What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
After Winter Dark Campaign Setting

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Crippling Blow!

Yesterday I wrote about a couple things I was working on and the delay of about a week to the release of issue 7 of the Domesday and something due to be turned in to John of Brave Halfling Publishing. Sadly, I now have to report that thIs delay is now indeterminate. The workhorse of Arcana Creations -- my computer -- is down. It will either need to be fixed or replaced.

By some small mercy, I can still get online easily enough and do some writing for my blog and such and no information is lost. However, the unexpected costs to recover from this may take a bit longer to resolve.

Sorry folks.


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Monday, February 18, 2013

Sweet Mother of Pearl !!!

Damn... that looks awesome!

Best to check out the very few details available HERE where you'll also notice the price.  Honestly, I'm considering picking it up for that price.  Hopefully Amazon will be able to help me out with a nice discounted price should this thing get on there for pre-order.


Time is the Killer

I was thinking to myself that the past weekend has been busier than normal. Upon further reflection, it hasn't been busier but I have not been able to keep up as well as I would like. I'm tired.

Work has been started with the newest Issue of the Domesday but I am no longer certain of my projected release which would have been towards the middle of next week. I may need an additional weekend to wrap the issue up but the good news there is that it will give me the chance to rattle a couple of cages as far as overdue submisssions are concerned.

There has been an overdue adventure I was working on for my friend John at Brave Halfling Publishing that stills some attention before I turn it over but at least this is coming along and will be off my desk by the time the latest issue of the Domesday is available for download.

On the gaming front, a few weeks ago I was asked to run a campaign and, despite the lack of time for prep, everyone seems to be having a good time playing. I am also having fun running it and it's given me the chance to test out a few Houserules here and there.

Finally, my painting is proving to be very much a luxury where time is concerned. I try and get to it now and then when the time allows for it but i get the feeling I won't be able to get back into it till early March. I was able to finish a small model last week though and will be posting some pictures soon wIth some notes.

I just need an extra day in my week. ;)


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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tools of the Miniature Painter - Pt.2

Ok... so you've decided to launch yourself into doing more than just buying miniatures but assembling and painting them too!  In Part I of this series, we covered a lot of the basic stuff you will need when you're starting out.  Let's run through that list quickly:

Nail Brush, Precision Knife, Cutters, Small Files, Cutting Mat, Superglue, Primer for the undercoat, Paints and decent Paint Brushes, some sort of Varnish, and something to clean your brushes.

But what if you want to do more?  What if you are a bit ambitious or have a lot more than just a handful of models for your game?  When I got into painting my first miniatures, I found I really enjoyed it.  I wanted to do more but I also wanted to try different things, improve what I was already doing, and in some cases, just be more efficient.

Depending on what interests you, there is a variety of directions one could take.

When it comes to painting, I knew for a fact that I had a lot of miniatures coming in and it became quickly apparent that I had many years of painting ahead of me if I could only paint a single miniature at a time.  Of course, you still will end up doing this but that doesn't mean you can't get a leg up if you a painting multiple miniatures of the same type.  Using a primer from a spraycan is quick and easy and you're able to do multiple miniatures at the same time.  Being able to have a spray gun to paint the basecoat for a group of miniatures is a massive time saver.  Some people will go as far to use a single action airbrush for this purpose but Badger (who makes airbrushes) also have a spray gun between $ 30 and $ 40 which will tend to be less expensive than a decent to good quality airbrush.  Even Gamesworkshop has one and, despite of some of the negative reviews associated with it, I have to say that it works well.  The problems people seem to have with these spray guns is usually due to a lack of understanding how to properly use them.  People who move from just brushes to paint their basecoat to a spray gun usually will do so through the use of a compressed can of air.  When these cans are used, they are able to put out enough pressure to adequately use a spray gun.  However, these cans will also become 'colder' while using them and when this happens, the volume of air pushed out of the can is dropped and there is effectively a loss of pressure until the can warms up again.  If you don't have enough pressure, you will get crap results from your gun.  A can will initially deliver around 30 psi before it begins to drop and to get decent results you want to remain close to this number.  A solution to this 'frozen can' issue is to use multiple cans and swap between them.

To get the most use from your gun, you may want to consider an air compressor though.  The problem with the cans is your are restrained by how much the can holds and, once the can is empty, you're stuck with an empty can that should be properly disposed of.  The cost of these cans for the use you'll get out of them will get pricey if you intend to get a lot of use from your gun.  Besides, if you also decide to try your hand at airbrushing, you'll need to consider an air compressor anyway.  A compressor does represent a significant investment though but if you shop around, you may be able to find something closer to your price range.  Canadian Tire ... a retail chain up here carries a brand called Mastercraft which is their house brand of tools.  The quality of these tools is quite good (hand tools carry a lifetime warranty and power tools typically a 3-5 year warranty) and, being a house brand, various tools will occasionally see great prices during a sale.  I have seen the two-gallon air compressor go on sale for as low as $50 (regular price is $100).  Naturally there are bigger models but for the purposes of airbrushing, you really won't need much given that your wont be going for much more than a 30 - 40 psi range for your work.  If you are thinking of using your compressor for other things such as various air power tools, you'll certainly need something with a bigger tank.  In short, do your research.  It is also worth noting that you also may have to put some thought into something referred to as a moisture trap.  Regular use of a running compressor may also result in a bit of humidity accumulating in the tank or lines.  The last thing you want to have happened is to do some detail work with an airbrush, only to have a splatter of water potentially ruin your work.

The airbrush itself is an entirely different matter.

There are inexpensive airbrushes as well as cheap ones ... if trying to save some money, get an inexpensive one from a recognizable brand like Badger or Paasche.  This will undoubtedly be a 'single action' air brush.  Currently I own and use a slightly older Paasche model which is a single action model that allows for a syphon feed via a cup or bottle.  It allows for airflow control only.  If getting serious about airbrushing, then a good double action airbrush will prove to be invaluable to you.  A good double action air brush is not cheap though and can easily run you a couple hundred dollars if not more.  A double action airbrush allows for control of air flow as well as paintflow.  Another consideration as the preference of syphon feed versus gravity feed.  A gravity feed allows for smaller amounts of paints to be used compared to a syphon feed that needs larger amounts of paint to function properly.  Like a compressor, it is important to do your research before you buy and there is nothing wrong with beginning with a 'starter brush'.

Beyond spray guns, air brushes, and compressors, some people want to further differentiate and modify their models.  For this sort of work, it is safe to say that it will take more time and effort as well as patience and talent to pull off.  The good news is that is relatively inexpensive to do.

First and foremost, something called 'green stuff' is what is often used for this sort of work.  Green Stuff is compossed of yellow modelling putty and blue modelling putty which, when mashed and combined together becomes green, can be shaped and sculpted to meet your needs which eventually dries and hardens.  It can then be sanded a bit and painted.  Green Stuff can be used to fix, modify, or simply create.  Citadel has also made available a sort of liquid green stuff which can be used to seal small cracks and sanded in order to creat a smooth and continuous surface.  Of course you will need a dedicated brush (and one you don't care for) to apply this stuff.  As for the original green stuff, you will need a few tools to help sculpt and shape it.  These tools are inexpensive -- Army Painters has a set of three (six different tips) for $10.

Another useful aid in modeling is 'Plasticard'.  Plasticard is essentially very thin plastic sheets.  It can be shaped with hot water and easily cut to fit ones needs.  It is inexpensive and often used for terrain and buildings.  Between this, green stuff, and a variety of odds and, you can pretty much construct and modify anything.

With larger pieces, whether they are pieces of your own creation or just pieces that need to be assembled, something additional to the glue may be needed to keep the pieces together -- pins.  In order to install these pins, a pin vise is used to drill these very tiny holes.  Naturally a vise of sorts (one that can be secured to a table), will be needed to firmly hold whatever you are trying to drill.  A bit of green stuff, a pin, and some glue will be all you need to secure larger and heavier pieces.  Beyond that, a pin vise can also be used to make holes for tiny magnets if you want to have a model capable of swapping out pieces ... like the armament on a vehicle or even the arms and guns of an individual soldier.  Prices for a pin vise can vary but generally begin at $10 for something basic.  More expensive models with more bits are available and these aren't exclusive to hobby shops to shop around.

With assembling and modifying miniatures, you may even want to remove something from a model and, for larger pieces, something like a hobby knife or cutters may just not be up to the task.  A razor saw is quite handy but prices also vary for something like this -- the pricing of citadel's version is excessive compared to what you can find by going to a good hardware store.  I have seen good quality ones go for as little as $7 which is a steal if looking to buy Citadel's which Game Workshop has the nerve to charge $35 for in Canada.  Actually, the their Razor Saw is probably the single, biggest example of price gouging I have ever seen.  Consider that the US dollar which has generally been at par with the Canadian dollar for the better part of a couple of years now is $12 cheaper ($23 in the US as opposed to $35 in Canada).  A razor saw of this type isn't worth much more than $10!!

Between cutting, drilling... and possible a bit of grinding and sanding, if you plan to do a few models which may involve this kind of repeated needs, there is one other option to consider.  I don't have one yet but it's my next purchase but one of my friends uses one regularly for his model modifications.  It's a dremel.  A dremel is really a brand for a quality rotary tool and there are a variety of models to consider.  At the simplest level, you can get a corded one in a kit with all the accessories you need starting at around $50.  Larger kits with more powerful and versatile models will cost more so consider what else you may want to use it for and consider if you prefer a cordless solution.  All dremel tools have a 2 year warranty.  If you aren't ready for that kind of investment but want to buy an cheaper rotary tool, they do exist but your mileage with them and their accessories may vary.

Now with these additional consideration, are there more stuff you may want?  Of course there is.  The thing is that the need of these are really variable and some modellers are just as happy to do without them.  I'm also fairly certain I'm forgetting a few things at the moment but I'm sure that they will come to me right after I post this.  For the most part, a lot of what someone may use beyond what I've been writing about really just complement these.  The only other item with mentioning is a magnifying glass of some sort -- preferable one with a stand.  Some miniatures just have small details and being able to look through a magnifying glass to get a better grasp on those details in order to do a better job painting them with save considerable eye-strain.

Happy modelling!


Friday, February 8, 2013

To The OSR Community...

I've recently read a few interesting posts about the significance of recent actions to the OSR community and what it means for those who chose to publish and support OSR material.

I guess it depends on one's viewpoints.  Some argue that some retroclones such as Laybrinth Lord came about to offer continued support given the fact that certain older TSR material was out of print.
Some, like Expeditious Retreat Press used OSRIC for exactly this purpose and published adventure modules to be used for 1st Edition -- exactly the resource that OSRIC was initially designed for.

Others believed the best purpose for these was to provide a ruleset to act as a substitute for material that was no longer in print and essentially abandoned.

I find this to be a problematic notion at best.  At the time that these initiatives started, this material was pretty much available in one form or another.  PDFs were available for years and it really wasn't all that hard to get printed material for certain items.  Naturally, I'm not talking about the D&D's white box or the older D&D sets that preceded it but anything from the Holmes set and the various incarnations of D&D that followed were something which could (and still can) be found at reasonable prices in the second-hand market.  Sure... there will be some that argue that these are in fact expensive but given the cost of a similar new product in today's market, maybe it isn't too bad (though condition will certainly affect price).  When looking at some of the AD&D rulebooks, this becomes less of a concern given the large amounts which were printed over the years.

After 4th Edition was released, the classic back catalog of material available in PDF was taken away from us and perhaps then, there was more importance to what the OSR community was doing.  Thankfully, someone eventually came to their senses and finally began to acknowledge that a lot of people really didn't care for the direction they were going with 4th Edition and work began on the next version of D&D and actual recognition was given to players of all the previous editions of the game.  Reprints of classic books started to happen and some PDFs were once again available.  The PDFs were even of a better quality than the original electronic offerings and prices have proven to be very reasonable thus far.

At first, there was a lot of "Let us wait and see where they are going with this".  Then there was some jubilation as more playtest material was opened up to the community and PDFs released.  And now... a sense of melancholy?

The bottom line here is that it shouldn't matter.  OSR material was being put out when there was availability of the old TSR material.  OSR material continued to be released when the availability the old TSR material became more restricted (no legal PDFs).  And finally, OSR material will continue to be released despite the reprints and availability of PDFs and a new backwards compatible edition.  It might even increase in some cases.

Personally, I find the sheer amount of OSR material staggering and a bit fragmented when I try and look at it as a whole.  Aside from a small handful of 'household names' and 'brands' a lot of it becomes quickly forgotten.  For now, the best thing that can happen for the OSR community is for the various initiatives to start galvenizing into a more unified front.  I think this has already started to happen with some of the more recognizable titles.  The second generation (second wave) of OSR games have probably been influenced by this as well.

Maybe the new direction that Wizards of the Coast is taking is really the best thing to happen for the OSR.  In the end, the OSR is a community of gamers who share a love of all these rulesets and old material with a desire to share new variants and other and material.  Shouldn't this be the primary focus of the OSR?  Aren't we all in it to have some fun?



Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tools of the Miniature Painter - Pt.1

It seems that I started in this aspect of the hobby quite some time ago even though the reality is that it's only been 4 months or so...  I think that the reason it seems so long is that I have learned so much in a small amount of time.  I also poured a bunch of money into the hobby and that's aside any of the miniatures I've bought since the start of all my painting.  I quickly learned what I liked and what I did not as well as gotten some serious amount of gear of what I find valuable in my tool kit.  With deliveries of a few successful, miniature-related, kickstarters (such as the one from Reaper which raised over 3.4 million), others like me might be thinking about getting into painting for the first time.

There is a lot more about this aspect of the hobby than just splashing various colored paints on a miniature -- you will need more than just paint and brushes even this is core of it.  Once you have decided to take the first step and have selected the miniature(s) you want to start with, you need to prep the miniature.  Whether it is plastic/resin or metal, they will need to be cleaned.  A small brush (toothbrush or nailbrush) a bit of dish soap and some warm running water is all that is needed clean the model where as a precision knife will help you cut away any 'flash' still on the model (flash is remnants of metal or plastic along the mold lines of the model).  Furthermore, in the event that the model is still on a plastic sprue, a simple set of cuts (with one side flat) will make your life so much easier.  You may also find a set of files (suitable for miniatures / models / jewelry) will also help clean the area around the mold lines.  In the event that the model needs assembling, glue suitable to the task will be needed.  There are plenty of types available and nowhere near as expensive as some hobby suppliers will charge.  Of course, you can always go for a tried and tested brand such as 'Testors' which I use myself as have been satisfied with when working with plastic models.  For other applications which include metal bits needing some glue, I will go with a thicker superglue.  Larger pieces may need a bit of help but we'll get to those in Part 2.

Oh, and with some of that cutting, a cutting board / mat may be a good investment.  ;)

With all of that done, we can start looking at the next phase -- the undercoat.  Prior to actually painting the model, you will want to add a layer of primer.  Typically, these will be black, grey, or white and, for convenience, in a spraycan.  It is easy to apply though you don't want to excessively coat the model in this paint as this could result in a loss of detail on the model itself.  The problem is you will need to do this is a open / well ventilated area and typically this mean outdoors.  Some latex gloves are recommended if you decide to hold the miniature in you hand but frankly, I wouldn't recommend that.  Get a good stick and affix the miniature at the end of the stick and then have at it!  I prefer to prep my miniatures in black prior to painting but an interesting trick I picked up was to gently 'dust' my model with a touch of white afterwards.  This has the added benefit of having certain smaller details stand out a bit better.  That said, I hate having to use the spray cans and there isn't any good alternative for a primer in a bottle.  Citadel has their 'Imperial Primer' but I have had very mixed results and generally think that it is crap and only useful for touch-ups if an area was missed when spraying from a can.  Even the cans can be pricey depending where you are buying from -- Games Workshop have 'Chaos Black' or 'Skull White' reach run for almost $16 a piece (and even higher in Canada).  For a couple bucks less, it might be worth checking out the Army Painter line of color primers.  They have black and white which go for $11 each as well as a range of various colors to serve as a primer and color combined in one which is an easy way to get a base color coat done.

At this point, some readers may ask why bother with an undercoat to begin with?  Simple -- the undercoat creates a surface that other paints will bond to a lot better to the model.  In my personal quest to ditch the spray cans, I have also begun to experiment with acrylic gesso -- an alternative which has a lot of potential (read more about it HERE).

Once the undercoat has been applied and is dried, you are essentially ready to paint.  A good quality paint will go a long way to a great finished product and everyone has their favorites.  I use the current line of citadel paints and, they are many and expensive compared to other lines.  In part, my fondness is the great experiences I had working with them when I started.  If I were to start over again, I would certainly have a strong predisposition to consider the line because of the variety of shades and colors involved.  That said, if you don't mind mixing your colors yourself, there is no reason why a line with far fewer choices couldn't do the job.  A vial of citadel paint retails for $3.70 (12 ml) but Army Painters is worth mentioning once more as their vials retail for less ($2.99 a vial).  Reaper also has a nice line of paints priced between Army Painter and Citadel but offer more paint per bottle.  It really comes down to preference.

As for brushes... my advice is to shop around a bit.  Forget the hobby shop -- go to the art supply store.  If you are working with 28 - 30mm scale and you are working on a lot of individual character models, you'll want something where you can do some decent detail work.  You can get a brush of a much better quality than a 5-7$ brush at you hobby shop.  Of course, you can spend a lot more money on a specific brushes at the art store depending on what you're looking for.  For the most part, you want a brush no bigger that size 2 and, depending on what you do, you will want to go much smaller than that for very fine detail.  I like sable brushes and found a decent enough selection when I look at the brushes for watercolor -- the smallest I use is a 10/0.  I bought quite a few brushes when I first started, and I currently use 4 routinely though I have a couple others for drybrush work.

Recently, I bought a set of inexpensive sable brushes for a friend (a set of four) and they cost me $16.00 during the holidays.  I bought the brushes for my friend when I saw the state of his usual brushes.  They were terrible and this brings me to the next point: proper cleaning of brushes.  Shortly after I started, I began using "The Masters" Brush Cleaner & Preserver" which will end up saving me money on more brushes.  I am amazed at how well this stuff will clean and restore the bristles of a paint brush.  Another inexpensive option is Murphy Oil Soap which is gentle on the bristles.  My friend's old brushes would have fared much better if he routinely cleaned his brushes with either of these products.

Finally... when the last of the paint on your miniature is dry, you'll want to protect the model with some sort of sealant like a varnish.  You can get this stuff in a spray can and you can get this stuff in a bottle.  Either will do the trick but the thing you'll want to consider is if you prefer a matte finish or a glossy finish or just something in between.  You'll also want to be careful if using a spraycan ... temperature and humidity can affect the application of the varnish in this matter (especially if the temperature is too cold).  In either case, like the primer, you don't want to have it applied too thick.

These are the basics of what you'll need and what they are used for.  How mush does something like this cost to get started?  Certain hobby suppliers have start kits to get you into the hobby... Citadel for instance has one for less than $60 which comes with 8 paints and a black primer, cutters, thin and thick glues, a starter brush, and a couple other things for the bases of miniatures.  Army Painters on the other hand doesn't exactly have a small starter... they have a set with cutters, glue, and hobby knife for plastic miniatures and another with  a file instead of the hobby knife for metal models.  These are $12 and they have a 3 brush starter for another $12.  However these don't have paint but, to their credit, they have a much larger kit for $99 which includes pretty much everything you may want and a bunch of other stuff I'm covering in Part 2.

The truth of the matter is, if one starts adding up everything, $50 to $100 can easily be spent to get started and this is not counting the miniatures you'll be painting.  A discerning consumer will be able to get away with spending closer to the $50 end of the spectrum as long as they don't immediately buy everything they need from the hobby shop ... check out the art supply stores or even the dollar store.  Some of the best contact super glue I use and buy when it's available I happen to find at the dollar store.  Decent paints is what will really bring your initial expenses up though so it might be best to be mindful of what you are painting in the beginning.

Part II will expand our selection of tools.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Weekend R&R: Tunnels & Trolls

Well, I'm far overdue for my Weekend R&R series and given the past posts and very old school subject matter of the last two I did (Advanced Fighting Fantasy and Dragon Warriors), I thought I'd talk a bit about Tunnels & Trolls.  Of course, it's no small coincidence that the idea did come about by seeing the Kickstarter coming to a close in the next few days for the new deluxe edition of the game (check it out HERE).  The very first time I came across Tunnels & Trolls was the old PC computer game released in 1990 while I was living in Europe.  The cover art was simply awesome and I wanted it so very much.  However, I was only 15 at the time and money was a bit harder to come by -- especially if what little money one had already was largely devoted to buying various D&D and AD&D books to use for the games I was actively engaged in.

I never forgot that cover art for the computer game and, thanks to that day, I realized that Tunnels & Trolls was it's own game and one I did need to look into a bit more.  As luck would have it, I didn't have much luck at that a few years later.  I just didn't know anyone who played let alone even had a copy of the rulebook but, thanks to various BBS's and the widespread internet that came afterwards, the consensus was largely the same: it was an inferior D&D ripoff.

Still, this didn't deter me.

A lot has changed in the past decade, and the way we shop for our games, the pervasiveness of digital content in certain cases, have really made obscure titles -- games, books, and other things, a lot more accessible.  Online communities which have began forming since as the capabilities to connect online continue to forge connections and friendships as well as a great sharing of ideas.  The same goes for buying / selling / and trading.

I consider myself fortunate enough to have traded for a copy of the 5th Edition Tunnels & Trolls 'Black Box' a few years back which served to complement the Free RPG Day release I got back in 2007.  Yes... 2007.  It took over 15 years for me to come to the end of my quest but that black box was pretty slick.  Since then, I have gotten a shiny copy of the 5.5 Edition of the rulebook which I keep in the box along with the gently used 5th Edition book that came in the set.

The contents of the box was the book, Buffalo Castle, Dungeon of the Bear, some cardstock handouts like the Survival Kit and some pre-gens, dice and the special pencil.

The system itself is delightfully simple yet functional -- as any old school approach should be and the creator of the game, Ken St. Andre stated on many occasion that he created it in response to what he thought were unnecessary levels of complexities in the original Dungeons & Dragons game for him and his friends.  If D&D is recognized as being the first RPG, the T&T is the second with the earliest version having been published in 1975.  It was only natural for comparisons to be made between them and, with the light hearted and, at times, silly apporach T&T took, so-called "serious gamers" didn't give the system due credit.  With the solitary adventures produced for T&T, it likely had as much of an influence as D&D did for the various Fighting Fantasy books that began to appear in the early 80's.

Of course, today such an argument about the merits of T&T when compared to D&D is largely invalid.  With the OGL and the creation of open game content and the OSR movement that followed, we have many games to chose from that all derive from D&D and D&D type games.

The bottom line is that Tunnels & Trolls has stood on its own for almost 40 years now (I hope for something special in 2015) and it deserves a second look if you haven't done so already.  The whimsical nature of the game helps it stand apart and, frankly, the simplicity keeps that game accessible for younger players or experienced players who are more interested in storytelling and roleplaying.

The system itself will be familiar enough with a total of 6 attributes you roll for (Strength, IQ, Luck, Constitution, Dexterity, and Charisma) with aspects of these attributes having an impact on the game.  To help illustrate the simplicity of the game, here is how Combat works:

Fighting involves rolling a set of dice (based on the weapon and ability) measured against those of an opponent with the difference remaining going to the 'loser' of the round to allocate damage which is offset by armor.  Any damage getting through results in a loss of Constitution which are also your health points.  Groups add the totals for each side and do the same.  That's it.  Very simple.

If curious, I recommend popping over to RPGNow and grab the free Quickstart which was originally put together for the first FreeRPG Day back in 2007 (over HERE). Looking quickly, there is also the PDF of the 4th edition of the Rulebook for only $4.00 now available which I think I will grab for myself later.  If you already know what I'm talking about but haven't heard about the kickstarter, check it out... there are some nice things there even if you aren't interested in the new rulebook.

Happy Gaming!