What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Yarr! The Pirate ArrPG

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Weekend R&R: Advanced Fighting Fantasy

Back in July, I wrote a bit about the the Fighting Fantasy books I had been exposed to (they were French translations) before I got started into D&D.  They certainly gave me enough of a taste for the sort of things that would appeal to me in the myriad of game systems and adventures I would embark playing at the age of 13.  You can check out that original post HERE.

In any event, being ever on the lookout for an interesting game or system, I came across the 'Advanced Fighting Fantasy' RPG during my online browsing at one of my favorite second retailers, and ordered it amongst a few other things a couple of weeks ago.

There is something to be said, and tends to be forgotten, when looking at all the games we have at our disposal.  Simple doesn't mean inferior or make it any less enjoyable.  Before I began flipping through the pages of the book, and thinking back on those days reading those Fighting Fantasy books, I wondered why on earth would an RPG based on this basic system need 174 pages.  As I began reading various sections, my fears were eased somewhat though and the very basics of the game are covered in two-and-a-half pages before giving an introductory dungeon adventure spanning another seven.  The game is just not complicated and can easily be grasped within moments.  There is a lot of unnecessary page use in this book and part of me wishes for a more condensed approach but, what can you do...

The first chapter starts after this quick game system summary and the introductory adventure and predictably covers character creation.  No surprises here though things are simple and limited enough.  You can be human, dwarf, or elf.  You really worry about 4 stats and assign points to base numbers.  You further differentiate with skills and finish off by selected a talent.  All this along with skill and talent descriptions and covered in a dozen pages.  You have then about an equal number of pages with each providing an pre-made archetype set up as a character sheet.

The second chapter gives a more detailed examination on the game rules with the following two chapters dealing with combat and magic respectively.  Once these bases are covered, more material is provided which is perhaps more setting oriented -- topics such as religion and the world of 'Titan' add some substance which may not be of much interest to some but a welcome addition none-the-less.

The book is completed by providing some monsters and treasure as well as some guidelines to running and designing an adventure as well as the inclusion of some optional rules.  The book is nice but, the cover price of $29.99 is pretty steep if you consider what you're actually getting here.  You have an interesting sampling of black and white illustrations throughout the work and the presentation of the book is well done though, it seems like the desire to make this into a bigger RPG than what it really is does Advanced Fighting Fantasy a disservice here.  You need to consider that they have a couple other books to complement this book but, in the end, a more precisely condensed version of the book would have been less expensive and likely of greater interest to anyone who has had fond memories of Fighting Fantasy.  I think the lack of a sleeker and smaller offering is a missed opportunity to get others to pick this up.  Another problem is the lack of a PDF option -- you only have the option of the physical book.  However, they have at least provided a quickstart which is available for fee at RPG Now!  I was fortunate enough to pick it up for about half that price for my secondhand copy.  Of course, you could also try and track down a used copy of the original Advanced Fighting Fantasy book -- the version I picked up was released in 2011 and considered a 'second edition' to the game.

Advanced Fighting Fantasy is, at best, a gateway game or a fast pickup game but could still be used for a prolonged campaign.  Given that there are so many systems that offer a variety of complexities for their characters, it is nice to see a system that can be introduced to novices or younger gamers as well as just to have something to mess around with in lieu of a regular game or campaign.  Also, given the simplicity, the focus becomes less about the rules and more about the story and the enjoyment derived from playing.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Painting Project Revealed!

Well, I thought I would have the chance to post a bit more earlier in the week -- if not finish up my weekly R&R series but things don't always go the way you want.  I also wasn't counting on the bug I caught a couple of days ago putting me largely out of commission.  The staff X-Mas party for the company I work for was on Wednesday (the day after my last post), and I wasn't feeling too well the next morning.  Initially, I thought it might have been due to the heavy drinking I enjoyed the night before but the shivering as the result of the fever and the challenge of keeping food down a couple days later helped form a different theory as to why I was unwell.

Thankfully, I was well enough to enjoy a very late screening of the 'Hobbit' on Friday night (for those curious: 3D at 48 frames / second).  I enjoyed it very much though I am one of those forgiving sorts who had no issue with Peter Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings'.  I won't dwell on the movie on this post but may write about some of my thoughts in the next week or so.

Instead, the time has come to reveal what I had worked on, and finished as well as describe in better detail what went into the finished project.

First things first, the item in question (a set) came to me in multiple pieces in a smaller blister pack.  It was metal and consisted of 9 different pieces.  The base / rock which the griffin sits on had three points of contact with the most important one being the paw which needed to be flush.  Unfortunately and for whatever reason, there was no way to have either of the other two points of contact (the tail and left wing) to sit properly.  I had to modify the base using Green Stuff accordingly and created a better point of contact for the tail.  Using some super glue, I affixed the necessary pieces and filled in any necessary gaps with a bit more Green Stuff and some careful sculpting.  Naturally all this came after a good cleaning and tidying up of the various pieces first.  I primed in black once ready but kept the assembled Griffin and Rock Base separate during the painting process.  Once again, all paints used in the process are from the Citadel line.

The Rockbase was the easiest so I'll get that out of the way first.  I applied a base coat 'of Celstra Grey', I used a wash of 'Nuln Oil' for my shade, and finished off with a dry brush of 'Longbeard Grey'.  The base for the Knight got the same treatment.

The Griffin had more effort go into it... base coat for the body was with 'Steel Legion Drab' and the base coat for the small feathers (including head and feathered portion of torso) was 'Zandri Dust'.
The success rows on the feathers were done in 'Ceramite White' but as you get to the last row and tips of the feathers, I used 'Baneblade Brown', 'Gorthor Brown', and 'Rhinox Hide' blending from lighter colors to dark.

I applied an initial wash of 'Seraphim Sepia' to body and wings of the Griffin which did an amazing job of capturing some the finer details in the sculpt.  I should point at that normally, I would have added some highlights to the body to better show off the musculature but it didn't seem necessary when I arrived at that point given the results of the shading resulting from the wash.

The beak and talons were done using an 'Averland Sunset' with the actual claws down with a layer of 'Screaming Skull' using 'Nuln Oil' for shading.  The final detail were the eyes which is hard to see in the photograph.  I used 'Baltahsar Gold' with regular black for the pupil with a couple coats of 'Lamenters Yellow' glaze.  To finish up the Griffin, I applied more 'Seraphim Sepia' as necessary for the beast as a whole.  I should also point out that 'Rhinox Hide' was used for the tip of the tail as well to match the darkest parts of the wing feather tips.

The Knight was, for the most part, simpler and took less time to do with the exception of the face.

'Ceramite White' for the cloth, 'Leadbelcher' for the armor / chain as far as basecoat was concerned.  The same white was also used for the shield with 'Mephiston Red' for the cross.  On the first attempt, I screwed up the cross and, given the white background, I had to repaint a thick coat of white for the shield which gave it more of a textured look.  This kinda worked though making the shield look a bit more beat up so-to speak which is which I added scratches / gashes on the shield using concentrated 'Nuln Oil' shade in a couple places (as opposed to simply painting on gashes).  The effect worked well enough.  The spear was done using 'Rhinox Hide' for the shaft with 'Leadbelcher' for the tips and the spearhead was further accented with 'Runefang Steel'.  The bottom of the robe got a think touch of 'Zandri Dust'.

The knight's face was a different matter.  For such a small area of detail, it received a base coast of 'Bugman's Glow', a wash of 'Reikland Fleshade', a layer of 'Cadian Fleshtone', with some Edging with some 'Flayed One Flesh'.  The Edge line of paints are new and were just released as part of a 'Eavy Metal gift set this year from Citadel.  Pricey but I really like these paints and the brush that came part of the set is quite nice.  Think of the edge paints as a liquid solution to some of the Drypaint line.  Black was used to highlight the eyes and mouth as necessary.

When the pieces were done, they were sealed with a matte varnish and affixed on a small circular mirror using a combination of super glue and contact cement.

The gift was very well received and admired by the rest of the group when given today -- I am happy that it was liked and happy that I received some nice praise for the work.  Well worth the effort!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Secret Painting Project and Mishaps

For those who read my post from about a week ago, I mentioned that one of the things I was working on was a new painting project.  I've pretty much finished it a short while ago this evening though I still can't reveal it.  I will be able to show off some pictures... both a few 'work in progress' pics and the the final results after this coming weekend.  All that's left to do is to do a sealant (a matte varnish) to protect it and mount it on a surface that I chose for it.  Actually it's composed of a couple of pieces and they form a sort of diorama.

However, in lieu of my successes with this project, I thought I would share a few mishaps and miscalculations during the production of the project -- for your amusement.

At first, I received the thing in pieces in a sort of plastic blister pack.  The pieces were metal which is nice given the tendency to produce stuff in resin and plastics nowadays.  Obviously, the first step is to clean the various pieces.  By this I mean actually washing them to remove any residue which may hamper the painting process as well as cut and file away any unnecessary bits.

One of those great and VERY sharp tools I use for this is the hobby knife.  I was working with it on and off, occasionally putting it down to pick up and use a metal file.  I work on a very small table (basically a TV tray at present) and the hobby knife is round.  Here's a picture of what happened to the hobby knife after it rolled off the table.

It was a few inches away from my foot but thankfully, the floor took the hit.  So... lesson learned,  put the cap on in between uses!

The second bit of 'lessons learned' was when I came to add the black primer to the pieces.  Now, I live in Canada and this time of year is kind of damp, freezing, and usually involves snow.  We have been fortunate though so not much in terms of snow or ice but we have been seeing freezing temperatures for a few weeks now.  Now my primer comes conveniently (or rather inconveniently) in a spray can.  Never use a spray can in an area that is not well ventilated which pretty much means 'outside if you can'.  Well, I couldn't but what I had to coat in primer was rather small and, this apartment was a rather special characteristic, HUGE WINDOWS that almost completely open up!  Really, one wall of my study is basically windows from wall to wall and ceiling to about 3 feet off the floor.  We also have high ceilings.  So, what do I decided to do?  close the door and completely open the windows.  I basically do three 'runs' of spaying (additional spay contained by a large box)... each very short but extremely effective.  It smells of course (thanks propellant) but the smell dissipates quickly each time thanks to the airflow.  Of course, the windows are left open during all this time as I allow each section I primed to dry before moving to get a different side/angle.  This takes about a couple hours (though I could have done it in half the time) as I wanted to be sure the primer was dry and odor gone before I started again.  At the end of all this, I decide to close the windows as the temperature is starting to drop in the study.  The windows are frozen in place.  I started this shortly after getting off work and the windows opened easily enough but a few hours later, the temperature dropped a few degrees causing some condensation to freeze a bit, and so on...  You get the picture.  Naturally, I can't allow this to go unchecked.  Image a guy, trying to get a window 'unstuck', partially leaning out of the widow / apartment to do so (no worries -- I was very safety conscientious).  Top floor of the building but it's a low-rise and only 5 floors.  Thankfully, it didn't take long for me to get a large quantity of hot water to splash on the window (outside) which quickly got things moving again.  Guess I won't be doing that again anytime soon.  ;)

The last significant bit is not so much something I did or didn't do and more of a case of things just happen sometimes.  There were aspects of this project which would have made an airbrush a perfect tool to simplify my life.  I had held of on using the airbrush up to then since I was also waiting for a conversion kit to use both airbrush and spray gun with a minimum of fuss.  I received it at the start of the project which seemed almost too perfect.  When the moment finally calls for it, I setup my gear, and turn on the compressor.  It's loud but that was expected.  However, it's making unusual noises as well -- not good.  After looking into this further, it seem like there is a problem with the 'relief valve'.  To be clear, this is a diaphragm compressor which means the pressure and airflow is constant as opposed to filling up a tank of air and shutting off.  When there is too much pressure, the excess is 'discharged' -- I guess it was either malfunctioning and/or sticking.  In any event, an airbrush was *not* used for the project.

That said, while the project was a great way to practice my skills and techniques, and while not everything went to plan -- I'm really digging the final result.  It's a gift which I hope will be appreciated and I think I will be a bit sorry to see it go.  The good news is I have another identical model coming in so I can try all of this again for the next one which I intend to keep.  ;)


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Weekend R&R: BareBones Fantasy

Ok, I admit it -- I love checking out different systems to see how they work and how they play.  Part of it is trying to find something to improve or spice up games I have been playing at for many years now.  Part of it is just to find some better options that what I'm already familiar with.  Part of it is simple research which feeds into my own ideas on concepts for what I would deem a 'perfect system' for my uses.

Sometimes, it's someone else that brings this to my attention.  BareBones Fantasy is such a game.

I have been aware of it for a few weeks now and, there's been a lot of good things been said and written in the short period of time since it's been released.  A friend who runs a game I take part in decided to switch to it about a week ago and we played this past Sunday.  At first I was leery of another system change (this is a common occurrence as he too is constantly looking for the 'ideal' system) but I was optimistic given what I had heard and read.

At the end of the day, I can say without hesitation that I like it.  I *really* like it.

This little system runs very well and is easy to understand and grasp.  There are things about it that, on the surface reminds me of a couple of other concepts used in other games.  However, I have to say that the presentation here trumps many other efforts at bringing a rule system into being while keeping it completely accessible.  It is definitely in the Rules-Lite category of games.

What I like about it:  It's an 80 page book (currently only available in PDF for around $10 but with a POD option coming very soon) but smaller in size (looks around 5" x 9" with a large font).  The book has everything you need and a lot of what you don't need has been tossed.  In other words, there is no "What is an RPG" and other introductory sort of material that you will find in the majority of gamebooks.  This game assumes a basic level of knowledge concerning RPGs and runs with it.  It throws in all sort of material beyond the basic character generation and system mechanics!  If they didn't, the book would be a heck of a lot shorter than it already is!  You have guidelines to create magic items and monsters with a nice selection included as well.  You have some stuff for assist in creating adventures and dungeons with some neat tables to facilitate things, with other tables for traps and treasures.  To round out the book, you have a few pages devoted to a campaign setting / world, a glossary, and index!!

Is there anything I don't like about it?  At this point, I'm not sure if I can name something and this is a good thing.

In some ways, part of it reminded me of what Lejendary Adventures tried to accomplish -- except this is much simpler to grasp.  BareBones Fantasy is essentially a classless system.  Instead it relies on skill packages -- warrior, rogue, etc...  These skills feed off of your stats of which are four.  You select a primary skill package and a secondary one and these determine essentially what you are.  So to say this is strictly a skill based game as opposed to a class based one is not entirely correct.  But the manner in which this game does it did manage to keep the game simple and yet still provide a level of detail which a lot of gamers would appreciate.  The other game this reminds me of in a 'backwards' sort of way, is Castles & Crusades or, perhaps better yet, StarSiege.  The reason I say this is with the way that C&C is largely a class based game and not a skill-based one but, with the concept of Prime attributes, essentially help better define and differentiate a character with 'what they are good at'.  A rogue for example gets his prime (equivalent of a +6 in a d20 based game) to checks related to his background / archetype.  StarSiege didn't actually have classes and functioned more on the concept of skill packages from what I remember.  In many ways, BareBones Fantasy will do a better job than the Siege Engine games by TLG will if only by the virtue of the percentile dice instead of a d20 with a greater range of numbers to play with.  Interestingly enough... 0-5 is the equivalent of a critical success and 95-99 is the same as a critical fumble and thus, the same 5% chance you get for either a '1' or a '20' on a 20-sided die.

I highly recommend the game, even if you're just curious and happy with your present system of choice.  You can find it on RPGNow! and associated retailers.  Who knows, you may be tempted to at least try it out if not switch altogether.  ;)

Happy Gaming!


Blog's Been A Bit Quiet

With things on the blog quieting down, it must mean something is afoot!  ;)

The holidays are nigh upon us (or the end of the world if you believe others) and it's been a bit busy.  I've starting a new painting project and temporarily put aside the orcs.  This project is actually a gift so I cannot write much about here but I will be documenting the process with a couple of pics and have a few finished shots once done -- I need to try and wrap this up before next Friday and the priming also starts tonight!

Aside from that, there is the general hustle and bustle which invariably happens to most of us come this time of year.  I've gotten the majority of the holiday shopping done and even picked up a couple of things for myself -- an order from Noble Knight Games came in today for me so I imagine there will be some stuff I'll be talking about in there.

I also had the chance to play and read parts of the BareBones Fantasy game which will be the focus of this past weekend's (and overdue) Weekend R&R article.  Look for that in the next few hours.

I imagine that between now and after the holidays, posting may be a bit more sporadic and perhaps sparse but the blog will keep on getting updated.  :)

Not much new otherwise -- plans and projects continue to be examined and considered, and I've held off some of the work on a couple of the C&C modules that were in development and will see actual publication near the start of 2013 for a simple reason of economics.  The gaming market has changed considerably in the past 18 months but this isn't something new.  As a developer working often with Brave Halfling Publishing we've had many a conversation about what we're doing, what we're about to start working on, and what we need to shutdown to best use the limited resources we have.  But that is something I'll go into detail some other time like after the holidays.  ;)


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Adventures Dark & Deep Player's Manual

Well, true to his word, has started a new Kickstarter to release the first of three books that have been planned and written for Adventures Dark & Deep.  When he first did the KS for 'A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore', his goal was to raise $2500 for artwork, editing, and the production costs related to the print run to satisfy the backers.  I initially thought the goal a modest one and decided to pledge an amount myself.  The objective was reached about two weeks during the funding drive and by the end of it, Joseph Bloch had raised about 3 times the amount thanks to 244 backers.  Of course, the amount raised was before the Kickstarter and Amazon fees.

I gave the book a favorable review when I got the PDF version (the physical copies were in development at the time) and this can be seen HERE.  In the article, I noted a couple of quibbles I had with regards to presentation which, once I was able to flip through my physical copy in October (I received the book on the 24th), I essentially recanted in a subsequent post.  The presentation did look better flipping through the pages as opposed to the PDF despite the whitespace.

While I think the book is a decent book and I'm happy to have it in my collection, I was ultimately disappointed by the pricing I saw when I realized it was print on demand project via a third party.  To be clear, the problem I have had nothing to do with the fact it was POD but the price structure for it.  The creator had disclosed that the goal was to raise money for the art and editing of the text.  However, those people who wanted a hardcover copy when they backed the project had to pony up $60 for the privilege (they also get a copy of the PDF).  Anyone who decided to not pledge but subsequently get it off of RPGNow can get the same thing for half the price.  From a what I have read and heard, I know this was a concern for some people.

I'm pleased to say that the pricing structure is a significantly more favorable with the new Kickstarter though and, if you are the slightest bit interested, it would be well worth your while to take a good look.

But what is Adventures Dark & Deep?  If you read my review or having been keeping up with things in the gaming community and already know, feel free to skip ahead.  If not: Adventures Dark & Deep is basically a 'what-if' scenario.  What if Gary Gygax hadn't been forced out of TSR and was able to bring a Second Edition of AD&D as he envisioned it.  Joseph Bloch did quite a bit of research and culled information from articles and statements that Gygax made and crafted together a possible 'vision' of such a project.  The aforementioned book, 'A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore' was essentially a companion book which could be used for existing systems to bring these options to the table.

For those interested in a stand-alone game embodying some of the options and concepts previously introduced in 'A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore' -- this is what Joseph Bloch is endeavoring to deliver to you now.  The new kickstarter is the first of three books which will embody the core set for Adventures Dark & Deep.  The KS found HERE and basically the key pledge levels are $10 for the PDF, $30 for softcover and PDF, and $40 for hardcover and PDF.  This is great pricing given that it's twice the size of the previous options book and what would expect to see for a similar product in retail.  Other pledge levels are available too.

Will I get it?  Doubtful but only because I feel I have all I need with the earlier book in the line.  I'm still considering it though and may back at the PDF level and if I don't do that, I will at least pledge something since I do believe in what Mr. Bloch is doing here.

At the writing of this post, 118 backers have pledged $4,473 of the $6,500 goal with 17 days to go.