Friday, August 8, 2014

#RPGaDAY -- Catch Up (Days 4-6)

Continuing the trend of playing catch up...

4. Most recent RPG purchased
5. Most Old School RPG owned
6. Favorite RPG Never Get to Play

Hmm... number 4 is a bit of an odd one since I already owned the PDF and various game books that basically that predate it.  But in that case, it would be 'Mini Six'.  While I have played and ran different games and systems, one of my favorites was the good old d6 system developed by West End Games.  Their biggest contribution was arguably the Star Wars RPG before the license went to someone else.  The game runs fast and loose and great for a 'cinematic feel'.  It's a dice pool system and is skill based as opposed to archetype and level based.  It easy and fun and you can pretty much run anything with the system.  While West End Games developed other properties, towards the end, the went with 'generic' d6 genre books...  Notably 'Adventure', 'Fantasy', and 'Space'.  There were more but in some ways, between these and a new Space Opera type game called 'Septimus', West End Games never enjoyed the type of success it had back when they were putting out tons of material for the d6 Star Wars RPG.  While West End Games had a turbulent time of things near the end (including change of ownership), one of the last great things they did was create 'Open d6' to keep the system alive and allow anyone to freely develop for it.  Mini Six was one of the best results of this and while I had some of the d6 Star Wars book as well as a generic d6 System book, I only finally got a print copy (from Lulu and sold pretty much at cost).  The PDF of it is free and available HERE.

Most Old School RPG owned?  Well that's a good question.  I figure that most people would answer something like OD&D or an early D&D variation.  If I went that route, I'd probably would say something like the older B/X sets.  However, in many ways my 5th Edition 'Deluxe Black Box' of Tunnels & Trolls.  I actually talk about it a bit HERE.

Finally, my favorite RPG that I never get to play.  Hand down, it's got to be Call of Cthulhu.  I was introduced to the game when their fifth edition was released and was fortunate enough to play some of the Horror on the Orient Express campaign.  That was over 20 years ago now and I haven't been able to play since.  My lack of playing didn't stop me from holding on to my near mint, 20 year old copy.  Nor did it prevent me from picking a couple other Chaosium titles over the years or backing both the new CoC 7th Edition *and* their new Horror on the Orient Express Kickstarters.  Since I can never play, I guess I'm going to have to just run it instead.  But it's just not the same.  ;)


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

#RPGaDAY -- Catch Up (Days 1-3)

GenCon is fast approaching and I have been a bit neglectful of the Under Siege blog for a few weeks now.  I've been busy cleaning up, sorting through, and in many cases, reducing the gaming collection.  I noticed this whole '#RPGaDAY' series of tweets and blog posts and I thought it would be a GREAT time to jump in and run my attention back to my blog.  I will do the entire month but I expect it will come in spurts.  ;)

1. First RPG Played
2. First RPG Gamemastered
3. First RPG Purchased

All three come down to the same thing: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

My first experience with AD&D came with my introduction to the game with a couple of new friends inviting me to play.  Circumstances of my introduction were probably a horrible way to introduce someone new to the game... they have me a high level pre-gen and we embarked in, H2: The Mines of Bloodstone.

For those of you unacquainted with the adventure, the odds stacked against the characters are insane and after a series of challenges, one of which involved a Tarrasque, you possibly end up in a show down against Orcus, Demon Prince of the Undead.  At best, you just fight a ridiculous encounter with undead forces and some high level cultists.

However, going through the adventure was a blast and within the start of the adventure, I was hooked.  I was hooked to the point that a couple of hours into our second session, the person running the game (it really looked like he was narrating more than anything else) started having problems with his voice.  Eager to continue, I volunteered to step in and read for him.  In some ways it presented an interesting way to learn the game.  Every so often I would stop, and ask what a particular thing meant as I was trying to decipher my first stat blocks.  After getting a taste of 'running a game', borrowing some books to get a better grasp of some of the rules, I bought my first gaming book.

Being confident enough to continue and run some games, my first book was the Dungeon Master's Guide.  Alas, 2nd Edition had just come out so it would be years before I got my hands on a 1st Edition copy of the book.  However, I came appreciate the 2nd Edition of the DMG and the PHB which ended up being my second gaming book purchase.  Some people would split 1st edition and 2nd edition into different categories but, truth be told it was all D&D to us ... 1st, 2nd, and even the Mentzer sets were what we rolled with.

Ah... good times.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Weekend R&R: Games & Gears Ichiban Studios Pro Line Brushes

A couple months back, I gave a bit of a signal boost the the new Kickstarter by Games & Gears who partnered with Ichiban Studios to create a pro line of red sable brushes.  I backed the project (which was largely funded by the wife as a Birthday gift) and was lucky enough to get an 'Early Bird' spot.  Well, for those Early Birds, they began shipping a couple of weeks ago and, I knew that they had hit Canada last Friday.  I figured I'd have a small package waiting for me and, I was right.

It's a rainy day in Montreal today so I wasn't out BBQing supper.  I fixed up a quick little meal and set myself to examine and test out the brushes.

In short, these are very good brushes albeit, by looking at them, you would think they might take a bit of getting used to in terms of handling the brush while painting.  First off, these are shorter, a bit heavier, and a bit thicker than what I'm accustomed to using.

My usual brushes are a set of three 'Eavy Metal branded brushes from Games Workshop and while some people will cry out in despair and wonder what possessed me to spend overly much on something that was likely overpriced to begin with, I suspect this was one of those things that was less overpriced than the typical product they push on their fanbase.  I use these brushes (sized 'Large', 'Standard', and 'Detail') because they are Kolinsky Sable brushes and there was some discussion a while back that these were likely Windsor and Newton series 7 Kolinsky Sable brushes.  All I can say is that I've been using these brushes for well over a year and they have never let me down.  They're great and having used and gone through other brushes, these still are in decent shape.

Brushes don't last forever, no matter how well you care for them but treat them right, and they'll serve you a long time.  However, this Kickstarter presented an interesting option to get other sable brushes and, with the way you can help protect the tips, it seemed like a good opportunity.

Having tried out all the brushes, I have to say that it was really easy to get comfortable in using the brushes.  Because they are so 'penlike', I found myself holding the brush closer to the tip on the ferrule that I did with the other brushes but this wasn't a problem for me.  Depending on the angle of course, there were times I had to re-adjust my grip in order to get to a tighter spot on the model I was painting on but that's the same for any brush given what you may be trying to paint.

The bristles hold paint really well in part because the body of the bristles are nice and thick compared to what I normally work with.  However, application of the paint was nice and smooth.  Most importantly, they seem to keep a tip when wet and they also have some 'spring' to them.  Both very important things when precision is required when working on some details.

While these brushed will be entering regular use, my 'Eavy Metal brushes have not been replaced.  The smallest of the brushes, the 00 size would be very hard pressed to replace my Detail brush.  Since the bristles are shorter on the 00, and given the 'spring' and the tendency to keep a point, I will have to play around with it a bit more to be sure.  Eyes and facial features on 25 - 30mm is a tricky thing.  Then again, I've had difficulties with the Fine Detail brush as well.  I have heard Games & Gears were working on a pro-line 000 size and, given the quality of these brushes, I'd be happy to pay for one of these.

Games & Games had another KS a while back and there were a lot of quality control issues and the general consensus was that those 'samurai brushes' were pretty sub-par.  On the flip side, the customer service and communication seemed to be good.  This time around, they seem to make damned sure that the QA issues were well in hand for this release and I have no problems recommending these brushes for the model painter.

Unfortunately, these brushes may not be available in retail till early next year.  Games & Gears still has a way to go to fulfill all their backer commitments -- regular backers as well as extras and add-ons all ship in September.  I would suggest keeping an eye on their homepage HERE but it you can't wait and want a brush now *and* you are going to GenCon this year, you can get a limited edition size 0 brush which can be ordered HERE.  To be honest, if it wasn't for the fact that I have two sets of these brushes, I'd be tempted myself.  ;)


Monday, June 23, 2014

Clockwork Dragon (Wyrmgear): Painting Guide

It's been some time since I've posting a painting guide and sometimes, time is a huge factor.  I wish I had more time and energy to paint.  But once in a while, a project comes along that you really want to do.  Honestly, when you've got a great model, the right tools, the right paints, and a bit of spare time, you can accomplish so much.

Earlier this month, I finally tackled Reaper's Clockwork Dragon which was released as part of their Bones lines and I picked up as part of their first Kicktstarter.  It came unassembled  (8+ pieces) and was really simple to put together but the plastic material was a bit warped so it would not stand straight and had a tendency to topple over.  Before I undertook much work, the first thing I had to do was do something about the base and I fashioned a larger one for both rear legs.  Green Stuff to the rescue!

Priming the miniature was done using a dark grey acrylic gesso (my own mixture of Liquitex White Gesso and a store brand black gesso).

Painting the miniature couldn't be simpler in many ways.  I wanted to keep the paint scheme on the model simple and I figured a white and gold would be a great start.  As can be seen in the previous picture, the wings had already had a light coat of a 'Titanium White' on the surface of the wings.  The wings were separate pieces of the model and are only mounted in this earlier shot for the purposes of the picture.  For those familiar with Citadel paints, the closest equivalent would be the 'Ceramite White'.  The white paint was airbrushed on.

The gold paint I used was a beautiful shade of yellow gold called a 'Deep Iridescent Gold'.  I guess it would be close to Citadel's 'Gehenna's Gold' but not with quite the same shade.  I find some metallic paints challenging at times to work with but, once again, my airbrush came to the rescue and I got the base coat applied in no time.

The only real challenge when it came to painting the model was with the wings themselves -- or rather their frames.  This was the most time consuming aspect of the model.  A clean coat of white on the wings and the surface of the shields on the legs were also crucial for the next phase I had planned for the miniature.

I had previously used an 'Iridescent Pearl' paint on a couple other miniatures and projects with great success.  It is classified as a 'semi-opaque' paint which means the under coating will be seen through this paint.  In the last model I used it on I did not expect the results I got (you can read about that HERE) but I had also seen the results on a white layer of paint.  The results are a nice pearl effect.  Exactly the kind of effect I wanted to have here.

With base coats and the pearl effect accomplished, the rest of the gold needed some attention.  Gold wasn't exactly the color I was going for... in my mind I wanted a brass feel to it and slightly aged.

This was incredibly easy to pull off and, given all the details in the miniature itself, a wash (shade) would do most of the work for me.  I used ''Agrax Earthshade' from the Citadel line of paints giving it a good coat.  Afterwards I lightly drybrushed some 'Golden Griffen' -- a dry compound from the Citadel line.  Between the shading and drybrushing, the majority of the work on the model was complete.

Eyes were done with a base of 'Mephiston Red' and a layer of 'Evil Sunz Scarlet'.  and the rock bases were done simply with a base of 'Mechanicus Standard Grey', layered with 'Eshin Grey', shaded with the 'Nuln Oil' wash, and finally highlighted with a drybrush treatment of 'Longbeard Grey'.  Some 'Bloodletter' glaze was applied to the eyes as a final touch.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Value of the Haunted Highlands

When I arrived from work today, I was surprised and ultimately delighted to find a package waiting for me.  Upon looking at the box, I was actually a bit confused.  The box hailed from the US from Asendia which is based in Illinois.  It was a good sized box and was clearly addressed to me so, I open it up.  Within it I find a whole bunch of stuff.  The physical components of the Haunted Highlands kickstarter I backed the previous year had finally come in.  Asendia, as it turns out, is a third-party company and I suppose it makes sense for a smaller outfit like Troll Lord Games to use the services of a company such as this for the mailing out of parcels.  The packing seems a bit 'sub-par' but the box arrived in one piece and I only have one little issue to gripe about.  But more on that later.

The contents of the package and level that I backed at was at the $99 level which contained a fair bit of stuff and bonuses.

At the core it of, it included a digital and print copy of the Return to the Haunted Highlands book and companion Haunted Highlands Players Guide plus the world map.  It also included a T-Shirt and Cook Book, a map pack, a set of Deluxe C&C Character Sheets, and some dice.  For $99, you need more for your dollar and the stretch goals is what ultimately gave you more.  You can read about the reviews I gave for both books HERE and HERE.

Stretch goals expanded the contents of the main book from a couple hundred pages to twice the size.  The Player's Guide was also expanded and ended up being 112 pages and both books are hardcover.  Along with the expanded content, those who backed a minimum of $59 (which got you both books and the map), a couple of adventure modules exclusive to the Kickstarter were available.  There was also an additional map done by Darlene, the same TSR artist responsible for the classic Greyhawk map that a lot of people love so much.

So, at the $59 level, you're getting some decent value.  The books themselves have a combined MSRP of $60 so if you figure 2 extra modules (I'll go with what I have seen), an extra map, it's not too bad.  If the modules were made available for sale, they'd probably be around $6 apiece.  The $75 dollar level get you a T-Shirt and Cook Book (with an MSRP of $6) on top of what you got at the lower level.  However, the $99 level has the distinct advantage of including the character sheets, the dice, and a total of seven miniatures.  Six of the miniatures are from Reaper's Dark Heaven Legends line of miniatures which individually carry prices between $5 and $7 each.  The seventh was a commissioned piece for the Kickstarter by DarkSword Miniatures whose models start at $10.  You easily have $40 - $50 worth of miniatures in at this level on top of the other incidentals such as the premium characters sheets, dice, and the separate map pack.

Conservatively, the $99 level probably gets you close to $140 worth of gaming goodness which isn't too shabby all things considered.  However, if it wasn't for the miniatures, I would have been hard pressed to justify an expenditure over the $59 level.  It's the miniatures which quickly convinced me to commit the additional $40 combined with all the stuff I was getting in between.

My only gripe (as I mentioned before) was how some of the stuff was packaged.  The two maps are were slightly damaged (creased along a couple of sides and corners) in transport.  The maps, when folded in four, still measure 9 x 12 inches and they were put together in one of the books.  The book was obviously smaller which meant the sides of the maps stuck out and when the books shifted in the box, there was little to prevent the damage it received.  Ironically, if they put it at the very bottom of the box and laid it flat, it probably would have OK thought that is a far from ideal solution.  The box was clearly bigger than the contents and, it seems to me that a small cardboard tube placed in the box would have done MUCH more to protect the contents of the maps.

I am however satisfied with my investment -- even after I factor in the additional shipping I had to pay to get it here to Montreal, Canada.  Honestly, I haven't had a chance to game in a couple of months now and, especially after watching the latest Game of Thrones episode ('The Watchers on the Wall'), I am itching to get to running a game again and, it is quite possible that the Highlands will be where I will head to next!