Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Grognards and dragons

I could not help myself- all this gibber- jabber has me on a DND bend and I dusted off my half repainted pre-painted dnd minis and after a little knifework and liquid green stuff have them based and ready for painting. I also pushed a couple of the Ral Partha official AD&D minis up the queue to sate my grognardia. Lesser golems, golems and a chimera. Great sculpts, sadly the moulds where apparently destroyed when TSR went to WOC. Shame that.

Now completely off topic in response to a skulldred rpg.

So I have to confess I am now mentally poking around with an rpg system. Once something creative gets into my head its very hard to shake. Fortunately with Skulldred beta 3.3 going into testing I have mental space and time.
The thought process so far is to make an 0ed module compatible system in terms of spells and equipment prices, but gut the core D20 system entirely in favor for a clean, easy D100 'roll under stat' system using the face value of the dice as quality rating and double digits as double strong hits (11,22,33,44 etc). Rolling exactly your target number is a critical hit, rolling 100 a critical fail.
That means no roll-modify or subtract dice from target for quality. At a glance results.
Reading dragons at dawn, Dave Arneson seemed in favor of percentile systems originally so its kinda true to spirit. Regardless of the big mans opinion though, my rpg groups really loved them- it gives you an easy to visualize odds, and modify then roll under gives immediate results the moment the dice hit the table. Great for cheering players when the halfling makes that 02% chance jump!

Weapon stats bug me- if I like maces, but axes do more damage, well I have to buy an axe. I want to fix that with having all weapons simply give a bonus to your combat chance depending on their quality.
Damage is the first digit of your quality roll (eg 35 = 3 hits), with a minimum of 1 hit caused. Double digits and a critical roll doubles hits (22 =4 hits).
Therefore better weapons equal more hits, more crits and ultimately more damage.
Casting a spell drains your mage by about 5%, so the more spells you cast the weaker your chances of casting get. Perhaps you can strike otherworldly pacts for more power. No vancian magic for me.

Hows all that sound so far?

Friday, August 17, 2012

DND 5beta reviews

So I was trawling youtube last night and reading dnd next beta reviews. I am pleased to hear most of the changes revert dnd to a more 0ed direction to most reviewers surprise. People who liked 4 ed are naturally bitching about this as a step back, and I wanted to wade in to the argument. Now, where do I have a good platform to reach hundreds of gamers... Hmm, shame I dont have one of those blog thingies... Uh... Oh, look I do!

What I hear about so far makes me feel like the name DND is being returned to the actual DND game. 4th ed is not the experience of DND really- but the hybrid child of DND skirmishes, and magic:tg trying desperately to be both world of warcraft and pokemon. As a game in itself, I am sure 4ed its great, and judging by folks comments its fun, but it is not DND. When I and a bunch of old players played 4ed we found it was very much a disjoint between the rulebook and the game we where trying to experience. It sent me scurrying to download a bunch of 0ed books.
Now it looks like DND may be returning as DND. 4e players can enjoy cheap discounted books at least.
From the sounds of it, it is similar to what I would have done, though vancian magic would be out for sure in favor of mana points.
I will wait to see if I still need to tackle a rpg system next!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dwarf raid and enamel undercoating

No time to paint anything as all my spare time has been focused of Skulldred.
I did take this pic of some of my wip warband on my new gaming table though.

My studio is smelling of turps again after an abysmal couple of days forced me to use brush on priming. I read a few blogs saying enamels make a damn tough prime, and I remember doing this in the 1980's as John Blanche said this in a couple of articles. So I tried a Humbrol black, grey and white enamel to see if it is true.
Yes. It is.
And in fact I would definitely go with the white matt enamel for priming on a wet day, and will certainly use the black to paint my washers all the time, as they are far more scratch resistant.

Plus I like the smell. It makes me happy... Weeeeeeeeee!

A few points in favor of the white enamel over an acrylic base. It runs into cracks, which is actually a good thing for priming, so long as you dont let it pool in the details and set. I used a soft brush and kept the paint by attacking the surfaces at different angles so I get a light coating. The aim I realized was not so much to get a pure even white surface, but to get a shell of tough prime to act as something for paint to adhere to. Besides, with the first coat getting into the cracks, I could use a drybrush like technique to cover the rest without getting in tge cracks on the second coat.
Second pro, it takes longer to dry, so you can work the undercoat for a while.
Third pro. Turps. Weeeeeee!
Fourth pro. A couple of bucks for a tin that lasts ages.
So why white over grey or black? Simply visibility- it was really hard to see if I got an even coat with the others. I found the black impossible to gauge.

The down side is drying time- you want six hours between coats to avoid wrinkling and they suggest 24 hours before you paint on the model- but thats for paints based on thinners - I find its okay to start with water based paints after an hour or so.
But all in all, the drying time is no biggie. I tend to undercoat a whole bunch of figures at once and have a dozen painting projects on the go so I am usually in no rush.

So how much tougher is it? Well its not bulletproof, but I used a scientific test of rubbing my thumb on the range of figures and I would say it is 'way' tougher. Thats a metric 'way', not to be confused with the old imperial 'way'.
Since I game with my figures, and have switched to washer bases, I have to toughen up my figures for handling- enamels, combined with a half dozen coats of gloss and a zap or two of dullcoat to kill the shine should do the trick.


Monday, August 6, 2012


Weeee! A big box arrived today full of confrontation minis- no, not those hideously expensive resin ones, preplastimakated dross or those 'authentic' ones from taiwan... Genuine, garlic smelling metal goodness from the deceased brilliance that was Rackham.
Whats in the box? Dwarf cannon chariots, goblin rat riders, a cyclops of mid nor, a black troll and various and sundry mid-nor and hybrid minis. Joy-joy.


Miiiiiine! See that dwarfs happy expression... Thats me, that is!

Bwa ha ha!

Bad news? They go to the bottom of my lead pile there to lurk until I finish all my half done projects. Thats cast iron will power for you. Cast IRON!
Actually its a pretty good trick- I literally put them on the bottom box of my lead pile and am usually too lazy to lift the top boxes (swollen with lead as they are) and paint something else instead. I actually have no will power whatsoever. A little smarts can use your laziness as an advantage. Heck, since I am sharing will power tips -I picked up a great tip to stop snacking off your plate at restaurants once your full- simply pick up the salt shaker and dump it over the food. Willpower is rubbish... Intellegence wins everytime.
You may have noticed the lack of Rackham minis coming through this blog, I have lots of them, but always put them into the 'enjoy later' category. This is a good thing, as not only does it give me the warm fuzzies thinking about that future project, but lets me improve my skills to really do them justice.
I personally think I have improved painting dramatically since I started this blog, though still nowhere good enough to go for Golden Demons or Crystal brushes. Knowing a couple of GD winners means I get to see what masters can do and... Yeah, definately not got the patience to get to that level.
I did recently experience one of those 'Dave has gone up a level' moments recently when painting something, I am sure you know the feeling. Considering thats my third such experience, I put myself as a fourth level demi-human painterer. Just a thousand xp till I can get my next feat 'paint eyes like Jen Haley'.
Oooh, its a sunny day..... Gotta go.... PRIMER TIME!!!!!!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Undershading, dwarves and more C01 fighters

This ones for Nils- a quick iphone snap showing undershading.

The pics go left to right.
After polishing with a copper brush I start with a light prime of tamiya grey primer, making sure all the metal is covered. I do this as soon as I get the figure so it wont deteriorate if it ends up being years before I get to the model.
After basing, next paint pass is about three or four very fine misting passes of citadel chaos black. I use a black wash for bits I miss. Chaos black is a paint, not a metal primer - so it tends to rub off when handling lead. A primer acts like a glue to anchor paint on. I like chaos blacks matt finish over tamiya matt black.
Next I overbrush using either a midnight blue or mid grey. I add white and drybrush up until I have the sort of highlights I want. Black is painted into creases I missed at this stage.
The monk shows a flat base of tallarn flesh on the skin and the first tinting pass. Ocre acrylic was thinned with a little water or windex and then made translucent by adding a fair whack of matt medium. Test the paint on some paper- it should diffuse (spread out softly) as you touch it.
Glazing (or tinting) is all about applying thin, even layers of translucent paint- therefore the amount of paint on your brush is critical. Ideally you want your brush damp, but not wet enough to leave a gathered splotch where you lift the brush. To achieve this, get some lint free paper (kitchen towel- not tissue paper) and touch your brush to it for a second or two. This will wick away most of the water, leaving a fine layer of thinned pigment and medium your bristles.
The ironic thing here is less paint on your brush equals more speed. Weird? Not really- thin layers evaporate quickly so you can apply more layers in less time. The more translucent the glaze, the more layers you need to build up.
Well thats the trick. The next thing I tend to do after color tinting is to use tints like washes to build up shadows then highlights. Once thats done, color variation can be glazed on. Hints of red for areas of skin rich in blood, yellow and white-blue for fat, grey for stubble, green for sickness, purple for evil. Blue veins can be tinted on too.
Matt medium rocks.

I found some more C01 fighters and started on them tonight. Dorian (second left) is nearly done and I am just starting the other three. I found two more in a baggie and based them up ready for a sunny day. I know I have at least three more from the range lurking in my stripping jar. I think the blue-grey-aqua theme is going to make the set look great and coherent- which is saying something because the C01 fighters are a weirdly eclectic bunch of figures. Mixes of historical armors from all over the world are thrown together willy-nilly, and you have bizarre additions like Klotilde Ironface- (front right) who appears to be a pubescent girl in a skirt wearing a hockey mask... You know, as you do.
Dorian (second left) is a case in point- he has a medieval bucket helm, greek sandles, a clown face embroidered on his loincloth, a scribbly shield with a suggested evil face, studded leader armor and a evil runic scabbard. A possible chaos warrior shifted to hero perhaps? The eclectic style reminds me of the fighters Julie Danforth illustrated for the Tunnels & Trolls boxed set- such a mish-mash of styles was typical tunnels and trolls kit out for adventurers!
What you can see is citadel in its last wave of supplying minis for the D&D craze before warhammer really took over their focus.
Oh, and I rebased these older works in progress and started touching them up. Citadel Norse Dwarves!
Its going to be nice to have a 100% painted up and completed norse dwarf warband to play Skulldred with!

Some of my big assed norse dwarf, imperial dwarf and dwarf adventurer collection.
Remember the guy up the front from Colin Dixons 'eavy metal master class?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Ivan Nozski and Sureye Kroenail

Tickled some lead with the hairy wand this merry eve. A nice sunny day meant sprays where behaving themselves and I finished these two...

Early citadel C01 fighter 'Ivan Nozski and one of Aly Morrisons Hobgoblins C36 'sureye kronail'- both from around 1985.
Both have been sitting around my collection for ages, and its really nice to have them finally painted up, as they both where seriously tarnished and looking somewhat downtrodden. Plus, with work and illness all I have managed to do is some undercoating and rebasing. Hardly stuff to get fired up about hobby wise.
With these pjs I aimed for a crisp 'game ready' finish on both, lots of black lining and simple blocks of color. Dark violet and brown ink washes punched out the blacks.
These figs are some of my first finished on the new washer bases which I am thinking will be my regular basing style for fantasy, golthic horror, doctor who and pulp from here on in. I have been loving Fenris sci fi bases for my sci fi stuff.

I think the washer bases give these two a nice old school feel, dont you?
I even fished out my new fallen leaves for the first time.
All in all I am pleased by the result- it has me all juiced up to do more of the C01 fighters in blues and hobgoblins in orange to kit out a couple of skirmish warbands for Skulldred. Fortunately I have some right here....

Friday, August 3, 2012

New figures undershaded

I have had to change the way I paint after the badab black replacement failed to live up to its predecessor in the undershading.
So instead of grey prime+black wash I have had to return to prime, black spray coat then grey and white overbrushing. Its actually quicker and neater this way, so I guess its for the best.
Here is a tray of tonights effort.

As you can see I have a really eclectic mix of figures coming down the pipe. Everything from Trish Morrison orc villagers, guild of harmony, ral partha dungeon beasties and Bob Olley Iron Claw dwarf minis.
The technique I use is to glaze over the pre shaded model, letting the black and white shine through. This does not work on skin, as the flesh would have blood shine through in the shadows so I use a flat foundation tallarn flesh base and glaze warmer shadow colors to shade down.
But for most things, such as leather,cloth, hair and fur it gets you done pretty damned quick. I use a little matt medium to make the paint translucent.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How I would save the DND license- a brain dump

I was surprised to find a package from Oxfam in England today in my mailbox.  It turned out to be a copy of The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd ed Games Masters guide which I had won for a pittence on ebay what seems like six months ago.  I had actually written that off as lost, but none the less, here it is.  Yay.

I had a coffee at my local cafe and read through it, and it got me thinking.  What if I was handed the Dungeons & Dragons license right now by the bigwigs at Hasbro with a post it note saying 'sort this mess out'.  Now thats a fun mental challenge.

I thought I would share my musings, as its bound to cause an explosion in comments and I do so love comments.  I am a comments hog me.  Oh, I got to paint some stuff last night, so Kings Minis will be back to putting up pictures of old school minis, but in the mean time....


Lets look at the business model, the francise, the fan base, the product line, its competition (pathfinder) and the future.

Firstly I would kick off with a total reboot of the rules.  This would involve cutting the rules down to the bone.  The model where you need volumes and volumes of books to get all the rules is broken- its a law of deminishing returns... players buy the core rules, then a handful of the hundred or so books published.  This means those books are dead stock.  They cost just as much to develop, but ultimately will not sell as much as the core books.  I would focus on making a DND that cherry picks the best bits of the systems from 0e through to the modern game, streamlining it down to a flexible core system that can be expanded on.  This would mean the learning curve, and audience would be wider, and the range of books less threatening to both new players and shop owners.  Lets not forget the days of game and book stores are numbered- PDF, POD and book via mail is the future.  A DND ruleset you can mail is top priority.

Oh and this would be the cover...

So how to make the money if there are less books?  We will get to that.

As an example of the direction I would take, characters are generated from a class initially to give form and direction to the character, but equipment feats, spells and skills are not class restricted- a spell costs a great deal more XP to buy if your a fighter than a wizard, and some spells get a penality modifier if your wearing metal armor.  If your strong enough to weild a weapon, you can.  This makes the game more about imaginative development of the character, and gives players much more freedom to arm, equip and advance their characters.  This also allows feats and spells to be nixed by GMs to suit their campaign world without unbalancing classes.

Thinner rules means less rules to bitch about and less to balance- it also would mean thinner books.
This would place us in a great position versus Paizo's Pathfinder (which I prefer over 4th edition- great work guys).  Paizo sell BRICKS.  To counter this, my thinner books would have less tables and words, but much, much more art.  Rather than new art, I would cherry pick the absolute best art from the history of DND, lets not forget the wonderful Elmore, Eastley and Brom art (plus hundreds of other great artists over the years), plus lots of great Magic: The Gathering art produced that would be under the Wizards IP.  I would using the art to stimulate imagination and really get the juices going- who needs wordy descriptions of monsters when you can place three or four great interpretations in images?  Of course, reusing old art does not mean its free- the artists get their comission- however it does mean a heddy mix of nostalgia that would attract older players back.

The first books you would see from my DND would be...

Dungeons&Dragons: Your adventure starts here    (Based on the original dnd red box, it leads you through solo play into the rules)
DND Players Book:  Character generation, equipment lists, Spell lists, Feat lists, Miniature tips
DND Games Masters Book:  Art of GMing, Making campaigns, Sample scenarios, Npc generator, the core DND monsters.
DND Tables and Treasures:  All the random generator stuff a gm could want, names, items, creatures, fluff and nonesense
DND campaign books:  Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Dark Sun, Ravenloft etc.
The campaign books would include the monster manual stuff for each specific setting, as well as the usual fluff, campaign specific spells as well as suggested nixing for core rulebook stuff.
DND adventures 1, 2, 3 etc.   Each book containing several adventures that GMs can mix and match content from, as well as having encounter options for different levels of players.  These would mainly be available through an automated watermarked PDF download or ebook to registered players on DND website.
DND War:  A mass wargame ruleset that actually can stand up to Warhammer.  This is free to download.
DND infernal:  This would include all the demonic spells, demon classes, Teiflings etc... as a way to make DND more accessable, the overly satanic stuff would be shifted to a seperate book, which is purely optional.  Parents can flick through my regular DND books and purely encounter fantasy and mythological imagery.  Players who want a slice of the infernal plane can pick this gem up.

MyDND Style
The big change I would make to the styling of the game is to make it more roleplaying than ruleplaying, but keep the focus on miniatures.  Yep, its all about miniature facing, distances in squares etc.  I would leave the world of warcraft MMG complexities for online games, not tabletop games.  Let computers do what they do best (number crunching), and GMs do what they do best (imagination and drama).  Though I personally prefer loose rpg without the focus on miniatures (we even use paper minis in my games- ironic considering my collection, right?) the business model demands it.  So strike a good balance and strip it back to essentials.  My DND is a boardgame with a creative, imaginative hobby on top.

Plastic, plastic, plastic.
Okay, with that huge spring cleaning comes the miniatures stuff.  Yes, though my DND books would be more about atmosphere and imagination than tables and rules, rules, rules- we have to make money somehow, right?  Well, Hasbro is a plastics company, and thats where I would refocus the business model.

Taking a leaf out of GW's huge success, I would relaunch DND as a miniatures kit hobby.  Instead of prepainted plastics (which would still be sold under my iron rule until the kits take off), I would focus on small box sets containing plastic sprues with enough components to make several figures with heaps of equipment options.  Player packs would be things like human fighter, elf ranger, dwarf warrior, female human fighter, etc.  Each player pack contains enough parts for 3 figures, with lots of bits left over.
There would be low level and high level versions, all intermixable.  This would allow you to not only assemble a figure that closely matches your idea of your character, but could be magnitised to allow mid game switching.  What this means for the business model is simple:  Multiple sales for less tooling, less cost as prepainting is not required, players buy multiple kits to get all the bits they need to create their characters.

Players only buy a few miniatures, but it is the GM where my business model kicks in.  My DND would actively encourage GMs to collect and build dungeons, taverns and villages and stock them with treasure, scenery and of course, monsters.  My business model would be about PLASTIC 3D DUNGEONS.

Hasbro is a toy company.  They flog plastic.  My DND would be about selling lots of boxes of plastic sprues and paint.  Modular plastic dungeon sections, kobolt kits, gnolls, bugbears, orcs, big monsters and all with a focus on mixing, matching and customising.  Yes, the rules for monsters would be flexible to allow this.  And yes, the wargame rules can then kick in to enourage even more sales of the kits to players as well as GMs.
The modular dungeon parts would have neo-d-magnet holes, be lightweight and stackable for storange.

This model is proven.  GW do it.  They do it well.  Unlike warhammer, where players focus on one, maybe two armies, DND players would be tempted to buy it all.  Who wouldnt want a fully stocked dungeon?  Dozens of NPCs to pick from?  Armies of bugbears, Mindflayers, Githyanki, oh my.  What a rich IP to collect and paint!
Who wouldnt want a beholder construction kit?  Yep, everything you need to make beholder kin in one box, or go apeshit and custom create something new with the bits.

Ultimately, plastic makes more money then paper.  MyDND would be about flogging lots of boxes.

Evil stuff
Okay, now the bastard stuff.  All business requires some dastardly moves, here are mine.  Of course I wouldnt announce this if I was in charge, but this would be my thinking....  ;)
The modular terrain would all be based on 3.3cm square instead of 1 inch.  This gives more room for bigger models, as the 1 inch basis was set during the 25mm mini era.  This would make it incompatible with other makers of 3d terrain initially and make all the paper encounter stuff redundant.  But hey, who cares when the (Daves)DND box terrain sets are cheaper than resin, lighter and much more customiseable, right?

Secondly I would switch to true 30mm for the minis- not heroic 28.  Uhg!  Yes, it would make older minis look a tad small next to the new ones, and it would mean GW stuff does not fit the DND plastics quite right.  The bonus of this is that the models are easier to paint for beginners, can have more detail and look good on the game table at the distance one normally plays dnd.
Encounter kits.  Yes some creature or scenery sprues are only available in encounter sets, which inlcude a bunch of regular sprues, like goblins.  Mindflayers, for example, come only in an encounter set.  These sets encourage you to get into 3d dungeons too, as they have one or two bits.  once you have a few bits, you want more.  I know I would.  ;)
Dear, that Dragons back...

I would reinstate Dragon magazine as a thin, glossy printed mag to act as an entry way for new, young players much like White Dwarf does.  It would focus mainly on the hobby of collecting, painting and customising your plastics, but rather than just be a glossy catalogue like white dwarf it would also include some content- not much, but some - these would include scenarios, encounters and stats for new released monsters, plus encounters to use them in and suggestions for new player feats, skills and spells.  Older issues would be available as PDF downloads once off the shelves and a best of would be published yearly online to registered members.  It would also have room for wizards collectable card game stuff.  The magazine would be a write off, but as an attractor to the hobby it would be front and centre.

New directions
Embracing ebooks, character generation apps and strengthening the old licenses would be a major focus.  Remember the DND cartoon and toy range?  Those characters would reappear in the modern DND.  Old IP legends such as Warduke, Kellek, Ringlerun, Strongheart, Dungeon Master, Drizzt, Goldmoon etc would all find themselves in app games, video games and ultimately a decent film.
IP expansion and condensation would be a major focus for me.  A reboot of the tabletop would also mean a reboot of the online MMO.  I would also start pushing the reboot DND into war gaming, encouraging tournament style gaming to lift mini sales.

Anyway, thats my two pence.

Nostalgia, streamlined rules, condensed IP and plastic, plastic, plastic.

Love to hear your comments below!

Dave out.