What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

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

Friday, July 26, 2013

State of Flux

Things have been a bit busy as I try and take advantage of the summer and end up getting pulled in various directions.  As such, it's been a bit quiet as my days have been busy with a dash of the unexpected.

Two things I am looking at doing in the next few days -- I am looking to migrate the blog to my own Arcana Creations domain for starters and I'm also looking to set up a second blog for the Domesday.

The first thing, the migration, just makes sense.  I seem to be able to update the blog regularly enough and I get traffic.  Not huge amounts like other blogs but I do pull between 75-100 hits per day on average.  I don't get as much traffic on my webpage and, frankly, I'm lucky if I find the time to update it once a year.  It's a bit of a pain in the ass.  However, I do pay for my domain so I may as well put it to good use and move the blog on over.  Still not entirely sure about how I'm going to do it exactly but I'm aiming to do the big change in the next few days.

The second thing, the Domesday has always been a mixed bag.  Before I took on responsibilities for this fanzine head-on, it was moderately successful among Castles & Crusades fans but then abandoned due to the work it needed from the very few volunteers that were putting it together.  This is the reason I picked it up -- it had been left unattended for far too long and Crusader magazine was left on indefinite hold.  The two issues I put out were well received and looked sleek and professional.  I was proud of them.  However, as I was starting to work on another issue earlier this year, I had a computer failure.  When I finally got my equipment in order (a new computer), I decided to put it on hold to concentrate on other issues.  That gave me more time to consider the state of that magazine and, I've decided to drop that format in favor of a more regular offering of content distributed via a blog.

This is not to say that this content won't be compiled into some product down the line, but it will make managing the content on a day to day basis a bit more... well... manageable.  It might also give a destination for C&C fans to gather around and start contributing more regularly as well.  Time will tell.

So that is what has been on my mind lately.

Aside from that, Troll Lord Games has ended up having their most successful Kickstarter end and effectively overcoming some of the original issues they had been having running that particular campaign.  It really took off once they made some changes to how they were handling the leather books which came after I and another backer were exchanging a few comments about them.  Of course, that isn't the only factor and, I don't really know if that had a solid impact or not.  The KS certainly drew a lot of new backers ... loyal fans and new people to C&C alike.  In any event I am happy they were able to achieve to much.

Lastly, I want to highlight the Kickstarter for a Comic Book a friend and his studio are trying to put out.  Please check out their offering HERE.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Want to Know What's Bleeding Cool?

Ok folks.  I am very happy to announce that a little interview piece I wrote up has been published by 'Bleeding Cool' -- a blog site focused on the comic book industry.  The piece is about a new comic book being produced by my friend and founder of Zenith Comics.  The first issue is being Kickstarted right now and after 5 days or so is already a third of the way to completing its funding goal.

You can read my article HERE.

You want to know even more?  Check out the Kickstarter HERE.

If it looks interesting but you're not sure if you are ready to commit?  Then you have really nothing to lose by reading the script for issue one which can be found HERE.

If you have a love or have ever enjoyed reading a good comic book and like a strong story, I strongly enjoy you check it out.  For those of us who have wanted to chase our dreams and make something of it, this comic book is such a dream.  Every $5 counts (this will get you a digital copy) and I truly think this has a chance to be very BIG.

In the immortal words of Stan Lee: 'Nuff Said.


Mr. Bones - A Painting Guide

This past Monday, I started the task of painting my Reaper Bones miniatures and, fittingly enough, I chose to start of with that particular Kickstarter mascot.  It's a cool miniature.  All of them are pretty cool but I needed a test subject given the nature of the material (I write about some of the challenges encountered HERE).  I figured that if things went horribly wrong, I wouldn't risk using a mini I would be ashamed to pull out at the gaming table.

So given the way the material reacts to anything water, gesso is really the way to go if you want to do some sort of primer before application of any paints.  I know that some people have been painting straight on their miniature with base coat paints but, for those of you who haven't yet, I strongly suggest to try applying some paint underneath the bottom of the model.  I have learned a couple of things with using the gesso which is worth keeping in mind if any of you opt to go this route for your bones miniatures.

1) While my experiences with priming my miniatures with gesso is relatively new, I was looking to 'switch' to using more and more gesso when my current spray can primer supplies were emptied.  I used one part water to 5 parts gesso just to thin out the gesso a tad since the consistency is a bit like glue.  Despite the lower ratio of water to gesso, the plastic from the model still will repel the liquid though it's easy enough to brush it back into place during the initial coat in order to get a uniformed finish. I have prepped two more miniature since then with undiluted gesso -- thinly applied and with great success.  Undiluted gesso is applied without ant repelling effect.

2) Gesso is inherently thicker but 'shrinks' during the drying process.  That said, applying a thin coat is better than a thick coat.  Otherwise, you could risk obscuring details -- especially if you choose to use it undiluted.  I have also remarked on the two newer models that it is possible to leave brush strokes if you are careless with the application -- at least with the undiluted gesso.  This are so miniscule that a base coat over top will completely mask them but it is worth remembering.  A good brush (but a dedicated 'gesso' brush) and a better quality liquid gesso should alleviate these as well.

So, once the gesso is dry (I will paint the following day since gesso takes longer to dry than a regular primer or acrylic), I began to do my base coat.  Since the start, I had a very clear idea of the paint schemes and look I wanted -- planning your paint is something I recommend.

The cloak got a coat of 'Mechanicus Standard Grey', the tunic/robes under the cloak got some 'Khorne Red', and the lacings got 'Zandri Dust'.  I also used the same grey for the shovel head and used 'Mournfang Brown' for the shaft.  The rope which Mr. Bones uses as a well was done in 'Averland Sunset'.  The face, hands, and feet (foot actually) were done in a base coat of 'Ceramite White'.  Unfortunately, the was something wrong with the consistency of this particular paint.  Checking in with a rep at my local Games Workshop store (these are all Citadel paints), he did mention that it was possible and to bring the pot in for exchange.  The face required more attention in order to correct the problems I had.

As far as layers were concerned, I used 'Dark Reaper' for the recesses of the folds of the cloak and 'Russ Grey' for some of the cloaks edges and highlights.  The shovel head got a layer of Ironbreaker and the tunic/robes got a bit of 'Wazdakka Red' and 'Doombull Brown' together.  I used a bit of black in there too as I did a bit of blending which is more visible when examining the sleeves beneath the cloak.

I used for different washes for my shading starting with a generous coat of 'Drakenhof Nightshade' for the cloak.  I used 'Nuln Oil' for the shaft of the shovel.  'Agrax Earthshade' was used for the rope as well as the surface of the shovel head.  Finally, 'Seraphim Sepia' was applied to any of the bone on the miniature.

The Seraphim Sepia was crucial to help with some of the aging effect I wanted to see on the bones but was very important to help pull out some of the details in the face I had partially obscured with the poor white paint quality.  With this shade applied, I was able to put on a layer of Ushabti Bone to highlight certain features of the hands, foot, and face.

A bit of 'Abaddon Black' was used for the eyes, nose, and 'gaps' between teeth as well as to touch-up and darken spaces between fingers and toes.  Once completely dried, I applied a layer of matte varnish from Liquitex.

Overall, I am happy given that this was mostly a 'test figure' from my Bones lot.  I will have to change up the white but given that I have a one particular HUGE model that will require lots of white, I may just get a different white acrylic (likely from Liquitex) to do that with.  It is unfortunate that, due to the problems I had with the white that it kind of obscured a bunch of the details in the face -- just looking at the figure in gesso (though the lighting wasn't the best), you can tell that the detail was not affected by the gesso itself.

Then again, practice will make perfect and with over 500 miniatures to paint, I have plenty of practice coming.  ;)


Next Painting Project

With Mister Bones finished (I will post some a couple of pics this weekend along with a painting guide), I've set my sights on my next project.  A dragon.  In this case, it's the Pathfinder Red Dragon from the Reaper line -- originally cast in metal and now part of the Bones lineup.  Well, for those who backed the Bones Kickstarter.  Rest assured that all the models will be available retail a few weeks after all rewards have been shipped.

This particular model cost me only $10 ... the retail price in their preview section is listed for something like $15.  The metal version is closer to the $40 mark.

While I quickly found out that this plastic is far from ideal in terms of painting, once you get the hang of it or simply pick up and apply a few tricks, it is a smooth process.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Challenges with the Haunted Hightlands Kickstarter

Well, Troll Lord Games launched a new Kickstarter just over a couple weeks ago and the project is getting done but I have some concerns.  First off, let me say that the Haunted Highlands setting absolutely rocks.  Penned by Casey Christofferson whose most recent published gaming book was the Free City of Eskadia (read a bit about it HERE), the Haunted Highlands was the background setting for a series of adventures published by Troll Lord Games a few years back.  The modules in question are as follows:

DB1 - The Haunted Highlands
DB2 - The Crater of Umeshti
DB3 - The Deeper Darkness
DB4 -Dro Mandras: The Free West
DB5 -Dro Mandras II: The Conquered East
DB6 - Dwellers in the Darkness

They are *all* great and I recommend Casey's stuff.  Now, for the past few years, fans of the series have been asking for some sort of campaign set and it looks like TLG decided to finally make it happen. The Kickstarter is titled the 'Return to the Haunted Highlands' and consists of two books and maps.  The books are the Castle Keepers Guide to the Haunted Highlands and, predictably, the Players Guide to the Haunted Highlands.

The Castle Keeper's book is basically the collected series of DB1 through DB6, now revised and expanded with more setting material, more monsters, and more treasure in addition to the collected adventures.  It promises to be over 200 pages.

The Player's book is smaller and will contain setting info for players, new classes, spells as well as the expanded and revised text for another accessory previously published entitled 'The Black Libram'.  In this book are the 'Siege Engine' rules from the C&C core books.  Now this last part is kind of interesting and has me wondering if the Players Guide is truly 'self-sufficient' or not.  I am also wondering if this is really necessary.

I suppose the same can be said for the whole set.

Don't get me wrong, this will be quite nice and I much prefer having this all together than spread out over several modules.  The issue is value or rather the perceived value for this Kickstarter.  I know I have sat on the fence on past TLG ones but I have *always* given it because the value was there.  There is a lot of value to be had here as well.  In fact, if someone was ready to spend a bit of coin and was looking to get into Castles & Crusades, the $199 pledge level is absolutely amazing!  You get the Haunted Highlands material, as well as a copy of the C&C Player's Handbook, the Castle Keepers Guide, the Monsters & Treasure book, Classic Monsters, Gods & Monsters, the landscape CK Screens, and dice!  Fantastic value right there and, if I had the money to spare, I'd buy into that despite already owning all of those books (and a couple copies of certain books to boot).

At first, there were a couple of modest stretch goals which fans busted through within a few days.  The next two modules of the series -- DB7 and DB8 are being included in the compilation (previously unpublished).  The next stretch goal to be met was to have one of the Players Guide be done in hardcover.  This was an $8000 goal but keep in mind that the project initially called for $3000 to do (with no bonuses at all).  This was certainly achievable.  I find the next one a bit 'reaching' though and, frankly it is one that needs to be met.  The next goal is at $12,500 and this is to have the CK Guide for the Haunted Highlands done in hardcover too.

Here's my problem with this: I love the idea to have both in hardcover but I'd be willing to have them in softcover if there was no other option.  However, the possibly of having one in hardcover while the other remains in softcover kind of rubs me the wrong way.  I would have preferred a higher stretch goal that encompassed both in hardcover.

But $12,500 is certainly attainable isn't it?  Well yes but given the past Kickstarters that TLG have done, it doesn't give much of a margin judging by the success of those.  In order, these are what the other ones raised:

C&C: Classic Monsters raised $9108 (goal was $4000) with 166 backers
C&C: Players Handbook - 5th Printing (color) raised $16,106 (goal was $6000) with 223 backers
C&C: Codex Celtarum raised $13,637 (goal was $4000) with 184 backers

The biggest draw was the newest printing of the Player's Handbook with was the first to feature color pages.  For fans of the game, it makes sense that this is the biggest draw.  The fact that one of the bonuses doubled down and gave you two copies at the lowest pledge level for a physical reward (at $40) was really astounding.

The Codex Celtarum book did reasonably well.  It was an entirely new book after all and also featured similar value for your dollar -- $100+ got an extra copy of the book with leather covers.

As for the Classic Monsters book.  I honestly thought it would do better and there was some tremendous value there too.  I think it would do better now and the lower numbers had more to do with it being the first Kickstarter that TLG did.

How does this all stack up?  Well, if we look at the Codex Celtarum, it did well enough but it was also new material and not containing a significant chunk of previously published stuff like the Highlands stuff does have.  The last 'compilation' that TLG did was the Umbrage saga box set at $19.99 which sadly seems to be unavailable anymore in print.  There was some great value in that set and I think it might have been partially what inspired the demand to see something similar for the Haunted Highlands.  At $20, it was a great buy even if you already bought the adventures individually.  However, given that we are talking about some stuff that fans may already own (despite promises of expanded and revised content), this Kickstarter needs to be about value once more.

For my money, I'm not certain I'm seeing much value here  but I have backed it at the $75 level which would get me copies of the Players and CK books, maps, digital copies, a T-Shirt, and a cookbook.  Part of the issue is the unknown shipping costs which will certainly cost me another $20-30 on top of that but will only be resolved *afterwards*.  This is an unknown I'm not sure I'm comfortable with but the Trolls are good about it when dealing with them directly.  However, should the $12,500 stretch not be met, I will likely downgrade if not drop it entirely.  These days, $75 is a significant amount of extra cash and I don't relish the idea of a mis-matched set of books. Interestingly enough, the pledge level for the Players Guide also has the highest number of backers -- likely because of the fact that many fans of the series already own DB1-6.

EDIT: Looking at it again, I misread the pledge levels and got a couple of them mixed up.  The highest number of backers is with the $59 package which is just the two books plus maps.  It is late and I clearly need some sleep.  I still think that more 'new' material would create greater interest so the stretch goals that have already added DB7 and DB8 and, hopefully DB9 will help!

TLG also have higher stretch goals which may or may not be attainable.  I think this crowd funding effort will be hard pressed to get much above $12,500 as they currently stand at just under $9600 with less than two weeks to go.

Past $12,500, you have an easily achievable one for $500 which gives us bigger maps.  At $15000, you have Darlene (the artist for the classic Greyhawk maps from the Folio) who will be doing the maps (very nice but I don't think we'll get there).  At $16,500 you get Fat Dragon to do Dirty Bowbe's Roadhouse available as a 3D model you can assemble from cardstock.  To be honest, I don't even care about this particular goal though I know many who would.

There are promises of further stretch goals that include minis from Reaper and more content (DB9) but not amounts supplied for those as of yet.  I think it's a bit of a moot point since I don't imagine this Kickstarter will do better than the PHB did.  And this is kind of my point.  Given previous Kickstarters, hoping for more that $16,000 is too much of a stretch.

What can we do to change this around?

For starters, Troll Lord Games promised additional pledge levels for leather covers for the Player's Guide should it hit the hardcover stretch goal.  We're still waiting to see these.  The inclusion of this new level may entice backers of the Player's Guide level to 'upgrade' and bring extra funds to the fund.  Oh and while it is important to get the word out, as a backer of the three previous kickstarters, I find it pretty obnoxious to get 4 updates cross-posted in all kickstarters for C&C.  This may be a turn off for some.

Secondly, we backers should try and see about getting friends (who aren't likely to back the KS directly) to see if there are any books they would like.  It might be a golden opportunity to get the $199 package if you have fellow gamers in your group that don't have any of the books but would like them.  Similarly, you can add on a number of additional PHBs, CKGs, as well as the Free City Of Eskadia and either book from the Haunted Highlands kickstarter.  The players guide is a great idea if you are seriously thinking of running a campaign in this setting.

For those of you who aren't C&C fans, the Haunted Highlands can easily be used with other 'old school' games similarly influenced by classic D&D and AD&D.

You can view the Kickstarter HERE.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Meet Mr. Bones! (WIP)

Well, I was one of the lucky ones and got my Bones Kickstarter a bit sooner than I anticipated so, after a long weekend of sorting my study / studio and finding storage for all the miniatures that will be needing painting in the near future, I finally was able to sit down and get started.

Now I've read some of the tips on the Reaper forums in terms of getting started on these bad-boys and, I had a friend whom I had ordered an extra dragon for (one of the Pathfinder ones) which he got a head start on.  I gave him a few tips I had seen there regarding painting his dragon.  He tried to paint using the base coat straight on the miniature as opposed to doing a primer first.  The paints he was using?  The latest line of Citadel paints.  Reading about Reaper's HD line of paints with the heavier pigmentation, I figured the Base paints from the Citadel (which are also heavier in pigmentation) would probably be ideal.

The thing is he had a devil of a time and, compared to the materials he normally has worked with (metal / resin), he found painting on the bones plastic to be a particular challenge -- one he did not enjoy as much.  As it was described to me, the behavior of the paint seemed to work against him.  He tried using the paint as-is, diluted with water, and diluted with a medium (Liquitex Airbrush I believe) with similar results.  And he did thoroughly scrub and clean before hand.  This was just underneath the base so, after these less than optimal results, he decided to prime it first and then apply the necessary basecoats and what-have-you.

Despite the challenges, it is coming along nicely he tells me.

Now, on my end, I decided to start today and given his difficulties, I decided a different tactic.  Despite what one of the stickies have indicated, I decided that gesso would be the tool I would work with.  I dilute the liquid gesso (1 part water for 4 parts gesso) just a tad to get a better flow.  However, I immediately notice some of the repelling effects but they are minor.  I coat the test miniature and, re-coat as necessary.  This does not take long and, with the way that gesso dries and 'shrinks', it gives it a very nice coat and a perfect surface to paint on.

What I have been dying to try out is shooting the gesso as opposed to brushing it own but I don't know what kind of effect this will result in -- I may have to drop that idea.

If the gesso didn't work, I was going to try and shoot it with a layer of varnish which should also 'nullify' the water repelling effect that's been noted.  One of the advantages of the gesso though may be with any of the 'bendy' parts of some of the bones since I think it has the ability to 'flex' a bit.  Otherwise paint and the gesso underneath it would risk breaking and flaking off.  Between this and a coat of varnish to seal the finished paint job, it should be resilient enough for table-top use.  At least I hope so.  ;)

In any event, here is my first mini with his coat of gesso (and ready for his paint) -- only fitting that it should be Mr. Bones himself:


Wednesday, July 3, 2013


UPDATE: This lot has been sold but thanks for looking.  If you decide to follow this blog, know that there will be other sales coming in the months ahead.

A couple of weeks back, I posted a list of sale for a series of Dungeon Crawl Classics modules.  I've had a couple of inquiries and, while I have not had a buyer step up, I did get some feedback from a few other parties.  As such -- I am still selling a lot as follows:

DCC 0 - Legends are Made, Not Born
DCC 1 - Idylls of the Rat King
DCC 2 - The Lost Vault of Tsathzar Rho
DCC 3 - The Mysterious Tower
DCC 4 -  Bloody Jack's Gold
DCC 5 - Aerie of the Crow God
DCC 6 - Temple of the Dragon Cult
DCC 7 - The Secret of Smuggler's Cove
DCC 8 - Mysteries of the Drow
DCC 9 - Dungeon Geomorphs
DCC 10 - The Sunless Garden
DCC 11 - The Dragonfiend Pact
DCC 12 - The Blackguard's Revenge
DCC 12.5 - The Iron Crypt of the Heretics
DCC 13 - Crypt of the Devil Lich
DCC 14 - Dungeon Interludes
DCC 15 - Lost tomb of the Sphinx Queen
DCC 16 - Curse of the Emerald Cobra
DCC 17 - Legacy of the Savage Kings
DCC 18 - Citadel of the Demon Prince
DCC 19 - The Volcano Caves
DCC 20 - Shadows in Freeport
DCC 21 - Assault on Stormbringer Castle
DCC 22 - The Stormbringer Juggernaught
DCC 23 - The Sunken Ziggurat
DCC 24 - Legend of the Ripper
DCC 25 - Dread Crypt of Srihoz
DCC 26 - The Scaly God
DCC 27 - Revenge of the Rat King
DCC 28 - Into the Wilds

DCC 30 - The Vault of the Dragon Kings
DCC 31 - The Transmuter's Last Touch
DCC 32 - The Golden Palace of Zahadran
DCC 33 - Belly of the Great Beast
DCC 34 - Cage of Delirium
DCC 35 - Gazetteer of the Known Realms
DCC 36 - Talons of the Horned King
DCC 37 - The Slithering Overlord
DCC 38 - Escape from the Forest of Lanterns

DCC 40 - Devil in the Mists
DCC 41 - The Lost Arrows of Aristemis
DCC 42 - The Secret of the Stonearm
DCC 43 - Curse of the Barrens
DCC 44 - Dreaming Caverns of the Duergar
DCC 45 - Malice of the Medusa
DCC 46 - The Book of Treasure Maps
DCC 47 - Tears of the Genie

DCC 49 - Palace in the Wastes
DCC 50 - Vault of the Iron Overlord
DCC 52 - Chronicle of the Fiend

Price for all the above: $225 USD (Price includes shipping to Canada and continental USA).

Things to note: Nine of these modules are part of the two box set compilations that Goodman Games released.  These modules were simply repackaged in this manner and there is nothing to distinguish these from those that were sold separately.

Questions should be addressed to:

patbellavance (at) sympatico (dot) ca

This is the last call for the lot and this will not go any lower and is valid for the next week or so.  After that, I will either sell it piece by piece on ebay or simply keep the whole thing.  On another note, feel free to check out these items HERE.  They too are about to be taken off to be sold on ebay or simply kept.  If you wish to make another offer on any of these, feel free and reasonable ones will be considered but keep in mind those prices also include shipping to Canada and the States.  Some may not have much room to haggle on.  ;)