Saturday, 21 September 2013

10mm Naps & 15mm Sci-Fi

I painted some stuff.

Firstly, I dragged the 10mm Redline Miniatures Napoleonics out of the lead pile and finished some more of them. Despite the fact they look excellent, I'm never going to play wargames with them, so they went on eBay.

Underneath them in the pile were some 15mm GZG USNC Hardsuit Marines of the space man variety. Fellow geek Pete had bought them for me a while back (at Triples I think) as he's intent on playing Laserburn with the damn things.

As everyone of my age knows, real space soldiers don't wear camo - they wear grubby orange environment suits, and their armour always looks like glossy white plastic. Jim Burns is primarily to blame for this.

After this photo I gloss varnished the white bits. Despite being a quick and dirty paint job, I'm very happy with how they've come out. Eagle-eyed readers will note I went for the truly old school effect of using PVA and sand on the bases, with the obligatory contraction showing the outline of the figure's base on some of them.

Also on the bench are three SLM Hedgehog spear teams, and some Conquest metal Norman command - of which the horses are near enough complete.

More soon, especially since I'm now looking for a suitable grav tank for the space soldiers.

Friday, 5 April 2013

D&D Map in Gimp

I made a pretty.

Couple of hours in The Gimp, using the tutorial from the link in previous post. Quite chuffed with myself, first time I've ever done anything like this in Gimp or Photoshop.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Getting the best from Basic D&D

We partook of more Basic D&D last night. I'd managed to successfully divert the party from the task of finishing the Caverns of Quasqueton (Module B1) whilst they were resting in the nearest town of Westwald with the timely arrival of merchants for market day, one of whom had narrowly escaped an orc ambush on the road up.

They took the bait, and offered their services as escort for the returning caravan. This gave me lots of scope to really stretch the different roleplaying required with Basic (compared with the local staple of 4ed.)

For example, as the day wore on, one of the NPCs in the party had vanished into the forest next to the road, and I kept getting the dwarf to make Constitution rolls against falling asleep in the warm afternoon sun. The players missed the point of this, however, they picked up the far-off wolf howls when calling out for the NPC.

After a while, after much hinting, one of the party remembered the seemingly inconsequential telescope they'd bought in Westwald. The Cleric jumped onto the back of the wagon, and promptly failed an intelligence test to use it. He decided to go ask the NPC Wizard - in another wagon with the NPC Thief - only to discover they'd nodded off in the afternoon heat (it was the crash of the collective penny dropping regards the Cons rolls for the dwarf which woke them). Wizard, once woken, spots a large wolf pack some way off.

The wolf pack, when it attacked just after dark, also gave me more 'BD&D is better' ammo; the Cleric, on his own, saw two wolves break off from the shadowing pack and streak in towards him. Needing to describe his actions - rather than just pull out a daily power and roll a gazillion dice - he stalled by asking how far away they were;

"250 feet and closing fast"
"200 feet"
"I'll, erm, err"
"150 feet"
"Throw my torch at them" (rolls a 13)
"The torch goes 30 feet... 100 feet and closing"
"Right, I'll, erm"
"I'll quickly..."
"Too late, roll for initiative"

Great fun as DM, really puts the players under pressure to think fast. So much more refreshing than simply presiding over a sequence of players calling out which special power they want to use.

After the session, some puffing of cheeks with "wow, that was tough" was interesting - it wasn't, they defeated a dozen wolves and a dire wolf in dribs and drabs without too much effort. But being put under pressure to think fast, think clearly, and act decisively is mentally exhausting if previously you've had plenty of time to do things.

The other cool bit was the realisation that only the failed Int check to use the telescope had made them discover the sleeping Wizard and Thief, otherwise they'd have faced a wolfpack with only a dwarf, a cleric, and an NPC fighter.

Now I just need to think how the inevitable Orc ambush is going to unfold, and how I can challenge the players in a similar fashion. 

Tuesday, 2 April 2013


One thing I've always loved about BD&D was the classic style of overland mapping - mostly usually seen on a hex grid. Vast dragon infested snow capped mountain ranges intersecting kingdoms, huge forests stuffed full of goblins, and endless windblown steppes with implausibly sited ancient fastnesses of evil wizards.

Just the thing I want for my BD&D campaign, and just the sort of thing you can apparently make with Fractal Terrains software. However, I'm stuffed if I'm going to throw £70 at some (admittedly impressive) cartography software, and even if I would, I can't because I'm a Linux house and therefore incompatible with 94% of the world. (Anyone mentions WINE they're to go and sit at the back of the class)

I have The Gimp (open source photoshop alike), and with a bit of Google-fu, I found this;

Clickable Goodness

I've never bothered learning how to use Gimp properly, but 45 minutes of mucking around on my little Samsung NC10 netbook yielded this;
Tomorrow I'll go again on the bigger 15" notebook (also Linux, before you ask) and get stuck into it properly.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

You start at the Inn...

Gygax and Elmore. Two great uncredited influences on my life. I really started wargaming with roleplaying at primary school, aged 9 in 1985 (if I recall). Red Box rules - aka BD&D, Elmore artwork, crappy dice with a white crayon, and an excellent DM who went onto to a professor of pure mathematics at Cambridge.

Nothing else needs to be said except that I played 4e recently, but didn't like it; too much like WoW or Skyrim for those terminally short of internet connection. Too much combat, too much dice, nowhere near enough roleplaying.

Recently chatting to one of the original primary school RPG group on Facebook, and we decided to invest some time with Roll20 online gaming and take a trip down memory lane. This led me taking my original 1983 rules round to another mate's place on Friday evening. He too started with BD&D, so we could roll up some characters.

He's going through rather a tough time at the moment, so once he'd rolled up a cleric (his favourite character type whatever system we're RPGing) I somewhat spontaneously decided to keep him distracted for the evening by pulling up an original TSR module from the netbook's hard drive and have an adventure with his cleric and my new halfling (played as an NPC).

Despite me not having DM'd in any capacity for a quarter of a century, and not having prepped even a little bit, we had a blast for 2.5hrs of fire beetles, a couple of troglodytes, and a smattering of kobolds.

So Saturday evening we reconvened and carried on, only this time skyping in another of the regular gaming group (a BD&D virgin, but well versed in 3.5 and 4e) for further dungeon bashing.

I relearnt a lot of things about being dungeon master;
1) The players will always do exactly the opposite of what you've planned for
2) come prepared with a list of names for the various NPCs they bump into along the way
3) It's bloody good fun, arguably more enjoyable than being a player

The adventure continues!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Mass Battles with Splintered Light

The unmistakable thud of a lead filled Jiffy bag hitting the door mat resounded through the halls of Castle Tangent yesterday, heralding the arrival of 70 more of the Splintered Lands range from David McBride at Splintered Light Miniatures.

The general idea behind increasing the SL collection from 'a lot' into 'the entire catalogue' is twofold; Firstly, it gives yet more options for Song of Splintered Lands, and secondly it means we can play some mass battles using Sabot bases.

The whole mass battles thing is something I've not done for a long time (Dystopian Wars excepted), but I've been collecting rules for some time. The closest I've come to actually liking any of them is Doc McBride's (David's father) Pride of Lions. An interesting system, and shows Doc's considerable experience in pushing lead around the table.

However, it is aimed more at the 15mm fantasy crowd - using what appears to be an evolution of the HotT basing regime, with each unit having three 40mm x 40mm bases. Although basing size and regime is not important, the whole thing is prevaricated on the three-base-unit concept. This would turn an SL 20mm 'mass' battle into 'bloody enormous' battle and would need a 6x4 board to really do it justice.

So, I've set about hacking Song of Splintered Lands about to make it fit what I'm trying to achieve. Fairly easy so far; just tweaking the movement, combat, and morale engines to suit units rather than individuals. In keeping with my love of the simple, I'm trying to keep it to four pages max.

At the moment, it reads/feels like a mix of WFB, SoBH, with a sprinkling of HotT thrown in. The current bit I'm pondering is how individualism to create between unit types.

For example, should a unit of Fox Spears be different from Squirrel Spears? To create a difference big enough to drive tactical challenges requires more stat lines, which brings complexity and that slows the game.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The '80s called... they want me back.

Some things never leave your system. Mostly, prized possessions I've sold and then regretted ever after. My '86 Mercedes 190E 2.3-16 is one such example, not only because they rapidly appreciated afterwards, but because I'd utterly gelled with it; It was magnificent.

Another one of these stuck-in-the-system is my 80s Bretonnian army. I started this in 86/87 I think, around WFB 3.ed, and slowly added bits to it until it numbered over 100 miniatures (not an inconsiderably amount of lead when you're 10 years old). It was all Perry, mostly C26 and slightly later. In the end I sold it, for about £20 if recall correctly, sometime around 93.

Anyway, recently I've noticed something fad/trend called Oldhammer seeping into the blogsphere. This, seemingly orchestrated in concert with the Ansells, seems to involve friendly non-tourney tournaments (at Foundry) using 3.ed rules, and whatever miniatures you fancy, as long as they feel and look 80s.

I'm unlikely to ever go to Nottingham for anything, least of all wargaming, but it has turned the nagging thought of getting another classic Bretonnian army built into a fully fledged wading-through-websites-and-putting-things-in-baskets type affair.

Whilst eBay is full of massively overpriced original Bretonnians, fortunately Brian Ansell made off with the moulds for 90% of the range when he left GW... so they're all available at Foundry. Then there's the current Perry HYW range, which is very much in keeping (and hopefully size) to their 80s work.

More soon.