Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tyranny of Dragons - The Boneyard

A running tally of those heroes fallen in their quest to prevent Faerun's Cult of the Dragon from ushering in a new dark age by summoning the dread god Tiamat.
  • Raane, half-elf illusionist - fell from the walls of Greenest Keep while attempting to sneak out to save The Mill from arson.
  • Henry St. John - dwarven warrior - eaten by a roper deep in the bowels of the Cult's lair near Greenest.
Note:  This post will be updated each time a character meets their maker.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

6mm - First Figures

Got the first couple of strips of 6mm skellies painted for the boy's medieval force.  He asked for a main color of purple, but wasn't sure what secondary color would work best.  This is a bit of a test strip to see if a second primary color is even necessary.  Throwing a lot of flashes of colors into the mix might be all that's necessary.

The conventional wisdom is that smaller figures require brighter colors, but I'm not convinced.  These troops look a little too cartoonish for me.

Also starting to consider photography strategies for the teeny-tinies.  Zooming way in just won't work the way it does with the larger 15mm and 25mm figures.  Using the nickle for scale forces the camera away and gives a pretty decent tradeoff between showing enough detail and showing what they'll look like on the table.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tyranny of Dragons - Vengeance and Death

With apologies for the cell phone pic.
When last we left our band of plucky heroes, they had captured the leader of the attack on Greenest, the mad cleric Frulam Mondath.  A quick scan of his office revealed a significant intelligence coup; the group had discovered marching order to head west to the coast and then north to Waterdeep, as well as detailed numbers of troops and supplies.

Risking discovery, the team pulled in their rear-guard, the archer Grim, and paused for a short rest.  Knowing that they would only get one shot at disrupting the plans of the Cult of the Dragon here in their base of operations, they elected to penetrate still deeper into the cavern despite being short on healing and spells.

Gilgamesh, the death mage, descended the rope ladder leading down into the pit trap within Mondath's lair to scout ahead.  The rest of the team fully bound up Frulam and stuffed him in his own trunk.  Down a short passage, Gilgamesh observed the great half-blue dragon (or is that blue half-dragon?) Cyanwrath at prayer within a large chapel to Tiamat.  Henry St. John, the dwarf, would have taken on 'that big blue bastard' by himself, but the rest of the team never considered leaving without dispatching Big blue.

Somehow they managed to sneak the whole party into the chapel and ambush the terrible dragon warrior, and his two aides standing off to the side.  The fight was fierce and terrible, but never in doubt.  Although he fought well, Cyanwrath fell to the combined might of the party - the coup de grace delivered by Henry's twin hammerblows.  Vengeance at last...okay, it had only been a week game time, but it felt like months.  Henry's satisfaction would be as short lived as Henry himself.

A small trapped chest held loot, but Grim solved that problem by using a pilfered key.  What might have been a fatal acid trap was safely bypassed.

dun Dun DUN...foreshadowing!

Still not smart enough to quit while the quitting was good, the party descended yet another flight of stairs to a large cavern with two large depressions separated by a rocky ridge.  The smaller of the holes looked empty, and the larger held two ambush drakes among a group of stalactites and three dragon eggs.  Grim made short work of the drakes from above, leaving an open shot at the dragon eggs.

Wasting no time Henry and Karren the half-dragon paladin descended into the egg hatchery, springing a kobold ambush.  Two blighters hurled casks of tarry glue while the other two hurled molokobold cocktails: whooosh!  The glue didn't stop the two heroes for long, though.  The two strongest party members yanked themselves free. While the rest of the party made short work of the kobolds, Henry advanced on the nearest dragon egg.

"Who want's a black dragon omelette," the dwarf asked.  A bad choice of last words.

More like passive aggressive perception amirite? 
Splattering the dragon egg awoke a massive roper guardian who immediately grabbed the unsuspecting dwarf and reeled him into a massive set of chompers.  What the party had thought was another stalactite was in fact a ravenous beast trained to eat anyone who touched the eggs.  The party fought valiantly, Grim in particular dealing massive amounts of damage.  Alas, to no avail.

Not shown, massive puddle
of tar-glue blocking the stairs.
Although they were able to stay out of reach of the towering monster, they just couldn't get to Henry in time.  Aramis dove into the pit, trying to distract the beast, get close enough to Henry to lay down some healing magic, anything.  But the cleric's heroism just couldn't overcome a series of really, really poor consitution checks by the dwarf (two critical failures, ouch).

Cue sad trombone
Saddened by the loss of their plucky friend, the party at last decided that they had delved too deep.  Ain't that always the way?  They gathered up their friends remains, their captive cleric, and returned to Greenest to turn over the intel to the proper authorities.

And now you know why the header of this blog looks the way it does this week.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Tyranny of Dragons Actual Plays

As I've mentioned before, one advantage to playing a pre-packaged rpg campaign is the opportunity it opens up to swap war stories with fellow players who have been through the same meat-grinder. Also mentioned repeatedly has been my group's adventures, mis- and otherwise, along the Tyranny of Dragons campaign.  To expedite the process for the rest of the world, here's a list of actual plays found through a quick search on the old googlescope.  If you know of one that isn't included here, let me know and I'll try to add it.

Here's a whole mess of links to the first session of each campaign, the first session because not all these blogs have indices.  If the first one grabs you, you'll have to poke around these sites to find the rest of the actual plays yourself.  Also, a few of these are first session write-ups only.  You will be warned where possible.

I'll include brief notes where possible so you can avoid the frustrated wannabe fiction authors droning on about weather and internal monologues and other such tediums.  For the most part, you're on your own, as I don't have time to read and critique each and every one of these.

Actual Plays

Advice for DMs

Friday, January 16, 2015

Big Box Terrain, Part Five

Reality check!  Now that the new box has a nice selection of terrain, it's time to verify that the terrain will fit into the box with room left over for the armies.  The armies aren't here yet, so I cut some rough bases out of paper to see how everything would fit together.
Right.  So.  Those "bases" are two by three inches, or about sixty square inches.  As you can see, one army of ten bases will fill about two-thirds of a blue box.   There isn't enough room to fit both woods, the pond, hills and rough ground into one box, so things are already getting tight, and we haven't even built up the built-up area (read: village (read: in 6mm a village means one or two houses on a ) base).  We can stack some terrain on top of the drop cloth like so:

But we've also got nine feet of linear terrain to assemble in the form of six feet of road and three feet of river.  I had hoped to toss those on top of the drop cloth.  Might have to put the linear features under the drop cloth, and the woods or something on top.  We'll see.

The larger lesson learned here is that the One Box to Rule Them All doesn't have much room left for fancy dancy terrain features.  I'll have to finish off the basics and armies before doing something silly like a wizard's tower or magic circle of standing stones.  The good new is that it looks like there's room for a second drop cloth in the box.  I may just try my hand at painting up a 'fields and meadows' drop cloth like the ones done by Small World Productions.

Not mine!  Click for the awesome source
That drop cloth is canvas covered by caulk and sand.  That's to much effort and cost for my blood, but I may have enough fabric left over to try that paint scheme out for myself.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Campaign Creation - Inspirational Shortcuts and Political Mnemonics

Chris, over at the Hill Cantons has a great post up about Special Snowflakes.  Really inspirational stuff.  Those of you who run games should take the three minutes to read it, if you haven't already.  he's quite the muse, that one.  Make sure to stick around for the comments - those guys play a little game that is directly relevant to the bulk of this post.

He's got me dreaming of building a sort of Herculoids-Thundarr-Barsoomian world of sword and sorcery that would range across strange vistas and wide swaths of alien wilderness.  A real swashbuckling weird sci-fi fantasy mashup, the likes of which ol' D&D was built for.

But.  I've never been good at politics.  Building enough factions and nations and parties and personalities has always daunted me and stymied me no end.  It would be great if there was an easy way to use a pre-existing set-up as a model.  That way, when something unexpected happens, you could just refer back to your source material, file off a few more serial numbers, and drop your source material into the game.

Now, this is no real revelation.  People have been doing this sort of thing since D&D first crawled out of the primordial swamp.  We've all heard the stories of Castle Greyhawk dropping characters into a not-quite-Alice In Wonderland, or the Barsoomian influence on the game.  What I'm proposing is a variation on that theme.

Indulge me for a moment.  Let me give you a campaign example, and see if you can figure out the real world analog.

Imagine a continent rising between the Tranquil Ocean and the Stormpeak Ocean.  This continent is home to 60+ nations, most of which belong to one of five Empires:

  • The Stormcoast Empire to the east ranges all up and down the eastern seaboard.  It includes fourteen nations, and is widely considered the weakest of the Five Empires.
  • The Southeastern Empire also encompasses fourteen kingdoms holed up in the southeastern corner of the continent.  Many consider it the strongest of the empires, but it's nations are inward looking, rarely venturing out of their home empire.
  • The Tranquil Empire, anything but, spans the length of the western coast of the continent and consists of a dozen nations.
  • The northern portion of the center of the continent is home to the Decadent Empire.  Again, fourteen nations, most of which cluster around the Inner Seas.
  • Our campaign focuses on the southern portion of the continent - home to The Dozen, an empire that ironically only contains ten nations.  It once held twelve, but a generation ago it lost its northernmost kingdom to the Decadent Empire, and two of it's members fled for the Southeastern Empire.  It managed to sway a far flung kingdom of mountain dwellers from the Stormcoast Empire, leaving it with a nice round ten member states.
  • There are also a small handful of independent city-states scattered throughout the continent, the most powerful of which rivals any of the other kingdoms.  It is the Kingdom of The Lady, and it stands proud and defiant, a holy nation right in the heart of the Decadent Empire.  It's people are fierce warriors who paint themselves before battle.

One more hint.  The people of this world share a love for a sport called Gridmatch, a simulated war in which armored players crash into each other in lines, each trying to force the other backwards into their home zone.  So popular is this sport, that the entire world celebrates the ringing in of the new year by honoring a great holiday on which they always play the world championship game.

Go on, take a guess.  Here's a pretty picture for spoiler space.

It's college football.  Those are the five major conferences, with Notre Dame the independent kingdom in the heart of the Big Ten.  Think about it - all the relative strengths and weaknesses, all the politics, all the national colors and regalia are right there, already built for you!  We already know that the Perditia, the Machinists, (Purdue Boilermakers) were once mighty but have fallen on hard times.  The Mishillinacs march to war under a maize and blue banner on which is depicted a Feralbeast - typically against their hated rivals, the scarlet and grey clad Ionian Bughuskers.  (For those of you unfamiliar with college football, that's the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes).

All you need to do is file off the serial numbers and slap your own labels on.  Then most of the heavy lifting is done for you.  If somebody wants to know what's going on over on the other side of the world, you already know.

And you can use all sorts of things for this.  Other sports would work fine - Major League Baseball gives you six nations with five kingdoms each.  You want two kingdoms?  Use Microsoft and Apple.

You could even use this technique for religious wars.  Imagine crusades sweeping across the world as wars rage between the followers of The Jester the Caged Clown, the Monarch, the Crimson Queen, and the General.  We already know that The Jester's forces are huge, but poorly trained, the Monarch's forces are salty (so much salt!), and the Crimson Queen allows her followers the most freedom, and the General can marshal powerful mystic forces, what with his ownership of a secret compendium, a scroll upon which is written the very words of creation themselves.  One might say they hold the spice of life, if one doesn't mind giving up the game to his players a little to easily.

Something to think about the next time you feel daunted by the time needed for world building.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Big Box Terrain, Part Four

Miniature wargaming is a three dimensional hobby, so it is only right and fitting that it be fought on three dimensional fields.  Over the course of the last couple of nights, I put together a couple of hills, and here's how I did it.  These are all pretty basic techniques, so if you've been wargaming for years it's probably safe to skip the words and just enjoy the pretty pictures.

First up, the general contours.  We start with standard bases.  On the right is a blank CD.  On the left is a 3/8-inch thick precut wood shape bought for about fifty cents at the craft store.  Instead of another round or square base, this one uses a football shape, for a bit of variety.
The contours shown here are made of built up posterboard cut to size and glued down with white craft glue.  Before the glue was even dry, I spackled up some smooth hillsides, and stuck a couple pebbles in each to break up the monotony.  The posterboard is lighter than spackle and gives you a lot more control over the precise slopes for the hills.

After letting the spackle dry overnight, the pebbles had to be glued into place.

 For the record, this is the spackled used in this application.  Probably don't need the pre-primed spackle, but it's what I had handy.

6mm figure atop the hill for scale
The next day, I glued down a fine cover of beach sand.  A second day of drying and it was on to paint.  I painted these the same way as the woods - black primer, white drybrush, drybrush with various shades of brown.  Then each base was finished off with a coat of thinned down white glue, covered with static grass and left to dry.

The whole thing was quick and easy enough that I could even toss a water hazard onto the golfing green.  This piece was partially a test piece for the water color for the upcoming river project.  Bright blue might not be very realistic, but it just looks so darn sharp on the table.

With just a few basic techniques, I now have enough terrain to fill up a table.  More than enough to play a game, but the figures haven't arrived in the mail yet, so I've still got time to whip up some rivers and roads...

Aerial view of the selection to date