22 October 2016

Giant Monster (Kaiju) Figure Sculpt

Going for that Ultraman villain look…
Here's a few shots of a monster figure sculpt I've been working on.  I made the mistake of making the hands separately… hence the very long forearms.  Oh well, the best part about making monsters is no one can tell you your proportions are wrong.

Materials: Super Sculpey, acrylic craft paint
Height: 80mm standing straight up
Rough skin is on purpose

I hope to get some better pictures… you can't really see the dry-brushed highlights in these photos.

Vertical slits are supposed to be mouths with teeth…not gills

16 September 2016

Spaghetti Spaceships: 16 Sep Edition

I finished another scratchbuild ship tonight, one that I started last weekend.  I'm very happy with this one but the pictures don't do it justice.  My wife is a better photographer than I am; perhaps she can get some crisper shots than I took when the light is favorable.

I made these with my standard materials: pasta, paper, CA glue and craft paint.  Still need to paint the flight stand...

On the game table!

EDIT: I went off to game yesterday and upon returning I found my wife had surprised me with better pics of this new ship.

Picture manages to capture porthole lights...

…porthole lights are all over the main body cylinder

64mm from front antenna to engine nozzle

21 August 2016

Games for Sale

I've added a Games for Sale page to my blog.  Check it out for stuff at reasonable prices.

I loves games so even if I'm getting rid of something I want it to go to a good home.  So make me an offer and we can work something out.

14 August 2016

Spaghetti Spaceships: 14 Aug 16 Edition

Here are three new spaceship miniatures.  As with last week, these are works in progress photos as I have yet to finish detailing the ships or paint their flight stands.  The lead ship has about 80% of its detailing complete.

I built these ships along with last week's vessel in order to test the rewrite of my solo spaceship game Greater Space Battles (GSB).  Honestly, it sucks.  Like every other space game I've ever played, it's slow and ponderous made even more boring by the fact that it is solitaire.  I had fun when I first wrote and released GSB four years ago but I think the enjoyment came from nostalgia: I had not played a tabletop game in more than a decade before those first play tests.

Is the solo table-top space battle game the holy grail, the unified field theory of solitaire gaming?  Can it ever be made fun?  Eighty percent of the solo rules I've created, regardless of genre, have ended up failing once the play test starts.  One game however, my 1/600 jet rules, has consistently given me fun experiences.  So I know fun solo gaming can be had.  I'll just have to keep trying to crack the space battle puzzle.

07 August 2016

Spaghetti Spaceships: 7 Aug 16 Edition

I constructed a new spaceship miniature to test out some new materials and painting/detailing techniques.  Overall I'm pleased.

Materials are various pastas, paper, toothpicks, and CA glue.  Basic craft paint and acrylic floor finish for color.  Instead of using a nasty spray-primer, I painted the ship with an initial white layer, using the same craft paint/floor finish ratio.  For spaghetti ships, this will be my new technique.

The flight stand was painted along with the ship.  It still requires a final black layer which I should've completed before the photo-session… the blue flight stand is distracting in the pics below.

Thanks for looking.

Need to paint the flight stand

25 May 2016

The Dreams in the Witch-House: MYTHOS CCG Custom Adventure

I made this custom adventure for the Mythos CCG a while ago but forgot to share it.  The adventure card allows the player to replicate the H.P. Lovecraft story "The Dreams in the Witch-House".

The best CCG ever.  Ever.
I computed the Adventure Points for this using The Art of Playing Mythos Book.  Computing AP using these guidelines requires some interpretation and it's possible that more AP, up to +15, might be warranted for this one since it requires some hard-to-play cards.

EDIT: Oops… looks like I have shared this before, back in 2014!  Time flies.

28 February 2016

First Spaceship Sculpture

I've been slowly (very slowly) working on several non-gaming sculptures.  Since this is a gaming blog, I've been contemplating starting a new blog to display my portfolio.  Perhaps instead I'll just add a page to this blog.  Until I decide, I'll share a few project posts here.

The sculpting is complete on a 33cm spaceship I've been working on.  The look of the ship is intended to emulate the ships of the 70's book covers (Chris Foss, Colin Hay, Angus McKie, Peter Elson, Fred Gambino, etc.) and I feel the shape succeeds.  I'm now working on painting it; so far I'm happy although the detail is perhaps too subtle.  From across the room it simply looks gray but in direct sunlight the details pop out.  LOTS more painting to go...

Sculpting done; primed for paint 

That 70's airbrush look

In normal light; putty oven in the background

More close-ups

15 February 2016

Terrain from Food Trays

Food packaging from the grocery store comes in all sorts of interesting shapes.  And despite my age, whenever we go shopping all I can think is "wow, that tomato container would make a perfect University Annex building for my 1/300 tank game".

I've had this idea kicking around in the back of my head on how to use the transparent attribute of the packaging to really make the shapes look like buildings.  I tried it out today and it seems to have worked.  Pictures of my experiment are below; you be the judge.

Take a piece of transparent food packaging that has an interesting shape and paint the inside of it.  The inside, not the outside.  To replicate a blue sky reflecting off the windows use blue like I did here.  I think a dull green or gold would work as well.  I used spray paint for this experiment but later I airbrushed cheap acrylic craft paint thinned with Future floor polish on a second food package (not shown) and it worked well.  I'm sticking with the airbrush in the future so I can avoid the nasty solvents in the spray paints as well as mix any color I want.  The packaging in both my experiments was PETE ("Number 1") type plastic by the way.

OK, so when the inner paint dries, place masking tape on the outside where you want the windows.  On a real piece I would have made many more windows that were smaller, to capture the scale but this was just a proof-of-concept.

Once the masking tape is on, spray the outside with your color of choice.  I just went with cheap gray primer here.  When the outer color dries, peel the masking tape off and viola: you have windows.  The outer "wall" color is a dull matte but the window area retains its plastic shine, giving it a realistic glass effect.

I've been playtesting my futuristic micro-armor game using a virtual gameboard; the first few sessions seem to be promising.  Maybe now I can finish the terrain I started so long ago and make some more tanks.  

Proof-of-concept; not a finished piece

14 January 2016

Storytelling with Dice

…Or, Stupid Dice Tricks

The following is a long-long post about how I roll dice to come up with stories.  There may be some good ideas buried somewhere in here but you'll have to wade through my philosophizing.  Here goes...

What are role-playing games if not story-telling?  I think that's why I always loved being the GM; directing the game meant I was weaving the story.  I haven't played an RPG proper in nearly two decades but I have tried a couple of solo-RPG game master emulator products, such as the Mythic GME and the Conjectural Roleplaying Gamemaster Emulator (CRGE).

The Mythic GME was my gateway-drug into the world of solo-RPGing and works pretty well.  The creator of the CRGE made a few revolutionary observations in designing his game however.  First, he approached the whole GM-emulation thing as formal story-telling, i.e. using the three act structure.  Second, and far more important, CRGE ditches the whole assign-a-likelihood aspect of Mythic.  The author of CRGE believes that if the unresolved story question isn't truly at chance odds (50/50) then the story-teller already knows the answer without consulting dice.  I agree and that's the one thing I've taken from the CRGE for my own story-dice methods.

Speaking of story-dice, this is how I do it.  For most of my homebrew games I use a "rank-order" system meaning I roll a bunch of dice simultaneously and then order them in ascending order with the lowest die score being rank ONE.  In order to not confuse the rank order of a die with the individual die score, I will put spell out the rank in bold italics and highlighted blue, like in the previous sentence.  Rank ordering allows one to manipulate the probabilities without having to reference a bunch of charts and add/subtract modifiers.

OK, so back to story-dice.  Let's assume I have a premise for my story and it's going somewhere but I come to a logical fork-in-the-road and the story can go either way.  I'll roll 5d6 for any questions in each act in the story and rank order the five dice, using only one result, the Rank THREE die score.  What does that do for me?  Well, it ensures the results tend to cluster around the central die scores.  In fact, here are the rank ordered results from five million (simulated) 5d6 rolls.  As you can see, using Rank THREE gives a nice symmetrical curve with about 58% of the results clustered around the central two die scores.

Die Score
Number of Occurrences (by Rank Order)

…that last number is 117.  Unfortunately the Blogger formatting is not cooperating.

I translate the die score into an answer to my question.  Exactly what each die score means depends on where I'm at in the story.  If I'm still defining the story and the protagonist, the conflict, and the (apparent) path to resolution of the conflict have not all been discovered yet, then the following scale is used (sorry for the wonky alignments; again with the unpredictable Blogger formatting):

Die ScoreAnswer

6Yes, But…
5Yes, And…
2No, And…
1No, But…

If the protagonist, the conflict, and the (apparent) path to resolution are all defined and now the protagonist is facing obstacles on this path to resolution, I'll use this scale.

Die Score Answer

6 Yes, And…
5 Yes, But…
4 Yes
3 No
2 No, But…
1 No, And…

If the story gets into a "war-gamey"/RPG type situation, such as where two characters are opposing each other and perhaps each have different applicable skills, then I'll use this scale:

Die ScoreAnswer

6Yes, And…
4Yes, But…
3No, But…
1No, And…

What about twists?  Well, whenever I throw 5d6 to resolve a question, I ensure three of the dice are one color (usually white) and the remaining two dice share another darker color.  If the darker dice are both same number on a roll, then this indicates a story twist.  The original question can still be resolved normally regardless if the dark dice come up doubles but with an unexpected turn.

If a twist is indicated, I roll 5d6 and rank order them again.  Only one die score is used again but the rank order is not automatically Rank THREE as when answering a question.  Instead, at the beginning of each story segment, the "twist-rank" starts at Rank FIVE  and decreases as the segment progresses.  I track the Twist-Rank with a different color/size/type die.  This ensures a lot of loose ends get generated at the beginning which hopefully point toward a coherent story as the segment continues.  The following table explains how to read the die score if a twist roll is made:

Die Score   Result

6                 Fade Out
5                 Suddenly! (New Character[s])
4                 Suddenly! (New Character[s])
3                 Suddenly! (Conflict)
2                 Suddenly! (Existing Character[s])
1                 Back to Our Story

Here's what these mean…

Fade Out: Immediately decrease the Twist Rank by one (minimum Rank ONE).  The current scene is suspended and a new one is started.  This new scene is either concurrent (Meanwhile…) or in the past (Flashback!).  Another 5d6 roll on a new table is necessary to determine the new scene type (see below).

Suddenly!: Immediately decrease the Twist Rank by one (minimum Rank ONE).  Something immediately changes or is revealed in the scene and the focus of the change/revelation is indicated in the parenthesis.  

Back to Our Story:  The Twist-Rank remains the same.  No changes otherwise affect the scene and the story can continue to progress.

So at the beginning of the story segment the tale will likely go spinning off into flashbacks or concurrent actions happening elsewhere.  Then, as the story progresses new characters will likely be introduced.  Then details of the conflict and existing characters are revealed by the twists.  Finally, everything should calm down to allow the story-teller to wrap the story segment up to a logical conclusion.

I mentioned the Fade Out result required another 5d6 roll.  This roll uses the Twist-Rank as well; here's how I define the results of that roll. 

Die Score   Result

6                 Meanwhile...
5                 Flashback!
4                 Meanwhile...
3                 Meanwhile...
2                 Flashback!
1                 Meanwhile…

As a side-note, once the story goes into an alternate scene (Fade Out result on a twist roll), it stays in that scene until returning to the Main Story.  There are two differences however.  First, when in an alternate scene, the Twist-Rank is always Rank FIVE.  Second, if a Fade Out result is scored when making a twist roll in the alternate scene, the narrative immediately returns to the Main Story.  This makes these alternate scenes short, chaotic scenes which serve to amplify the main story and not supplant it.

OK, so there are alternate scenes and changes to scenes with the twist rolls.  In order to spur my mind into a direction that explains these plot-twists, I use random words.  Originally I used the 200 or so random words that came with the Mythic GME.  Recently however I have created an Excel VBA file that generates a list of about 100 words from a list of the 35,000 most common English words.  I've set up the file to allow me to reject words that are useless (proper names, abbreviations, "the", "a", etc.) and the macro will then eliminate that word from future consideration.