What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dreadfire Portal - Painting Guide

Some weeks back, Games Workshop was having a sale on some of their fantasy-based scenary.  For anyone that knows Games Workshop products, this is very much a rarity and I decided to take advantage of it.  While I like miniatures and some props for the tabletop, I wasn't ever really big into scenary and, in part, the expense usually tied to it is the biggest deal breaker given how often one may end up using it.  In this case, I think the price was low enough to at least give it a shot.  One of the models from the lot is called the Dreadfire Portal.

It seemed pretty cool and not too difficult of a paint job to do what I wanted to do with it.  It's essentially a set of stairs that go up to a dias and the stairs themselves are held up by carved rock.  The carved rock are reapers and, while I have seen the model with these painted, I decided to just stick to a rock-like paint job and stairs which form up the majority of the model.

But before even starting to paint the model, I had to put it together.  I haven't had much luck with Games Workshop models and out of 5 kits I've opened to assemble and paint, 4 of them needed some work.  The plastic on this one was warped and had to be modified.  The model was cut from the sprues and cleaned up and, after it was glued together, a fair bit of greenstuff was used to fill the very obvious gabs.  Priming was a simple matter of stepping out on the balcony and spraying Chaos Black.

I still had a bit of misfortune though.  At one point I accidentally knocked it down from my worktable when reaching for something else on my desk.  A couple pieces broke off and it had to be re-glued before painting could begin.  Between the assembling and correcting of the model, priming, and then repairing the model, all this lasted twice as long than the actual painting did.

The key paint used for the base coast was 'Mechanicus Standard Grey' from the Citadel paint line.  The majority of the model needed this shade of grey and, aside from the dias, skulls, and flames, little else was needed.  The skulls circling the dias, the arches in the base, and on top of the pillars were done in 'Ushabti Bone' and the spikes, metal rings, and skull symbols in the dias was done in 'Gehenna's Gold'.  'Mournfang Brown' was used on the rest of the surface of the dias.  The blades on the scythes were done in 'Lead Belcher' with the blade edges down in 'Runefang Steel'.

With the exception of the flames and scythe blades, the entirety of the model was shaded using 'Nuln Oil' with a more generous amount applied to the skull ring and skull arches.  Afterwards, all stone received a drybrushing of 'Terminatus Stone', one of the dry compounds from Citadel.  The effect was turned out to be even better than I could have hoped for and looks amazing for something that was simple to do.  I also did some drybrushing on all the gold using the 'Golden Griffon' dry compound.

The flames were a concern initially but it ended up being a lot simpler than I thought.  Flames can be difficult to do well and I think it worked out well enough.  The flames received a coat of 'Averland Sunset' and I used a touch of 'Lugganath Orange' at the very base of the flames.  The flames got a wash of 'Fuegan Orange' while the model was upsiade down to allow the flow to come 'up' on the flames.  I touched up and brightened up the model and drybrushed with a bit of 'Kindelflame' followed by a wash of 'Casandora Yellow'.

With the model dry, I used a glossy varnish for the flames, dias surface, and scythe blades.  The rest of the model received a coat of matte varnish.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Sand Spider - Painting Guide

Since I did the Snow Spider quickly enough, I thought I would do up another in a different paint scheme.  Details on the Snow Spider can be found HERE.

Hence the Sand Spider was born.

The initial base coat once the model was primed was done in Citadel's 'Steel Legion Drab'. I used 'Nuln Oil' to shade the miniature and, like my Snow Spider followed up with two paints for some drybrushing in order to accentuate a few more of the details. I started with with 'Doombull Brown' which is one of Citadels's layer paints and then a bit of the dry compound called 'Undergive Ash'.

I finished the model by using Evil Sunz Scarlet' for the eyes and 'White Scar' with some 'Praxeti White' drybrushed for the fangs.

The work on this one from start to finish was just over a couple of hours (including all stages and drying times).


Weekend R&R: Fantasy Races Unlocked - Kobolds

For a few gamers, the name Christina Stiles will be a bit familiar.  The first time I encountered the name was with a pair of Dungeon Crawl Classics modules published by Goodman Games.  These were 'Assault on Stormbringer Castle' and 'The Stormbringer Juggernaught' -- both great modules written for D&D 3.x.  Christina has been involved in many different gaming projects over the years and also been a friend to Castles & Crusades.  Recently and under the label of 'Christina Stiles Presents', she has joined the tiny and select membership of third party publishers to produce material for C&C and has released a PDF entitled 'Fantasy Races Unlocked: Kobolds'.

I was initially excited to hear about the release.  Some my enthusiasm had to do with seeing others publishing for one of my favorite games.  The biggest reason for my excitement was because of what this release reminded me of -- 'The Complete Book of Humanoids'.

The Complete Book of Humanoids was part of the Player Reference series of brown books published by TSR for AD&D 2nd Edition.  There were many books in that series (15 if I remember correctly) but many were ones I could do without.  Not this one.  It became a favorite in my gaming group as it gave us a chance to play something a bit different.  I distinctly remember creating and playing a goblin which the party named Stoop.  He was a great underdog and fun to play.  The only humanoid which could be considered even more of an underdog though would be the lowly kobold.  Fodder for first level adventurers, kobolds get little respect but that doesn't mean that playing one couldn't be a lot of fun.  Who needs 'dragonborn' when you can play a kobold!  And yes, I realize they are a lot more reptilian than they are dog-like now if you compare the classic version of the kobold to the more modern rendition.  It is what it is folks. 

With the publication of this new gaming aid, you can for C&C.  What hopefully will end up being the first of many, Fantasy Races: Unlocked gives you all that you need to create and play a kobold for the C&C system and, by extension, other d20 based rules-light games.  For C&C 'purists', those gamers will be happy to know that the article follows the format of races as is found in the Players Handbook.  There sections covering description, society, personality, racial affinities, and their environment.  This is followed by an array of racial abilities and skills which will flesh out a kobold player character for the game with an array of bonuses and penalties distinct to the kobold.  The one thing I have noticed which helps this gaming aid stand out (since I already mentioned my fondness for a certain 2nd edition accessory) were the Alternate (and Optional) Racial Traits.  This represent a chance to play a Kobold slightly differently than what one may expect.  Think of it as a Kobold with a twist, if just having one as a PC wasn't enough.    Each are meant to replace one of the 'standard' kobold varieties and I really enjoyed seeing this included.

It's  a solid gaming aid even if it is very specific in purpose.  This, and the price may cause some fans to question its necessity.  I can't argue with the singular purpose with the game aid but, as indicated earlier, it is with hope we will see more and that helps justify this first step.  As for pricing... that's a tough call and very subjective.  As a developer and publisher, pricing is not something I take lightly.  People deserve to get paid for their work and a hefty investment (besides time) goes into something like this.  The PDF is a four page document but unfortunately, 2 of those pages are the cover and the credits/OGL page.  The document is professionally laid aid, editing top notch, and the art piece used is a bit whimsical and well done.  Fans of his art will recognize Peter Bradley's signature flair and this piece is simple and well done.  Artwork and layout costs money and, if you factor in RPGNows! cut, not much is gained if you consider the $2 price tag.  Some people will try to over think and justify not spending the couple of bucks but, given that I pay a lot more for a good cup of coffee, the amount of money spend on this gaming aid is a drop in the bucket.  I have always enjoyed Christina's work and this is a fine addition to the gaming library albeit short... just like a kobold should be.

You can find it HERE.


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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Snow Spider - Painting Guide

With the highly successful Bones II Kickstarter ending yesterday, it only made sense (in my mind) to paint up and post a guide along with it. Having participated in last year's Kickstarter that Reaper did, I have only scratched the surface of the Bones Miniatures I have to paint.

The spider model was a neat but relatively easy model to paint as well as quite a bit of fun to do.

Priming was done in Gesso, as is my preference when working with the flexible plastic material that the Bones are made of, before starting with a white basecoat. As usual, I have used the Citadel line of paints to do the miniature.

With the first coat of paint applied (Ceramite White), I coated the entire model with 'Drakenhof Nightshade' -- a dark blue wash. Once dry, I drybrushed the model with 'Etherium Blue' and followed that with 'Praxeti White'. Both are dry compounds though I went a bit heavier with the white.

I finished the model by using a layer of 'Teclis Blue' for the eyes (all eight of them) and 'White Scar' for the fangs. Between drying times and various coats, it only took between 2-3 hours to do.

The 'Snow Spider' was a critter that I did up the stats for to use in 'A Trick on the Tain' -- a low-level adventure module for Castles & Crusades:

NO. ENCOUNTERED: 1-3 / 1-8
SIZE: Medium
HD: 3d6
MOVE: 40' / 20' climb
AC: 15
ATTACKS: Bite (1d6)
SPECIAL: Twilight Vision, Poison, Surprise
INT: Low
TYPE: Vermin
XP: 35 + 3

Snow Spiders are typically found in tundra and arctic-like
climates. They survive by burrowing in the snow and
insulating their lairs with its own silken webbing which
helps keep warm. These appear to be a large and hairy
spider and is largely blueish-white in color. It is also a
highly aggressive and more intelligent when compared
to other spiders. As opposed to spinning webs to ensnare
its prey, it prefers to burrow and use the snow as
camouflage and lay in wait till its target draws close.
Snow spiders are greatly feared by the people who live
in this climate.

Combat: The bite of a snow spider delivers a powerful
venom which is easily capable of paralyzing a full-sized
humanoid. It will typically wait till until the prey draws
before it bursts out of the snow to deliver this bite. Any
other of these spiders in the immediate area will converge
as well for the promise of sustenance.

Poison: Anyone bitten by a snow spider must make a
successful save vs poison or suffer from 1d2 points of
dexterity loss for up to 1d6 hours and be required to
make another saving throw the following round. Those
who fail the second save become paralyzed for 1d8 hours.

Surprise: Snow Spiders hide by burrowing into the
snow. When one of these spiders bursts out of hiding,
surprise checks are made at CL5.
'A Trick on the Tain is available for purchase HERE.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Path of a Crusader (C&C)

A few years ago, Arcana Creations put out three little titles for Castles & Crusades via Brave Halfling Publishing.  Early last week, I contacted Steve Chenault and, with Troll Lord Game's blessing, have renewed our commitment to publish material for the game.

In celebration of this, the three original titles have received price cut for the digital releases.  If you don't have any of them and are looking for an even better deal, the three have been bundled together for $9.50 -- giving you a savings $7.35 (44% off).

You can go to the Storefront HERE or straight to the Bundle over HERE.

It shouldn't be much longer now fellow Crusaders.  There are new quests on the horizon!  Hopefully these will tie you over till then.


Great Eagle - Painting Guide

A few weeks ago, I embarked on a 'secret' painting project as it was a gift for my father who happens to be the proud owner of a Harley Davidson motorcycle.  Most Harley owners are proud of their bikes and, the company has a thing for eagles and often associate the bird with their shield logo.  My dad already has a bike but I figured a nice painted eagle model along with the Harley Davidson shield might make for an interesting gift for his office.

The Great Eagles kit put out by Games Workshop for the Hobbit line of miniatures seemed to be the perfect model and the fact that two come in the box was a nice plus.  Who knows, I may do something similar with the 'spare'.

Assembling the model was easy enough to do but, as I have noticed with some Games Workshop plastic kits, they don't always fit perfectly.  A bit of green stuff was used to correct some of the issues as well as smooth out some of the services and mask the seems.

When everything was dried and fixed up, I primed in black (Chaos Black).  All paints were Citadel paints.

Painting the model was not too difficult... Most of the base coat was done in 'Rhinox Brown' with head and tail done in 'Ceramite White'.  I used 'Averland Sunset' for the beak and 'Jokaero Orange' for the legs.

All the feathers got a wash of 'Agrax Earthshade' and I then drybrushed 'XV-88' followed by 'Baneblade Brown' on the brown feathers.  The white feathers for head and tail had a drybrush treatment of 'Screaming Skull' and a generous drybrushing of 'Praxeti White' and applying the lighter shade in targeted areas.

The claws were done in 'Ushabti Bone' and the eyes of the eagle were done in 'Auric Armour Gold' for the iris and 'Abaddon Black' for the pupil.  Some 'Nuln Oil' was used for the shading on the claws and beak and additional 'Averland Sunset' drybrushing was applied to the legs/feet of the eagle.

The base itself was simple in comparison.  I used the base included in the kit, and affixed 3 small and flat river stones to the base.  I then adapted a metal Harley Davidson keychain using a Dremel to cut off the hoop on the shield and than smoothed the surface.  This shield was affixed on one of the river stones.  To affix all of these, I used a combination of green stuff and some super glue.  Not apparent in any of the pictures was the additional painting I did on the bottom of the base (it was originally clear but I painted it a dark grey).  I then glued the base to a slightly larger octagonal mirror.

All in all, the gift was very well received and I loved how the bird turned out.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Weekend R&R: Shadow Days

This weekend is Thanksgiving for us Canadians up in the Great White North, and a long weekend such as this is a great time to do a bit of gaming.  Somewhere between all the parties and feedings (a lot of food and drink was consumed all weekend long), there was a chance to do a bit of gaming and amongst it all, I finally got a chance to try out 'Shadow Days'.

Shadow Days is described as a Fantasy themed, deckbuilding, strategy game which supports 2-4 players and lists the playtime as 30-40 minutes.  For people who have had a passing fancy with collectible cards games such as Magic: The Gathering, the fact that there are still games being done that tries to capture the allure of this very successful game says something 20 years later.  As someone who has played and enjoyed this sort of game, I am always hopeful to find something equally as enticing but without the collectible angle.  After a 4 player game and over 2 hours of play, I have to say that this game isn't it.

Shadow Days does have some nice things going for it and a fair bit of potential.  First of all, the fantasy artwork for the cards is quite nice... I liked many of the pieces and, much like the artwork on those old magic cards, they do the job quite nicely to evoke the fantasy vibe.  The text is fairly clear on the cards though a bit small and inconvenient for opposing players sitting across a table.  The rules are easy to understand and can be picked up quickly when dealing with new players.

Each player has a maximum of five active cards before them which are typically creatures.  These are random and they are refreshed should any of these creatures get killed.  Each creature card has four major values... Hit Points, Attack Points, Gold Points, and Life Points.  In the combat phase each player selects one of their creatures and picks a target belonging to their opponent.  If the creature's attack points are equal to or greater than that of the target, the target is killed or destroyed.  The winning player is rewarded the gold point value and the losing player loses life points.  Each player takes a turn for combat and once everyone is done, each player then gets to 'regroup'.  The regroup phase is a chance to replenish cards lost, buy equipment to further enhance your forces, buy a stronghold, or hire a hero or villain.  Once the regroup phase is done, it's back to the combat phase and you play turn after turn until there is only one player left in the game with life points remaining.

The problem with the game quickly becomes apparent the longer you play a match.  As I mentioned, my first game was a four player game and it lasted over two hours.  A couple of the players quickly grew bored and frustrated and the lack of decisive action in the game.  After a few turns, most players had bigger and more powerful creatures which helped make the player untouchable.  This meant that the player that got the weaker critters drawn by chance were quick prey for the other opponents.  However, with a simple 5 life point loss and a 5 gold point gain, the game ends up painfully slow when gaming with four players.  This is because each player stars with 200 life points and most purchases only start at 60 gold or higher and you only attack once with a single creature every combat round.  Sure, there are random event cards to stir things up but, early in four player game, these can do more harm than good and generally will slow the game even further.

After the game, I gave it some thought and there are some easy ways to fix all of these problems and speed up game play without drastically altering the core design. 

Here are my house-rules to improve Shadow Days:

  1. Variable Life Points.  The Life Points that each starts with will be dependent upon the number of players in the game.  200 points each for a two player game, 100 points each for a three player game, and 50 points each for a 4 player game.
  2. In the Combat Phase, each player can attack once for EVERY opponent in the game.  In other words, a three player game means each player has two attacks during their attack phase.
  3. Creatures succeeding in an attack becomes 'bloodied'.  During the combat in which they defeated their target, they take 20 hp damage for the duration of the combat phase.  These should be marked with some sort of glass bead.  If a creature attacks more than once within the combat phase, the damage they take is cumulative.  This will render some creatures vulnerable and provide greater opportunity to defeat seemingly impossible creatures.  Note that this affects creatures ONLY... Heroes and Villains, War Machines, and Objects are not affected.
  4. Should a player find himself the target of an attack when there are no more creatures to defend him, a creature attacking will cause an automatic 5 life point loss to that player.
Other options:
  • At the start of the game, each player starts with a random hero or villain.
I think with these house-rules, play time will greatly speed up and no major alteration needs to be done for the game.  However, the Strongholds seem to be a waste of gold aside from being a reserve you can pull from in lieu of pulling other active cards.  They confer a protection bonus to a certain creature type where they become immune to attack but they can't be used while in a Stronghold either.  I'm note sure it's worth playing with them unless there was some other game advantage to using them.

All in all, the game deserves a shot if you can overcome it's obvious deficiencies.  It is not quite a deckbuilding game but you take what you have and improve your odds by selecting heroes, villains, and equipment to better accomplish your task.  The theme is just a theme and doesn't really add to the game and the mechanics are very basic though you often have exceptions and bonuses in addition to the standard text and game mechanics.

It should be mentioned that Shadow Days was one of those Kickstarter projects and, while delivery was initially slated for August of last year, people only started to receive their games over a year later -- in my case, I received my game at the end of September.  I don't regret buying the game and will be playing it again but I would be hesitant at the MSRP for the game which is presently $30 USD.  The Dark Star Expansion for it (I played with both the base game and expansion) is an additional $15 but you can buy both together for $40.  While nice, $40 seems a bit much to drop on a card game.

If interested in finding out more information, you can visit the game publisher's website HERE.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Arcana Creations 4th Quarter 2013 Releases

I got an email today from one of the writers I've had the pleasure of dealing with in the past few years concerning what was up and what, if anything, was being published as we get closer to the holidays.

I've learned to be very careful to avoid promising things I cannot guarantee.  Just looking at the flak that John from Brave Halfing Publishing has gotten this past year has a very sobering effect.  I've missed a couple of deadlines I've set for myself in the past but only once has it severely impacted and caused the cancellation of a project that was being worked on.

However, I have never taken a dime on pre-orders and I've managed to avoid the siren's call of Kickstarter.  That may soon come to an end though as I consider projects that NEED to be completed and are currently near completion.  But we'll see.

In the meantime, I did want to give a glimpse at what is being planned for this last quarter and early 2014.  All going well, we should see the releases of the following titles:

  • Light Ballista: Fastplay Rules
  • Hide In Plain Sight
  • Mystery at Morfurt
  • All Clear
All of these should be out within the next 4 months with the goal of all being released by X-Mas.  These will be primarily electronic releases though limited print runs will be available and I may open up pre-orders for that purpose only.  The final decision has not been made yet.

After these have been released, the next three big releases will consist of the Ballista Rules Companion and a deluxe box set release for Ballista as well as an accessory called the Foamy Tankard.  There are a few things still up in the air but are quietly being sorted out.

For now, that's what I'm looking at.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Forumotion's Brave Halfling Forums... GONE!

After more than a year after I had committed to taking it down, I finally pulled the plug on it.

The forums had long since been abandoned but I kept them up for the singular purpose of allowing access to the old forums for fans that had posted material that they wanted to revisit.

Largely this was some of the interesting X-Plorers material that resided on a handful of posts.

The forums were really a place for some news for Arcana Creations and Brave Halfling Publishing but, with social media venues, the forums quickly fell to the wayside.

So... between the Blog, the Arcana Creations website, Google+, and Facebook, we're pretty much covered.  ;)


The Road to Can-Con

Can-Con.... what the hell is it?  Can-Con is the Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature.  And yes... that's quite a mouthful.  ;)

Arcana Creations has been primarily a developer over the past few years (since the fall of 2009) and, as my loyal readers know, it has been a bit quiet as far as releases have been concerned.  However, I have been on a minor campaign since 2012.  I've been writing more on this blog and doing a bit of work here and there.  Arcana Creations has put out a couple of (free) issues of the Domesday (Castles & Crusades Society) as well as the free Swords & Wizardry adventure 'The Vile Worm' (Free until October 17th and available HERE).

There have been a couple of other things, not quite ready for publication, as well as the Ballista material.  Ballista has been mentioned in the past, but given the many changes its undergone and the simply the issue of interesting circumstances befalling me, I've talked about it less and less.  The good news is something will manifest itself VERY SOON.

With that in mind, I've finally set up the store site on RPG Now!  Titles I have worked on as developer (with Brave Halfling Publishing) have already been transferred to my Storefront there and there will be new material showing up later this month.  I'm even setting up some Cafepress swag since, once in a blue moon, someone may want some (even if it's me to promote stuff elsewhere).

All of this brings me to Can-Con.  While I've attended Cons before (though very few in number), this is the first one I attend and have a table for Arcana Creations.  Can-Con is a very tiny con the recently started up again after a 10 year hiatus.  For the past couple of years, my other half had attended this convention located in Ottawa (Canada's capital for my non-Canadian readers) as a panelist.  Given our familiarity with the convention and some of the people who run it, it seemed like a good marketing opportunity to 'put myself out there' and get people more familiar with what I do.
I also hoped to have a Quickstart for Ballista ready for the con.  However, with everything else I had going in preparation for the convention, and the fact I have a 9-5 job, it didn't quite happen.  So close though.... so very close.  :)

I was able to bring with me a sample of products that Arcana Creations had been involved with in the past as well as showcasing some Brave Halfling Publishing products.  While we didn't have the time needed to get a bunch of other BHP product shipped up to me (John is already elbow deep in shipping Appendix N and other Delving Deeper material), I decided it was a chance to sell some gently used and classic gaming material.  Between all that and some dice, people were at least visiting the table.

I had an interesting vantage point of the dealer room and in many ways I cornered the market on gaming stuff.  The convention is primarily a literary one as opposed to a gaming centric one which does skew sales expectations but at this point in the game, it's all about visibility and marketing.  Of course, next time around, I'll get a proper banner made up and hopefully step up the table presentation.  ;)

While I won't go into actual figures, my 'take' for the weekend did help cover some of the basic expenses generated by doing a convention like this.  I also walked away with a couple of books due to some trades I did with some of the other vendors.  It was a fun weekend but, more importantly, it got me 'out there'.  I met a lot of people and made a couple of contacts as well as some friends.

Most importantly perhaps was the impact we had by being there as far as the rest of the con is concerned.  Towards the end of the convention, there was some discussion about gaming have a bit more of a presence at the convention next year and I've already committed to do it.