Sunday 31 May 2009

Dave Stokes Sketchbook

Time for me to shamelessly plug the Blog of a good friend of mine, and fellow member of the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers, Dave Stokes. He describes himself as a "starving artist" which is probably true... 18hrs straight at World of Warcraft will do that. Dave recently published his first book, Digital Divas to much acclaim. His work is simply awesome and featuring a showcase of his art here at BigLee's Miniature Adventures is long overdue.

Here's a WoW Dwarven Priest that Dave did for a friend back in June 2008.
This is an Eladrin Swordmage that I suspect is based on Dave's 4e character, Cealathalas.

This is a Wardancer and another favorite picture of mine.

Like many artists Dave is his harshest critic and he wasn't very complimentary about this picture of a Sorceress. However, for my money, this is one of his best fantasy pictures.

Anyway I hope you liked this little taster of Dave's work and please pop over to his blog to check out his other creations. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday 30 May 2009

Plot Hook - The Druid's Altar

I've been a bit quiet on the painting front this month, having started a few projects and not finished them. This is partly due to the good weather here in the SE of England (Sit inside & paint or take the kids out? Hmmm) and partly due to the fact that I'm feeling a bit lazy. However I have finished one project for May, this "Druid's Altar" from Ainsty. The Ainsty lines have now been taken over by Old Crow who have continued to produce and sell these excellent resin castings.Technically it's not an altar but a Neolithic period Dolmen. This is a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb consisting of three or more upright stones supporting a large flat capstone. Dolmens were usually covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow when first built. However the actions of gradual erosion (or treasure seeking Victorian archaeologists) has often stripped the Barrow of its dirt to reveal the stone tomb at its core.

For gaming purposes this could be the site of an ancient treasure; A portal to another realm; or the entrance to an underground dungeon complex.

Friday 29 May 2009

Bilious Green - Half Orc Fighter

Humor in gaming is something that often seems to divide opinion. How much humor is appropriate and when does an excess of it interfere with game play? Well from a GM's point of view anything that stops his players from hearing his carefully prepared monologues is a bad thing. But as a GM I'd rather my players were not listening because they were laughing than not listening because they were distracted by something else. My gaming group the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers are a case in point. Laughter is prevalent throughout our games and often the GM has to repeat himself because players are laughing rather than listening. And although the GM might occasionally want a little more serious gaming to take place, we rarely consider laughing, jokes and ad libs to be detrimental. After all we are gathering together to have fun.

One of my favorite D&D characters was a huge Half-Orc called Bilious Green. I definitely played Bill for laughs and as such he has become a 'Legend' often talked about when we reminisce about old games. Bill was thick as two short planks, acted first and never thought later, and generally caused a lot of chaos wherever he went. He was a great character for shaking up an encounter, mainly because he wasn't a conversationalist. Unfortunately this talent was not always appreciated by his compatriots (or the GM). I also liked this character because I got to paint this great model.
One of my favorite moments was when Bill tried to open a magically trapped door using a tree trunk as a battering ram. The rest of the group had spent half an hour trying to figure out the clues to what turned out to be a simple trapped lock. Bill was bored, and that was never a good thing. So while the other adventurers puzzled over the letters inscribed on the door (each of which was trapped with a Lightening Spell) Bill went off to find a suitable "lock picking tool". He returned a few minutes later carrying a tree trunk under his arm and then, ignoring the panicked pleas of his companions, charged at the door hitting dozens of the trapped letters simultaneously. He woke up ten minutes and thirty feet later, still smoking but alive. Ah yes, fun times!

Bill was last seen leaping through a magical portal yelling "YeHaa!" at the top of his voice.

Thursday 28 May 2009

Roman Dice

Now and again I highlight some of the great websites and blogs that I follow. Check out the Iron Mitten blog. If Roman is your bag you'll like this blog. Filled with excellent original artwork and some excellent game reports, today they have a couple of cartoons about lucky/unlucky dice rolls.

Dice were invented independently all over the world and often to different designs. In ancient times the result of a roll of a dice was not considered to be luck. Rather the outcome was believed to be controlled by the gods. The Roman goddess, Fortuna (daughter of Zeus and Lady Luck herself) was believed to determine the outcome of a throw. Dice were even used as a way of choosing rulers, predicting the future and settling disputes.

Roman literature often describes dice games and gambling as an immoral act. However judging from the number of dice found in archaeological digs this didn't discourage the Romans from keeping and presumably using dice. The Romans even had their own d20. Such examples sell for hundreds (even thousands) of dollars and are much sought after by collectors.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

Secret Squirrel

Apparently I'm a Secret Squirrel. Or at least that was an accusation that has recently been laid at my door. Well if the Fedora fits....

Maybe this could form the basis of a Cthulhu/Sylvania crossover game? Sanity loss assured.

I'll post again later but right now I think I need to lay down in a darkened room... or drink lots of black coffee, I'm not sure which.

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Pirates of the Cursed Seas

Over the weekend I found myself trapped and bored in the Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex. Just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore I found a small glimmer of salvation in a discount book store. The Pirates of the Cursed Seas Collectable Strategy Game. I've seen this game before but never actually played it. I picked up three packs just to give them a try out and talked my daughter into agreeing to play a game when we got home. Each pack contains two snap together ships (or sea monsters) and an island or other 'terrain' piece plus various tokens, crew markers and a set of rules. The pieces easily snap out from their credit card sized sprues and are easily assembled in a matter of minutes. The rules are pretty basic but this does mean that you can be playing within a very short time.

Being a typical wargamer I instantly threw out the scenario presented in the rules and devised a 'hunt and destroy' game for myself and my daughter to play out. The game uses a points system for ships & crew so it was easy to build two balanced forces to oppose each other. I took the larger Pirate ship the Prussian Crown which was being hunted by two smaller vessels the HMS Pride and the La Mezquita.
Game play is turn based and very simple. Each turn players may choose one of four different actions; Move; Attack; Explore (plunder); or Repair. My aim was to use the small islands as a shield and divide the smaller and slower vessels so that I could destroy them one at a time. Initially this tactic seemed to work as I pounded the HMS Pride with my five cannon to her three. Unfortunately she was able to escape long enough to make repairs. In my eagerness to destroy the crippled vessel I closed with her but stupidly put myself between both enemy vessels. I should have been able to take their combined fire but a series of excellent dice rolls by my Daughter soon saw the Prussian Crown mastless and sinking.
This was a very simple game to play but was great fun - even if I did loose to a thirteen year old! I will certainly be purchasing more packs of this game to increase the choice of vessels and terrain elements. And as for the rules... I am already formulating a more 'advanced' rule system to make future games more interesting and challenging.

Monday 25 May 2009

Wargames Illustrated 260

Yesterday I finally got my hands on the new issue of Wargames Illustrated. This is the re-launch issue now that the magazine has come under the banner of Battlefront Miniatures (the company that produces Flames of War). So far I've only managed a quick scan of the magazine but what I've seen looks very impressive. The first thing I noticed when picking up this issue was its size. Weighing in at 116 pages it is by far the largest wargames hobby magazine on the shelves (White Dwarf is 120 pages, but I don't count that as it only focuses on GW products). The layout and design of the new magazine is very pleasing to look at and makes finding what you want so much easier. This issue includes what looks like a very interesting article on the Soviet Offensive against the Germans in June & August 1944 known as Operation Bagration. Each page is packed with artwork, maps of key engagements, technical specifications of some of the equipment used and illustrations showing uniforms and camouflage schemes.

This issue also came accompanied by a sprue of two Perry Miniatures plastic Napoleonic Riflemen. I saw the Perry plastics for the first time at Salute and I was very impressed so giving away two with the Magazine is a great advert for Perry Miniatures and a big incentive to by the magazine. I hope the new owners continue this trend because its a great way to try out new ranges before investing in a particular manufacturers miniatures.

One more thing I must mention - at the risk of sounding like an advert for WI - is the price. At £4.00 GBP ($8.00 USD) this is one of the cheaper wargaming magazines on the shelves (certainly out of the four I buy regularly). I for one am looking forward to reading this issue cover to cover.

D&D Campaign Setting - The Isles of Ethos

I've mentioned my D&D campaign quite a few times but never got round to telling you about it. Well here it is, the Isles of Ethos. This outline was one of the first things I wrote when designing the world and I used it as the basis for all the followed. In essence the world is like many other fantasy settings, broken by a cataclysm but ripe for adventure and full of mystery. I could have used an existing setting (I'm a big fan of the Forgotten Realms) but the idea of a world in which I had complete creative power was too tempting to ignore. I hope you like it.

The Isles of Ethos

"Know this and understand seeker of knowledge, for I was there at the end. Beneath the blue waves of the sea lays the once beautiful continent of Ethos. This land that I loved stretched for thousands of miles from snow covered mountains to the glittering coast. Ancient and wild, it was inhabited by Dwarves, Elves and Men who each thought to tame the great garden of the gods and bring it under their dominion. From their struggles came forth the great alliance and the forging of the Empire. With peace secured their civilisation stretched forth its influence and spanned the wild lands with roads and cities. No greater society has ever existed and it reigned for a thousand years in peace and prosperity. But from such great heights do the mighty fall.

The ageing and weak Emperor was ever more unable to govern the arrogance of my sect, the Mages. Eventually such arrogance would wash away our ancient civilisation… but we were blind to our fate. We stood on the shoulders of giants, revelled in our mastery of magic and created the Shadow Orbs. We ignored those that warned that such power was for the gods alone and we laughed at their fear. But while we turned our art to ever greater feats of magic we blinded ourselves to the peril we had created. For it was the shadow orbs and their barely contained power that brought about the cataclysm that would sink our civilisation into barbarism.

Cities of unparalleled splendour were overwhelmed by the oceans and the greatest civilisation to grace the face of Euda was erased from existence. Now all that remains are the Islands of Ethos…The tears of the gods. I weep with them to know that I and my fellow mages were responsible for the Drowning. But we can no longer afford the luxury of self pity. All evidence of our complicity in the Cataclysm must be erased. If the children of Ethos, the survivors of the cataclysm, were ever to understand our guilt….”

For those that survived what became known as "The Drowning" yet more horrors awaited them. Starvation and disease killed many in the coming year and for a time the people reverted to a more primitive, baser instinct. But amongst the survivors were many skilled humans, dwarves and elves and they brought with them their knowledge that had taken Euda’s children millennium to master. Civilisation began to take hold again and within the first fifty years the first towns took shape. But the people of Ethos had taken a grievous blow and it would be nearly 500 years before they once again achieved much of what they had before the cataclysm.
Half a millennia has now passed since the Cataclysm. Society is at last regaining the ground it lost and trade is flourishing. The Magic users however have recovered more slowly. Many perished in the last days of Ethos and of those that survived were viewed with deep suspicion. Many believed the Magi were responsible for the cataclysm without every realising how close they were to the truth. Dislodged from their pre-eminence in society and looked down upon with suspicion, magic has been on the decline in the intervening five centuries. Civilisation has recovered largely without the aid of magic and the Magi have become increasingly insular and withdrawn. Immediately after the cataclysm the Magi went to great effort to cover up their culpability in the Drowning but as the generations have passed fewer and fewer magi know the full scale of the truth. Recently news has spread that a group of adventurers, exploring an island to the north, discovered a ruined Tower of Magic. The tower was clearly pre-cataclysm and the adventurers found many wondrous and terrible things. Chief amongst these was a Shadow Orb. The orb was recovered as were a number of ancient spell books and the diary of the Towers last custodian. The diary revealed the full guilt of the magi and unlocked five centuries of prejudice and mistrust. Violence flared and several magic users and their apprentices were killed. Violence has spread among the Isles of Ethos along with an idea, that of Manifest Destiny. Magic is a clear abomination that brought Euda to the brink of annihilation. The gods willed it so when they clensed the world in flood, and it is the Manifest Destiny of the peoples of Euda to shun magic in favour of faith and devotion.

Exciting and terrifying times lay ahead not just for the Magi but for all the peoples of the Isles. Political and social changes stride onward at an ever greater pace. In recent years the old enemy, the Sethaki Dark Elves, have reappeared to harass outlying islands and raid for slaves. Feudal wars flair up with increasing regularity in the province of Westamar, threatening to spill into the prosperous Hublands. Ancient evils stir in the forests of the Eastland’s and the jungles of Elvenholm. The Orcs, a nomadic race, persecuted and widely thought exterminated, have once again spread into human lands with bloody consequences. But through all this opportunities abound for the brave and the daring. Some will die dark and horrible deaths. But for the lucky, great riches and power will be heaped upon their shoulders as they shape the future of the Isles and all who live within them.

Sunday 24 May 2009

Welcome to the Raiding Party

I'd just like to say "Hi" to the growing band of Followers of this Blog. Its great to know I'm not just talking to myself and that I have an audience that actually wants to read my daily(ish) ramblings! This is still a new blog - at this point less than five months old - and its already had one face lift, several changes of layout and a name change. I think I've now settled into a style and mix of content that I enjoy writing and people want to read. But, as always, I'm more than happy for feedback on my content, comments on my posts and even corrections where I get things wrong.

Thanks again for considering this Blog worth following and lets hope I can continue to come up with content worth reading!

Happy Gaming

Winsor & Newton Series 7 Brushes

Late last year I finally decided to invest in a set of Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes for my miniatures painting. Series 7's are often described as the pinnacle of quality and I was eager to try them out. I bought two brushes (00 & 000) for detail work but I decided to hold off writing a review until I had used them for a good length of time.
Series 7's were first made in 1866 to the specifications of Queen Victoria . The first brushes came with Ivory handles but nowadays they consist of a black lacquered handle, a nickle plated ferrule and the best Kolinsky Sable hair. There are two ranges of Series 7's; the standard range consists of 13 sizes from 000 to size 11; W&N also produce a miniatures range with shorter hair for a finer point and these go from size 000 to 6. It is this latter range that is best suited to the needs of the miniature model painter.

Series 7 brushes are manufactured using the winter tail hair of the Kolinsky Sable. This hair has excellent 'carrying' capacity due to the minute scales that cover the hairs. This means that you don't have to keep reloading your brush when working on small or intricate details. The hair also has exceptional spring and retains its shape even after long use. My brushes have seen regular service over the last six months and still look and perform as well as they did when I first bought them. Indeed this was one of my primary reasons for investing in Series 7's as I was fed up of cheaper sable brushes becoming useless after only a few months.

Its worth mentioning at this point that there are different types of Sable available and that quality varies enormously from one type to another. Kolinsky Sable refers specifically to the winter tail hair of the male red sable. This is the best quality hair for brushes and is used in Series 7 Brushes; Red Sable is usually second grade Kolinsky sable or weasel hair; Black Sable is actually hair from the polecat. It has similar properties to red sable but is often limited to use with oil colours because it is more coarse than red sable; Brown Sable is hair from other parts of the animal other than the tail and is often dyed to give it a uniform colour. This hair is often used in lower quality bushes; Some brushes are just labeled Sable and these may contain any of the above hair types. Squirrel hair is also sometimes labeled this way; Finally we have Sabeline which is an imitation made from ox hair and dyed to look like real Sable.

With all my brushes I use Masters Brush Cleaner to help clean and preserve the hairs. However there are a few simple rules you should observe, whatever brushes you use, to extend their life.

  • When painting work the brush in the direction of the hair not against it.
  • Rinse brushes thoroughly in clean water between colours to stop paint solidifying in the base of the hairs.
  • Clean thoroughly with a brush soap (or PH neutral hand soap) at the end of every painting session.
  • Never leave brushes sitting in water. It swells the wooden handle and unseats the hairs.
  • Let brushes dry horizontally so water does not seep down into the handle.
  • Once dry protect the tip with the plastic cover usually provided.
  • Never store in an airtight box, this can cause mold which will damage the hairs.

I have been so impressed with my new brushes that I decided to make a stand to hold them. The end result looks a little like a Samurai Sword stand. I have even been known to talk to my brushes muttering words like "precious" and "my pretty".

Saturday 23 May 2009

The Hunt for Gollum

I have just seen this film and its so awsome I had to link to it here.

To quote YouTube... "An unofficial and free 39 minute Lord of the Rings fan film, made for less than $5,000 by Independent Online Cinema. Based on parts of The Lord of the Rings, it tells of when Aragorn tracked down Gollum between The Hobbit & The Fellowship of the Ring. "

The dice favored us

The Dagenham Dungeon Delvers faced a new enemy last night. But the dice were kind and we were (for a change) undefeated. For months now our irregular 4e D&D games have seen us slogging through a complex of underground rooms, fighting for every inch against a seemingly endless supply of Kobolds. But not last night.
This time it was Lizardmen that blocked our path. Our mission (to recover an ancient artifact from the ruins of this underground Palace) looked like it would be halted only yards from our ultimate destination. An entire Lizardman garrison stood in our way.

We should have negotiated. We didn't.

The GM looked slightly panicked but let events play themselves out... And then we started kicking butt. The adventurer companions (two Dragonborn brothers, two Halfling brothers and a lone Eladrin Swordmage) worked together in a masterful display of martial prowess. The Dragonborn brothers blocked the doorway and held back the overwhelming Lizardman garrison while the Eladrin used his Lightning Lure ability to pull individuals behind the lines where the Halflings dispatched them. Unable to use their superior numbers against us the Lizardmen found themselves bottled up and picked off one by one.
Slowly it dawned on our GM that we might actually win this encounter (a level 10 encounter and we are a level three party!) and his normal demonic grin slipped from his face. This is an unusual experience for us players, it was like entering the twilight zone.
Eventually the few surviving Lizardmen manged to retreat and both sides took this time to regroup and get their breath (and encounter powers back). Unfortunately the advantage had now been lost (our strategy relied on the Lizardmen pressing their attack on ground of our choosing). Having slaughtered half their number we were now forced to negotiate with the survivors for access to the battlements where we thought the artifact was hidden. This was almost as much fun as the earlier combat with verbal sparing and positioning leading to our eventual access to the battlements. With the Artifact in our hands all we have to do now is make our escape before the Orc raiding party arrive.
Once again a great game that was enjoyed by everyone.

Friday 22 May 2009

Game Night means more dead Kobolds

The Dagenham Dungeon Delvers are meeting tonight to resume our D&D campaign for the first time in weeks. Illness and other commitments have taken their toll this year but we are soldering on in the Sunless Citadels (a setting created by our GM). We seem to have been taking a pasting from a bunch of Kobolds for months now and its time for some payback.

The new Star Trek movie

I went and saw the new Star Trek movie the other night. I was going to write my own review of the movie then I read the Bad Astronomers review and decided I couldn't do better.

I enjoyed the film and the many many references to the previous films and TV series. But I did come out of the cinema thinking "this isn't Star Trek". I thought the casting was good, the exteriors of the ships were great and there were some spectacular set pieces. But... what the heck was going on with the interior sets? They were so far from anything seen before it just didn't feel like there was any continuity. I was also a little disappointed with the script. The story just wasn't up to the hype IMHO. For instance, employing a Black Hole as the means by which the Romulan ship traveled back in time was just a Lazy plot device that has been done to death in hundreds of other films.
My overall impression was this was a film that was worth seeing but if your a hard core Trekkie prepare to be underwhelmed.

Thursday 21 May 2009

And now for something completely different

Here's an example of how my imagination can run a little out of control at times. First I must start by stating, unequivocally, that my wife is a great cook. She can turn anything into a great meal and is never afraid to tackle a new recipe and experiment to make her own. Indeed when I was ill recently she kept me from going insane with boredom by taking me on a culinary world tour for four weeks.
Last night we had Rissoles (spicy meatballs without the sauce) and as usual they were delicious and were consumed with the usual accompanying noises of happy diners. Then we started joking about the name, Rissoles. Sounds sort of like Rizzo the Rat from the Muppet's. This is where the conversation started to get a little weird for the dinner table...
So maybe our Rissoles were not made from Pork but from Rat meat. There are plenty of rats where I live. In recent years we have seen growing numbers in our local park. The borough council would have us believe that the increasing rat population has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that rubbish/trash is now collected in bags from the street as opposed to the 'old fashioned' way, from a solid metal bin. Whatever the truth of the matter the rat population is on the rise. James Herbert would be thrilled.
So here we were, sitting round the dinner table happily digesting our dinner, discussing the business possibilities this situation has created. I could hunt the rats, the wife could make Rizzo Rissoles and we could market our product as Dagenham Bush Meat. Who said a quality food product couldn't be combined with pest control?

The Splatter Gun Effect

It has been said (be me in fact) that I lack focus. That's not an entirely accurate observation but it does convey the broad range of my interests. As one of my favorite Cartoonists said, "My Fandom, Is Random". So it shouldn't come as a surprise that I'm often juggling multiple projects at the same time. So what am I working on right now.
  • Well the blog keeps me busy most days, and this is something I have enjoyed a great deal since its inception back in January. My main aim is still to share and improve my miniatures painting but the blog has also provided a forum for me to talk about my wider hobby interests and this seems to have gone down well with my readers (I always welcome feedback folks).
  • I'm also continuing to develop my Campaign World (gotta tell you about this sometime) for D&D. When I started this project over four years ago I produced a 'sourcebook' for my players and now I have enough material for a revision... a 2nd edition non-the-less.
  • In addition I am developing and writing a third campaign for my players. I'm the sort of GM that thrives on detailed backstories, real world politics and a setting that maintains internal consistency across the whole campaign arc. And this makes writing the campaign both enormous fun and very hard work.
  • To support the campaign I have a growing list of miniatures that need painting and Dungeon Floorplans that need putting together.
  • And if this lot were not enough I am also considering running a Basic D&D game and a Call-of-Cthulhu game for my gaming group... with accompanying Miniatures and Floortiles of course.
So, long story short, I'm quite busy at the moment. Add in the fact that I have a full calendar of living history events, game conventions and trade shows and you can see I'm burning the metaphorical candle at both ends and in the middle. And it has to be said that I'm loving every minute of it.

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Dungeon Floor Tiles

Dungeon Tiles, Adventure Tiles, Floorplans, E-tiles... call them what you will, I love them. I first used them in the early 80's when Games Workshop collaborated with TSR to produce boxed sets of card Dungeon Floor Plans. Since then I have amassed a huge collection of electronic tile sets that I can print and adapt as needed in my D&D campaigns. Many tiles can be downloaded for free from the Internet, while others are available to purchase as PDF files. Either way they are an easy way to enhance any roleplaying game that uses miniatures.
Here are a few sources on the Internet that I have found useful.
  • Skeleton Key Games sell a superb range of e-Adventure Tiles.
  • RPG Now sell all the Skeleton Key Games tile sets and sets by other companies as PDF downloads.
  • Crooked Staff Productions have a small collection of Dungeon Tiles available on the EN World site. These include basic dungeon sections, sewers and dungeon debris items.
  • The Dungeoneering.Net website has a nice selection of tiles for download.
  • Greywolfs Warhammer Quest Page also has a small selection of good quality Game Tiles available for download.
  • The Ye Olde Inn website has a nice selection of tiles for HeroQuest that can be pressed into service for D&D games.

This is a very small sample of the sites I have found and used to collect Dungeon Floorplans and Adventure Tiles. Now, when I design a campaign encounter, its an easy job to either find or cut-and-paste tiles to fit my needs. I still use the dry-wipe mats on occasion (for random encounters) but where possible I try to use Floor Tiles to enhance the look of preplanned encounters. After all, why bother painting a great model for a particular scene and then not present it in the best setting possible?In addition to published Dungeon Floorplans I have even resorted to blowing up maps from the likes of Dragon or Dungeon magazine. This is the Castle of Overlook which I adaped as a side encounter in my recent campaign. I scanned the map from Dungeon magazine then 'cut' it into sections. I then blew up the sections so each square was 1 inch and then stuck it all together. Hey presto, a castle floorplan.

I usually keep a stock of printed plans ready so whether I need to make a dungeon, a tavern or the deck of a ship, I can do so with the minimum of time and effort. And I think that little extra effort goes a long way to making an exciting encounter a memorable one as well.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

My buddy the Lizardman

A few days ago I reported that I was rereading the Basic D&D rulebook with a view to possibly re creating my gaming groups first ever game. I mentioned that I had a Lizardman model from that very first game and that I was debating whether to paint it or not. A few people have expressed an interest in seeing that Lizardman so here he is.
I'm still undecided whether to paint it or not. This model has acquired quite a bit of sentimental value for me and I'd hate to ruin it with a terrible paintjob. However it may be time to consider painting the model as a form of conservation, to preserve it for years to come. This mini has a much higher lead content than modern miniatures and consequently has some of the white powdery bloom which is often called lead rot but which is actually Lead Carbonate. This is a form of corrosion which, in this case, seems to be fairly limited and doesn't look to have damaged the surface detail a great deal.
Incidentally this miniature is a pre-slottabase Games Workshop model date stamped 1984. I was surprised when I saw this because I was sure we started playing D&D earlier than that. So when I say I've been playing for nearly 30 years (a figure I have oft quoted in this very blog) what I actually mean is 25 years. Caught in the web of my own deceit!

Monday 18 May 2009

Sidetracked by Dexter

I have a confession to make. I've been a little sidetracked from my painting projects over the last week or so because I've been watching the first two series of Dexter on DVD. I get most of my painting or other projects done after the kids have gone to bed. But now I have a rival for my time in the form of the charming serial killer from Miami. I saw the pilot episode for this some time ago but living in the dark ages (ie without a Sky+ to record the series) I invariably missed the following episodes. Now I'm catching up with the series and even the wife is enjoying the show. I love the dark humor that runs through the scripts and I think Michael C. Hall plays his role brilliantly.

New Project - Gunman

I've started prep'ing a number of models for a possible Call of Cthulhu game in the near future. I have a selection of miniatures that would be suitable for a 1920's setting and this is the first that I am working on.
I'm still at the starting stages, having basecoated and begun the highlighting process. I'm experimenting with a more 'painterly' style this time (i.e. slapping-it-on-while-wearing-a-béret) but I'm not sure it's turning out how I want.

I'll post more pictures as I progress with this model.

Sunday 17 May 2009

Museum of Childhood

OK gamers, here's a tip. It's Sunday and the the kids are driving you crazy (Its in their job description). Your never going to get the peace and quiet you need to paint that model, read that book, write a scenario or just play the game. So why not "kill two birds with one stone" as the saying goes. If you live in or near London take the kids to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. The kids will be guaranteed to have a good time and I suspect most adults do to. There are plenty of toys on display that will make you feel young again and some that will almost certainly elicit an excited exclamation of "I had one of those!". There is an interesting section on Toy soldiers including some moulds for casting metal models which were interesting to see. This is a chance for you to look all innocent at your partner and say "I never knew these were here" and then turn to the kids and start their indoctrination in 'The way of the miniature'.

The Museum of Childhood is open Monday-Sunday from 10:00 to 17:45 and is just five minutes walk from Bethnal Green Tube Station. And the best bit... admission is absolutely FREE.

Saturday 16 May 2009

Strange Dice

Just a quick post today but maybe one that will provoke a Strong response. After all I know how protective gamers get about their dice... myself included. But what in the name of Gygax is the point of crystal dice?
I bought a set some years ago at Dragonmeet and try as I might I can't bring myself to use them in a real game. I'm half afraid my fellow gamers will just laugh at me and I know that the darn things aren't very practical... unless you like squinting with your eyes and muttering "what number is that?... can I roll that again?". They are even less practical than those miniature dice sets you can buy. You know the ones that are slightly larger than a grain of sand.

Give me proper sized dice. Preferably made of high grade steel. You get a much better trajectory from metal dice and they keep the GM on his toes.

Friday 15 May 2009

Boldly going backwards

Following on from yesterdays post about the Sourcebook Treadmill I have dug out my old copy of Basic D&D. If nothing else it'll be fun to reread the rules I started with nearly 30 years ago.

I'm even contemplating running a one off game using these rules, maybe recreating the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers first ever game. Come to think of it I still have some of the miniatures used in that game including an unpainted Lizardman that played a significant part in that first campaign. I keep putting off painting that miniature because I want to get it right... Hmmmm... I feel a project coming on!

Thursday 14 May 2009

The Sourcebook Treadmill

Sourcebooks and supplements. There seem to be an endless supply of new material for the gamer to spend his/her hard earned cash on. Take D&D - my game of choice - for instance. Once upon a time the only thing you needed to play was the one rulebook, paper, a pencil, some dice, friends, a little imagination and some time. At its heart D&D is such a simple concept that anyone can play the game for very little investment and in return get years - even a whole lifetime - of entertainment. So why are my bookshelves bowing under the weight of obsolete rulebooks? And what happened to the hundreds of pounds I 'invested' in AD&D, 3rd Edition & 3.5E?Compared to other hobbies is D&D that expensive? If you stick to the core rulebooks and your imagination then that is a resounding no. But in a hobby with a constant stream of new ‘must have’ supplements and rulebooks, keeping up with the Joneses can be very expensive. The core rulebooks come in at about £54 depending on where you buy them. Since their release in June 2008 there have been over 20 supplement rulebooks. That’s over £400 worth of books and doesn’t include the adventures, miniatures and other accessories also published by WotC let alone the hundreds of other products by other publishers.
Of course it’s not necessary for players to buy the supplements or additional rulebooks. But the current incarnation of D&D as published by WotC does encourage (some might suggest, forces) players to use material outside the core rulebooks. A prime example is the exclusion of classes like the Barbarian from the PHB and its ‘revival’ in the PHB 2. Obviously this is all part of the sales strategy of the company, and isn’t anything new in this industry. But the key question for me is; does this make the game any better?

I canvassed the opinion of one of some of my friends and here’s a selection of their comments:

“The main advantage with having a variety of supplements is that it gives the consumers choice. If you want to base your game around a Samurai theme there will be a supplement to suit you. Want a game based around an evil diabolist and the hellish hoards he unleashes somewhere there will be a book with all the rules, rituals and monsters you need. If a player wants to roll up a hobgoblin PC, or specialist mage whose spells focus on the manipulation of time, then eventually you will find a supplement that makes this possible. And that's a good thing.”

“And… there is the power creep issue. All new PC classes and races should be balanced with those in the original core rulebooks. But of course we all know that often doesn't happen. New classes and races are often faster, sleeker, hit harder, bounce back quicker or just plain sexier than that already on offer… often new classes/races do just seem to be more powerful across the board, and I think you would have more success in teaching your player to grow wings and fly than in convincing him to reduce his PC's power [by not using the latest sourcebook].”
Web publishing and the growth in sales of PDF versions of books and supplements is changing the way gamers collect new material. Many will still buy a physical copy of the core rulebooks but there are also plenty of customers who save a lot of money by purchasing supplements in electronic form. However earlier this year WotC withdrew all PDF versions of their books from sale (allegedly due to copyright issues) making this option much more difficult. So where does this leave existing players on a limited budget? Or maybe it’s more important to ask; Do new young players have the disposable income required to buy all the rulebooks they ‘need’?

“On balance I'd say it [the proliferation of D20 material] is a good thing. It allows innovation and new ideas/concepts to come from the entire RPG community rather than one WotC department. It also allows companies to cater for a niche in the gaming market that is too small for a company the size of WotC to focus on. It increases the consumer’s choices. But I do think it relies on a strong DM prepared to police what is and isn't allowed in his game and ban supplements, classes, races, weapons etc that he feels are overpowered or that don't fit. And of course, players prepared to accept the DM's choices without arguments.”

But after all this discussion about choice, availability and cost I’m left with one more question. Does the proliferation of official and 3rd party sourcebooks enhance the game experience? I think many younger D&D players would say “yes”, but an equally large number of older players might say “no”, or at best “Maybe”. I know that I personally find myself hankering after those simpler days when all that was needed for an adventure was one rulebook, paper, a pencil, some dice, friends, a little imagination and some time.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Barbarian Hordes

I'm very busy in work at the moment and todays intended post is only half written (tut tut). So in its place is a great cartoon I stumbled upon recently. It made me chuckle...
"Blessed are the Geek, for they will inherit the earth"

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Nose to the Grindstone

Back at work today after a four week absence due to ill health. I doubt if I'll get much blogging done for a while... you should see my desk! How dare I be ill!!!

Sunday 10 May 2009

The Grace Spitfire

I was looking through my albums for the last couple of years and found a picture I thought worth sharing. For the last few years I have been going to the VE Day Weekend reenactment at the Royal Gunpowder Mills at Waltham Abbey. Unfortunately due to ill health I wasn't able to attend this year and missed out on what I have been told was an excellent display by the Grace Spitfire. To console myself I found this picture I took at last years event.
I also tried to take some film but my camera isn't best suited to capturing fast moving aircraft. I made numerous attempts and not once was I was able to keep the Spitfire in the frame! Next time I'm taking a proper video camera.

Saturday 9 May 2009

Barbarian's Rage

The Dagenham Dungeon Delvers gathered last night for a game evening. Unfortunately it wasn't a continuation of our current "Sunless Citadels" campaign (the GM couldn't make it). Instead we had a practice session to try out some of the new character classes from the Players Handbook 2. I used the Character generator to create a Human Barbarian, a class that I feel strongly should never have been omitted from the original PHB.
We only had time for one large combat but this was still fun and tested our new characters to the limit. I enjoyed playing my Barbarian... especially as he cut a swathe across the combat dealing huge amounts of damage. But I have just one thing to say about last nights game... I hate Gnomes!

Friday 8 May 2009

Hot Lead - Miniature Painting Tutorial DVD

A few months ago I bought the Hot Lead miniature painting tutorial DVD by Laszlo Jakusovszky. It's taken quite a while to get through the 8 Hours of content but now that I have I feel able to review it and, more importantly, thoroughly recommend it. So what do you get for your money? The box contains three DVDs with over 8hrs of content in total. The DVDs are in NTSC format so can be played on any NTSC/PAL DVD player. The first DVD covers the Basics while the second and third discs look at advanced techniques. However as an experienced painter even I found the Basics tutorials useful and informative. The Advanced tutorials develop these basic skills and walk you through taking your painting to the next level.

  • Disc One - This DVD starts by looking at the world of Miniature Painting before heading into the technical stuff. Subjects covered include; Preparing miniatures; Basing; Tools, Basecoating; Washing, Drybrushing & Outlining; Skin and Faces; Metallics; and Finishing.
  • Disc Two - This DVD covers the following areas; Advanced Painting; Working with Colours and Paints; Blending Technique; Layering Technique; Fixing Flaws; and The Human Form.
  • Disc Three - This DVD focuses on; Non-Metallic Metallics; Painting Gems; and Advanced Basing.
Each of the sections can be reached through the DVD menus so its easy to go back and watch a particular section if you want to.

Throughout the DVDs Laszlo provides a clear and informative narration which makes this easy to watch and makes you feel like your getting a one-to-one tutorial. I also liked the use of close up video of the techniques being demonstrated. These are all from the the painters perspective so you can see every brush stroke as you would if you were painting the miniature yourself. Scattered throughout the DVD are some excellent tips and suggestions for making life easier or improving your technique. I also liked the fact that Laszlo's style of teaching feels more like someone giving you advice rather than teaching you hard and fast rules. You can pick and choose what techniques suite you and your level of skill. However you are also always encouraged to experiment, practice and push beyond your comfort zone.

I'd thoroughly recommend this Tutorial DVD to any painter, beginner or expert alike. The $40 plus shipping is money very well spent in my humble opinion.

Wednesday 6 May 2009

Bovington Tank Museum - 1977

I recently posted a load of pictures from my visit to the Tank Museum at Bovington. I had wanted to visit this museum for a long time, having fond memories of a trip there in my childhood. My Dad has been scanning some old slides of his and came across a few photos from that first visit, way back in the summer of 1977.

I'm the serious looking kid in shorts and a red tracksuit top standing in front of the turret. Aside from the shock of seeing myself with hair, the first thing that leaps out is the fact that we were allowed to climb on the exhibits back then. This definitely isn't allowed now. Aside from the need to preserve the exhibits from damage (yes, I'm aware they are Tanks, but still...) I'm pretty sure Health and Safety would have a fit if they saw this happening now. There are so many kids on this vehicle I'm not even sure what it is... anyone have a clue? [a British "Tortoise" Assault Tank]

This looks like a Mk IV Tank but I can't be sure [Mk VIII, the so called "Liberty" or "International" Tank, this as an Anglo-Americal Project]. Again smothered in kids, myself included.

OK a Tank I recognise, the Sherman.... with me in top of the turret.

Another WWI British tank although I'm not sure which version this is [possibly a Mk IV].
These pictures from 1977 show just how much things have changed. Most of the vehicles at Bovington are now kept inside purpose built buildings to aid their preservation. Bare in mind that some of their exhibits are over 90 years old. Clearly climbing on the vehicles is also a thing of the past, for lots of reasons. And these days my legs rarely get seen in public.