Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking back on 2012

It's the time of the season for bloggers to reflect on the previous 12 months.  As the Dreadnought glides through the last hours of 2012, I thought I'd share my take on how the year turned out for me, gaming-wise.  I had a number of wargaming goals for the past year, and I was able to carry out quite a few:
Not on my list, but a personal goal was to blog on a regular basis.  You're now reading my 288th post of the year, giving me an average of 24 posts per month.  I continued to get my D&D fix with adventuring in the Hill Cantons.  I also got in plenty of gaming with Ed the Two Hour Wargames Guy, who (unfortunately for me, but great for him) moved to Arizona in the fall.  All in all, a great year for gaming.

Of course, we all start out the new year with good intentions, and there were a number of objectives that I didn't come close to finishing:
  • I didn't even start working on a 28mm scale game board for Search for the Emperor's Treasure.
  • I purchased the materials to build a 3'x4' battle board for HotT, Song of Blades and Heroes, and other games, but they're still in the shrinkwrap.
  • While I bought waaaaay to many new figures in 2012, I didn't complete even one new army for Hordes of the Things. 
  • So much for my idea of scratchbuilding structures for 1:300 sci-fi games--guess it's time to throw out all the plastic lids, old ballpoint pen parts, and other junk I'd collected for that purpose. 
I would have liked to have gamed more in 2012, but I'm sure everyone else would, too.  So I can't complain too much about my gaming accomplishments for the past year.  What about y'all?  Did you accomplish everything (or at least something) you set out to do?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Starships: Star Frontiers vessels

I finished (mostly) two Star Frontiers Federation warships, a destroyer and a battleship.  I painted these to match the rest of the craft in my Vogon Construction Fleet.
I was in a hurry to post these as part of a self-imposed blogging goal for the year, so they're not quite complete. 
The ink wash is still wet, and I need to go back and touch up the models.  I also need to paint the stands black.
The photos make the orange appear thicker than it looks in person, so I may have to add another layer of paint in spots.  I also might have to apply another ink wash, to bring out the details some more.
Still, these will go nicely with the rest of my Vogons, a mishmash of spaceships from various miniatures lines.  In-game, they will serve as a mercenary unit or civilian objective.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Wacky Warhammer

Over at the awesome Realm of Chaos: An 80s Warhammer Enthusiast Blog, Orlygg posted about some of the whacky and whimsical little-known gems of the Oldhammer world.  He compiled a top-10 list of his favorite humorous and/or odd figures that Games Workshop/Citadel Miniatures produced back in the day (before they got all grimdark serious and skullz!!!1!!), such as the Dwarf with an Inferiority Complex, the Wizard with Machine Gun, and the Chaos Toilet(!).

He asked readers if he'd left any minis off his list, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite less-than-serious skeleton models.  I've always been a big fan of the Warhammer skellies, and here are a few figures I own that make me smile:

The Anarchist:
Clad in a floppy hat and cloak, this Guy Fawkes-like figure clutches a bomb (in the shape of a skull, no less) with sputtering fuse.  I plan on using him in a Shooters element for Hordes of the Things.

Bag O' Bones:
My wife calls this figure the skeletons' medic, seeing how he's walking around with a sackful of spare parts.  Once he's painted, I'll affix him to my existing HotT Magician stand as an assistant to the necromancer.

Rambones:
A headband-clad skeleton with an M-16 and modern pineapple hand grenade!  What's not to love?  I actually have two copies of this figure, and they will comprise another stand of Shooters once they're finished.

So to ask the question that Orlygg asked, what old Warhammer figures appeal to your sense of whimsy?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Leaving the Hill Cantons

No, I'm not departing from Kutalik's Hill Cantons campaign--our party just left that eponymous area of the game world, departing for the southern city of Kezmarok.
This city is partially intact, partially in ruins, much like the city of Phlan in the old Pool of Radiance computer game (or like Detroit in 2012).  In this new locale, our party met our contact at a social club in the inhabited part of town, then set out into the ruined portion to explore a sinkhole in search of certain items of value to a certain individual.
The adventurers found some (somewhat uncanny) structures at the bottom of this pit, and set out to explore.  We encountered and defeated a four-armed, shovels-wielding smoke demon in a furnace room as well as a six-armed, multi-legged automaton in a room with a statue of a Kirbyesque space deity on a raised platform.  The battle with the second foe left our explorers very battered, so we retreated in order to recover.
It was fun playing for the first time in more than six month, and we even had a guest adventurer, Chris's buddy John, who was visiting from out of town.  Here's to more adventuring on the back of the World Turtle!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holiday Axis & Allies

I managed to get my dad and my brother to play Axis & Allies with me this Christmas.  Dad and I were the Allies, while my brother played the Axis.
Unfortunately for democracy and for the workers' revolution, the Germans pretty much took over Europe, despite an initial push from Russia that kicked the Nazis out of the USSR.  It didn't help that Japan swept in from the Far East, taking over Moscow after a hard-fought battle.  I quickly liberated it, only to see the Russian capital fall to Germany the next turn.
Speaking of Japan, the USA dithered too much in the Pacific, not taking out the Japanese fleet early in the game.  Japan kept pumping out troops and transports, taking over India and China, as well as most of the Soviet Socialist Republics.  The Allies conceded the game at that point, and we all enjoyed playing.  How was your holiday gaming?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas lists

It's Christmas Eve here on the Dreadnought, and my thoughts have turned to Yuletide presents.  I didn't ask for any game-related items this year, just the usual boring grown-up request for clothes and the like.  There is one gift I'd like, but it's hard to find in stores: more face-to-face gaming.  What with work, family, and distance, it's hard for my fellow gamers and I to get together as often as we'd like. 

So that's what I want: more gaming!  Hopefully, when I see my family this holiday, I can get a game or two in with my brother.

What about you, readers?  Any gaming goodies on your Christmas list?  Any plans for holiday games?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Starships: More Vogons

Some more units for my Vogon Construction Fleet.  Like my previous batch, these are from the Stardate: 3000 line.
This time, I painted them in  a darker shade of orange, after dusting the gray-primed minis with a bit of white spraypaint to lighten them a little.  They also got a brown ink wash, and some highlighting with a lighter shade of orange.
Some of the bases still need to be painted black, but I wanted to share these with you.  I like the way these came out.  Now to get them in a game ...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Adventures in ebaying

Behold, my newest prize from the Bay of E.  I've been out of the Warhammer scene for years.  But when I scored a Warhammer fifth edition boxed set, which I plan on using to make more Hordes of the Things armies, I realized I had no idea how to paint the Bretonnians and Lizardmen included in that game.

I like the bright colors used in the art for the rules and in the painting examples given by Games Workshop from that era.  I remembered seeing a Bretonnian army book at a Half-Price Books store, but when I went back it was gone.  I began scouting ebay for that codex, but most of the prices were too high for me. 

Finally, I found an auction for a Bretonnian book at a price I liked, so I bid.  Looking at the seller's other items, I saw the Lizardman tome and thought to myself, "Might as well get that one too, since the reptiles are the knights' opponents.  It's cheap, and I can combine shipping with the Bretonnian book."

So of course I get outbid on the Bretonnian publication--the book I wanted--but still win the Lizardmen.  At first I considered it a white elephant.  However, after a quick flip through the pages, my new book has already given me some ideas on how to paint this reptilian force. 

You can't always get what you want, but sometimes you do get what you can use.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wands and staves in Holmes D&D

Looking at the rules for wands and staves under EXPLANATION OF MAGICAL ITEMS in the basic Dungeons & Dragons rulebook, I found something interesting: some of those devices have unlimited uses.  From the overview of this class of items:
Wands that have projectiles or rays are considered to do six 6-sided dice of damage and to have 100 charges or projectiles. (emphasis added)
Inverting this sentence, we can conclude that under the Holmes rules, staves don't operate on charges, since the description just mentions wands.  And it makes sense given the nature of those items.  The Staff of Healing heals "any number" of people (but the same individual just once per day).  The Snake Staff is a melee weapon with a special power, similar to other magic weapons; so is the Staff of Striking.  And the Rod of Cancellation is a one-shot device.

That leaves the six wands in blue box basic D&D.  Two of these magic items, the Wand of Magic Detection and the Wand of Secret Doors and Trap Detection, don't emit any kind of ray or projectile.  The former causes magic items in range to glow, while the latter just gives warning or points to hidden portals or snares.  So pursuant to their descriptions from Holmes, neither of these wands use charges to operate.

Of the remaining four devices, the Wand of Fire Balls shoots a projectile and the Wand of Paralyzation emits a ray, so these two wands definitely use charges to function.  The rules for the final two wands, however, aren't so definite.  The Wand of Fear "can effect all creatures in a cone shaped area emanating from it."  The Wand of Cold "creates a cone shaped area of cold the same dimensions as the fear wand."  No mention of ray or projectile in either description. However, Holmes describes the Wand of Paralyzation's ray as having the same dimensions as the effect of the Wand of Fear.  While the Wand of Cold doesn't mention a ray, its area of effect is also the same dimensions as the fear wand.  Therefore, it's safe to conclude that the cold and fear wands also use charges to operate.

This makes sense, as the offensive wands and staves work similarly to mundane weapons--the wands or bows that affect foes at a distance require charges or ammunition, while the items meant for close-in combat don't get used up.

That leaves the two detection wands, which don't use charges.  Some dungeon masters might balk at the idea of letting the player characters have limitless means to avoid traps and spot magic, but with a range of 20 feet they're both pretty limited.  If you still think it's too powerful, rule that it takes a full turn to conduct a search using a detection wand--a party taking one turn to cover 20 feet of dungeon corridor will attract a lot of wandering monsters.  And if that device is still too unbalancing for your game, just think about what the Thieves Guild or the local wizard might do once they learn such an item is in the hands of the adventurers ...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Seeds of a Chaos army

Here are a couple of elements for a Hordes of the Things 24-AP army.  If you're asking where the rest of this army is, I haven't built it yet.
I acquired these stands as prizes in separate HotT tournaments in San Antonio a year ago or more.  The figures are all (I think) prepainted models from the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game.
The big guy with four arms is a Foulspawn Mangler that's been slightly modified to hold a staff instead of a dagger in one hand.  He's accompanied by a Quaggoth and appears useful as either a Hero or a Magician.
The dark dwarves are Duergar Guards led by a Duergar Cleric.  This looks like a Blades element to me.
Given the looks of these figs, I can see them as part of a Chaos army.  With these two elements, I need just 18 AP more to have a full HotT force.
If I do complete this army, I think I'll try to use all prepainted minis.  I even found a chimaera figure in the toys section of Michael's craft store that would fit in as well as the gaming minis.  Any other suggestions to round out the Chaos army?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Identifying potions with Detect Magic.

I'm having fun examining the wording of the Holmes basic D&D rules under a microscope.  As a lawyer, I can't help reading things very carefully and weighing each word.  I try not to do it when I'm playing a game, but I do like performing these little thought experiments on this blog.

This is from Moldvay, not Holmes. But you get the idea.
So today we're looking at the rules for magical potions under Explanation of Magic Items in the blue book.  What caught my eye was the introductory paragraph detailing potions:
Some method of detecting the effects of the potion must be found.  If the characters lack a detect magic spell, they may dare a tiny sip to see what the result may be.
Emphasis mine.  Did Holmes mean for players to use the spell of Detect Magic to find out the effect of a potion?  I think so.  Look at the description for this spell:
A spell to determine if there has been some enchantment laid on a person, place or thing.  It has a limited range and short duration.  It is useful, for example, to discover if some item is magical, a door has been "held" or "wizard-locked," etc.
Let's read this carefully.  The spell can be used to find out whether a door has been held or wizard locked.  You could stretch that phrase to mean the caster can determine not just if a door's been enchanted, but how it was bespelled--i.e., Detect Magic can tell you whether that door you can't open is under the effect of a Hold Portal or a Wizard Lock.  There's also the "etc."--meaning the spell could determine what kind of magic as well as just the presence of magic.

That's how I see it: A character can use Detect Magic to figure out exactly what a potion will do.  Would you allow this in the campaign you run?  Would you let players use this spell to identify other magic items as well?  I think I might.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Vogon Construction Fleet

I painted some more Stardate: 3000 minis, this time in the high-visibility color of the Vogon Construction Fleet.  Unfortunately, I think I used too light a shade.
The large vessel is a Federation Draco-class destroyer.  The pair of smaller craft are alien interceptors, Federation recognition name Vampire.  The trio of fighter-sized ships are alien Banshee-class scouts.
Although the orange looks bright in some of these photos, in person the color appears washed out and faded.  For future reference, any spaceships painted in Vogon orange should be primed white instead of dark gray.  Unfortunately, I've already sprayed the remaining ships with the gray primer.
The larger vessel is intended for clearing shipping lanes of obstructions such as asteroids.  The  smaller craft provide security for the larger vessels as they work.
These were a test run; I have several more vessels to paint for this faction, including a couple of Star Frontiers ships.  And I'll use a darker shade of orange.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Rumors for your megadungeon ... before it's built

I've come up with a simple idea for creating rumors about that huge dungeon for your D&D campaign.  The best thing about it is, you don't even have to start writing the dungeon before you start feeding rumors to your players.  You don't know whether they're true or false--and it doesn't matter.  Once you actually create the dungeon, you can verify those rumors.

I'm describing how to apply the process for the blue basic rulebook from 1979, but this method is easily ported to any edition.  First, you need some wandering monster tables and magic item charts--either the original charts from Holmes, some specific tables you've written, or even my expanded Holmes wandering monster charts

Next, plug those results into some sentences that will spark players' imaginations (or appeal to their greed).  Something like this:
  1. The [random monster]s are allied with/at war with the [other random monster]s.
  2. Beware the fearsome/wily/hideous [random color*] [random monster]!
  3.  The [same color] [same monster] is a gem/statue/painting of incalculable value.
  4. The [same color] [same monster] is a powerful [magic item] of [spell effect].
  5. The [random monster]s worship the [other random monster] as a god.
  6. The [random monster]s love/hate [random character class**].
  7. The [random monster]s will sacrifice any [character class] they meet.
  8. The [random monster]s value copper/silver/gold/platinum more than any other metal.
  9. Iron/gold/silver is poisonous to [random monster]s.
  10. The singing/laughing/mocking [random monster] has a [magic item].
Here's how the table might look after filling in the blanks:
  1. The dragon is allied with/at war with the wraiths.
  2. Beware the fearsome/wily/hideous red wight!
  3.  The red wight is a gem/statue/painting of incalculable value.
  4. The red wight is a powerful potion of purification.
  5. The doppelgangers worship the troglodyte as a god.
  6. The rogues love/hate magic users.
  7. The vampires will sacrifice/worship any fighting-man they meet.
  8. The giant ants value copper/silver/gold/platinum more than any other metal.
  9. Iron/gold/silver is poisonous to giant rats.
  10. The singing/laughing/mocking patriarch has a cursed scroll. 
There you go--ten rumors to intrigue adventurers and lure explorers into your labyrinth.  It's up to you as the designer to figure out how they mesh with the actual adventure.  You could use these tidbits as idea seeds to start designing your dungeon, or you could just rely on the dice to tell you what's in those chambers and determine the truth at the same time as your players.  Happy adventuring!  

*Color table:
  1.  red
  2. orange
  3. yellow
  4. green
  5. blue
  6. purple
  7. black
  8. brown
  9. white
  10. invisible
**Character class table:
  1. fighting-man
  2. magic-user
  3. cleric
  4. thief
  5. dwarf
  6. elf
  7. halfling
  8. hireling

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Starships: The Phantom Fleet

After deeming my new method of painting a success, I went on to complete the rest of my Garrison Miniatures starships in the same scheme.
The paint method consisted of pouring some white, blue, and yellow paints (the latter two lightened by mixing with the white), dipping an old toothbrush in the paint, and running my thumb along the bristles so it flicked paint onto the minis.
In light of the resulting markings, which mimic a starfield and could depict stealth technology or a cloaking device, I have dubbed this set of ships the Phantom Fleet.
In addition to a starscape, this nice, random assortment of white points could instead be Kirby Dots that represent a reflex field or other shielding.
I might go back and drybrush these models a little to bring out some of the detail.  I should also probably paint some sort of engine glow on the aft thrusters.
There are eight destroyers, a cruiser, and a battlecruiser in this new force.  These are all from the Star Raiders faction from Garrison.
(Not pictured with the Phantom Fleet are the two remaining destroyers from this set of minis, which I painted in different schemes.)
I think these ships will play the role of privateers in my games, operating with a Letter of Marque issued by the Garrison system.  Now, if I can just schedule a game ...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Still more starfighters

Here are two dozen more Terran starfighters (Meteor heavy fighters) that I cranked out for my Red Fleet.  These were the last of the Starfleet Wars/Galactic Knights small craft I had to get painted.
The surface they're on is 4" x 6" adhesive-backed magnetic sheeting.  The adhesive is meant to affix photographs to the magnet so you can put the picture on your refrigerator.  I stick the sheet to the bottom of a plastic box to store my spaceship minis, which have washers attached to the bottom of the base to keep them stationary on the magnet.

Friday, December 14, 2012

What my wife traded a blender for at the office gift exchange

Munchkin from SJG.
My wife's workplace held its Christmas party, and they had a white elephant exchange where each person gives a gift to one other person, and that person can then trade it for someone else's present.  After everyone had swapped gifts, Mrs. Scribe ended up with a blender, while her non-gaming coworker was upset about getting the Munchkin card game from Steve Jackson Games. 

My spouse, the good gamer that she is, offered to trade the gadget for the game (we already have Munchkin-Fu and Munchkin Bites, although we've only played the former), and both employees left the white elephant swap happy.

Does anyone else have a significant other who would do something like that?  To paraphrase Silent Bob: Not many women will trade a kitchen appliance for a noncollectable card game.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Star Raider destroyers

Here are two more Garrison Miniatures ships (Star Raider destroyers) I've run through the painting queue.  While the manufacturer sells them as 1/2400-scale models, they'll fit right in with my existing starfleets.
Unlike the first couple I painted in a sort of space camouflage, these craft received more traditional paint schemes.  I enjoyed the change of pace. 
I decided to add these vessels to two of my freelance fleets: the Capellan Raiders and the Vogon Construction Fleet (your guess as to which ship goes with which force).
I primed these ships white before painting them.  This really brought out the yellow on the left-hand ship, and I'm really pleased with how they both came out.
After painting, I washed with an ink-water mix and then did a little drybrushing.  Now they're ready to join their respective flotillas.  One day soon, I need to take pictures of the assembled Capellan and Vogon fleets.  Then I actually need to use these in a game!