea-factory but I'm not sure how often I'll pull it off my shelf.

How is it for GURPS?

It's system-neutral, so as long as you're running an outdoor fantasy game in a "standard" fantasy world, you're fine. Nothing in here is level specific, although a few things specify classes - you could use Dungeon Fantasy templates, here, or just ignore that. Change the very occasional "Clerics only" to "Only people with Clerical Investment" or "Fighters only" to "Only obvious warriors" and it'll work fine.


3 out of 5. The charts are well written, the pieces are interesting, but the lack of general discussions of the topic and the mix of mundane and very exotic entries makes it a difficult tool to just pick up and use on the fly
Presentation: 3 out of 5. The book is well written, and the art and backgrounds are attractive. But I found the typeface hard to read quickly, especially the italicized Question campaign notes, and the backgrounds and page shading often made reading much harder. This is partly made up for by the quality of the writing but it makes the book harder to use.

Overall: Wilderness Alphabet is pretty good. It's a nice idea factory for a fantasy game, although it's both a bit more gonzo and a bit more campaign specific than The Dungeon Alphabet. It's also a bit more spare in its descriptions. It really feels like it's meant to be coupled with a hex-map of a world full of strangeness, and it's very clearly the result of a long and interesting campaign. That's both good and bad - you'll need to either re-roll, modify, or ignore a lot of results if you've got a different game flavor.
Bits of it - like the graveyard generator sub-tables and most of the bonus tables - are really great - but the title stuff is more idea generator than "I need it now." Still a good tool, but it feels more specialized and yet more generalized than its dungeon equivalent.
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