Monday, February 29, 2016

Castle Meatgrinder - The Mad Wizard's Garden

Here's a quick and dirty little project to spruce up a dungeon - an enchanted garden full of mysterious and arcane fauna that should give the players some interesting things with which to interact.  Some may want to kill the characters, some to talk to them, and they may be perfectly harmless.  Not knowing whether or not they are poisonous, beneficial, or even intelligent plants is all part of the charm.

The terra-cotta plant holders are copper electrical bits, and the big plant is a prehistoric jobby from the Toob o' Trees.  The rest are bits and bobs from plastic plants.  All are mounted on washers for added stability.

Perhaps some of these plants have healing nutrients and can be eaten, but it's a much better bet that at least one of them thinks the same of the characters.  Either way, even if they are all mundane, a room like this is an easy feature that should occupy players for a while - at least until the dungeon denizens catch up to them.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Support My Dungeon!

Relax, it's not a Patreon call.  These ten support columns are cheap found items glued to washers.

They are called wooden dowel pins, and you can find them online or at any local hardware store.  In the hands of a woodworker, they would be used to pin wood joints together.  In my hands, they become fluted columns.  They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes (see below) so poke around and get what suits your own needs.  I went with a classic look, a little on the small side, but take a look at these spiral cut jobs  - give the groove a glowing greenish color and you're really talking  mad wizard's lab.  A bag of ten set me back $1.99, so it's definitely one of the cheaper and easier pieces to build.

The pink marble paint job is a flesh color base, white cream drybrush, watered down red for the veins, and a final light brush with bright white.  The wife thinks they look like blood is running down them, and maybe it is.  Whatever helps remind everyone that they aren't in fantasy-Kansas anymore.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dungeon Dressing - Bits and Bobs

The two simple beds now have plain spun sheets and rather harsh looking pillows.  The sheets are facial tissue stiffened with watered down white glue, and the pillows are simple squares of cardstock.  
Easy peasy

A few more accutrements for the wizard's amusement.  The not-a-palantir-honest on the left is two cheap beads glued to a washer.  The well on the left is the flange end of the applicator tip of a tube of superglue.  The tip has been cut off, and the resulting engraved tube has been cut to size and sandwiched between two washers.  The water in the well is hot glue painted blue.

Lemon squeezy

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Dungeon Dressing - Barriers to Entry

My dungeon corridors are really wide.  At 2.5 inches from wall to wall, that equates to 12.5 feet using the scale in common use today.  What to do when you want to force characters to march single file?  

Making separate tiles for bottlenecks doesn't appeal, so instead I went with a more flexible approach, rubble.  These two tiles of rubble serve multiple purposes.  They can create chokepoints that narrow a hallway.  They can represent collapsed tunnels that block all movement.  They can even represent low piles which slow movement but do not block missile fire.  Is there anything they can't do?

Simple basswood and real world rocks.

Of course there is.  They make terrible locking gates.  For that you need locking gates.  I've got two sets complete with keyholes.  The light makes this one look gray, but they do have a more silver sheen in person.  Not a huge fan of the angled crossbraces, but they keep it sturdy - an important factor in terrain that is likely to get tossed into a box.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Excellent Dungeon Maps

There are a few tidy little dungeon mapping software tools out there online, but none of them were quite what I needed for my simple little Castle Meatgrinder Maps.  With a limited tile set available, I needed something digital that would allow me to drop them in place and rotate them as needed.  It also needed to be a program that let me customize simple icons for my dungeon dressing locations, and maybe drop in some notes to self as well.

 Here's a neat little post discovered while goofing off at work - on my lunch hour, the length of which we won't discuss.  Pretend Heroes shows the world how to use Excel to create simple, but information dense dungeon maps using everybody's favorite spreadsheet software, Excel.

First thing I did was build a suite of my rooms in one worksheet...

...and then drop them into a second worksheet with corridors, furniture, and notes.

That's all I need, and I can throw them together at work any time things get light.  Even better, by copying and pasting one level into a new worksheet, I can ensure that linkages between levels (stairs, pits, etc.) are accurate.

Anybody have any experience doing things this way?

Friday, February 19, 2016

Ye Olde Danke Library

No wizard's workshop would be complete without plenty of quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore.

There's some jars of unguents, spices, and weird skin creams mixed in with arcane copper devices and scroll tubes.  The dribs and drabs of hot glue that clung to the shelves despite my best attempts to pluck them off got painted a bright white.  They're cobwebs now, and fully intentional - a designed part of the shelves from the beginning.

The backs of these shelves look pretty rough, so we'll keep them against the wall and no one will ever notice...
Curses!  The one downside of building 2.5d dungeons!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Table for Four, Take Two

Couple more pieces of furniture ready for the movers.  Another boring table for four, this one a bit smaller than the last, and pretty sweet wizard's work table.

The base of that table on the left looks pretty blah.  I'll have to gray it up a bit to lower the contrast with the floor.  The wizard's table, though.  How great did that turn out?  

Click on that photo to see the cover of the eldritch tome on top of the stack of books, and the cool diagrams on the unrolled scroll.  If everything turns out half as cool as that table, this dungeon is really gonna turn heads at the...well, I don't get out much, so I don't know where.  But if I ever do get out, it's gonna turn plenty of heads!

Monday, February 15, 2016

D&D As Wargame

Oh, Cirsova, I wish I knew how to quit you.

My RPG style has been regressing over the years.  The last time out it was pure 5e glory with the RPG elements in full blown glory, and the wargamey aspects utilized to the hilt.  When I run games the combat is far more narrative, with miniatures used to show relative - not absolute - positions.

Then Cirsova had to lay down the holy word in this post:
I’m not saying that people who aren’t using miniatures are bad gamers or their games are bad or unfun – I’ve had great fun games in that didn’t use minis – but I will say that they’re playing it wrong. Because when you’re not playing by following the rules, how else can you describe it?
With the new dungeon rapidly shaping up, I find myself looking at the boardgamey aspect of the place and wondering...why not use the ranges and movement rates in inches presented in the rules as written?  And you know, I can't think of a single reason not to try it out once or twice.  If you use team initiative, and everyone declares actions before anyone touches a figure, you could avoid the analysis paralysis and countless if-then loops that bog down 3e and later versions of the game.

Roll into that Chicago Wizard's No Edition D&D, and Jeffro's Zero Prep Dwimmermount, you've got a rather interesting recipe for success.

  1. Start with whatever flavor of D&D floats your boat, but keep it to the bare minimum.  Six stats in order, basic classes, basic turn order.
  2. Add in resolution mechanics only when necessary (d20, d6, percentile, skills or proficiencies)
  3. Let is simmer and grow organically.
If you do that as a group, you could wind up with your very own flavor of table D&D...just like we used to do it back in the day.  The really tough stumbling block would be getting the players to let go of all their pre-conceived notions about how it should be done.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Table For Four, Take One

To make sure that the first batch of dungeon furniture would paint up right, I did a quick paint job on the big table and four benches...

Yeah...this is going to work out just fine.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Warren is In the House

Castalia House, that is.

This week over at the indy publisher's blog, soon to be the best wargame blog on this or any other net, Wargaming Wednesday With Warren.  Somehow I managed to sweet talk the editors over there into letting me in the pool during adult swim.  Now you can read a full blown review of Osprey's En Garde! rules.

After you're done, set your link feeds to check it out every Wednesday.  They've got a stable of great contributors over there who mostly talk hex-and-chit wargaming.  Cirsova in particular writes deep and intelligent posts about the complex end of wargaming that make me wish he was my next door neighbor.

2D wargaming is something I'd love to do more of, but just don't have the time for more than a quick and dirty game of Barbarian Prince or Outpost Gamma.  Heck, my copy of ASL is...come to think of it, I don't know where it is I haven't seen it in so long.  I hope one of my brothers has it stashed away somewhere.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

New Yan'qui Craftsman

The dungeon just got in a big shipment from Fantasy Ikea.  Frankly, I'm doing everything I can to avoid building doors.  Still haven't found a technique that I like yet.

Sci-fi figure for scale.
Everything you see here was made with popsicle sticks and hot glue.
Click to see better detail on that table.
Well, not quite everything.  The bottles are cut off bits from a bunch of G.I. Joe knockoff action figures that have been rattling around the bits box for years.  The scrolls are cut off bits from wooden dowels.  Other than that, it's all coffee stirrers and popsicle sticks.

Some of this stuff is a bit over-sized and clunky, but dungeons are strange places.  Things should look just a little off.
Two beds, still need mattresses and pillows.  Need those wandering
monsters well rested before their big entrance.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Wargamer Christmas - The Lead Pile Groweth

For wargamers, the past few weeks have seen all those figures you ordered from overseas over the Christmas break  start showing up in your mailbox.  For me that consists of four packs of Ral Partha's Blighthaven line, and a pack of's skeletons and adventurers with some demi-humans for good measure.  That's a pretty good chuck of lead to add to the mountain.

Speaking of painting supplies, your humble host is going to take a stab at painting at the big boy table.  Thanks to the pernicious effects of peer pressure, as applied by the good guys over at the In The Garage Podcast, we're going to go full monty on the washes.  This is a big change from my usual method of dry brushing everything.

That should help give the fantasy dudes a more unified look that is distinct from the sci-fi guys.  Of course, we OSR types know that a little overlap in the two can be a good thing, so don't be surprised to see a death bot or alien monster or two show up in Castle Meatgrinder from time to time.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Never Paint Alone - A Podcast Recommendation

In The Garage
The best time for painting - at least for middle-aged family men for whom this hobby is at the bottom of a long, long list of things to do - is that magic hour between seeing the kids off to bed and when days tribulations finally catch up to you.  Hopefully, that's a quiet hour of solitude, so it's nice to have a little something to keep you company, whether it be movies, books on tape*, a little music, whatever helps the mind stay as busy as your hands.

One of my more recent additions is a podcast made just for guys like me, and if you're reading this, probably for guys like you.  In The Garage  is pretty much two guys who sit around for an hour talking about 15mm scale miniature wargaming.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Dungeon Construction - Paint on the Walls

Watching Guy Ritchie's The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a fun, if trying*, way to pass time while slapping paint around on the tiles for Castle Meatgrinder.  The tiles were spraypainted earlier in the day, with some trepidation.  

*Fun spy flick, but a mistake to put on a movie with that many subtitles in it while you try to paint something.

Worried for nothing.  The craft store sells a nice foam-safe spray paint in a dark gray.  After spraying these boards, you can dust them with a black and light gray for an easy mottling effect.  The boards were ready for use, at that point, but I slapped down some brown and gray on the floors, too, to add even more texture.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Dungeoneering Tiles, Take Two

When last we met, I file-thirteened a pile of half-finished terrain consisting of a bunch of shoddy dungeon work.  This time out, I built a dungeon using my preferred materials, foamcore and balsa wood.  This time around, I used foamcore for the bases and balsa wood for the 'walls'.  The balsa is straight and very easy to work with.  So easy, that I ran out of it quick and had to halt work for a few days while I ran out and picked up more of it.  The photos below show just a few of the three-inch square tiles constructed to date.  I also have a small number of six- and nine-inch rooms to add to the mix as well.

Now, I'm not sure that this is going to work out well.  Everyone tells me that foamcore warps like the devil when you paint it, but that's never been an issue for me before, so we're going to give it the old college try. If it doesn't problem, that just means I get start over, and that means I get to build more stuff.  It's my own little Xanatos gambit.

Like the tiles, my second round of doors turned out better, too.  This version was constructed entirely out of popsicle sticks, which give it a lot more rigidity.  The base is still too light, though, so every time you open the door, the whole thing tips over just a teeny bit (one of the virtues of working in 15mm scale) and the door winds up acting as a kickstand.  It's not too egregious, though, so we'll live with it.

As you can see, they are still a little too big, but that adds to the alien-terrain feeling.  And hey, ogres, giants, and dragons gotta squeeze through those things, too, you know!

The next step, painting, will be make-or-break it.  I plan to base these things in dark gray spray paint, and even though I've got something designed for use with styrofoam, you never know until you pull the trigger.  If the painting goes well, we've got a new dungeon tile system.  Better yet, and I have some thoughts on how to make this system even more flexible in ways that I haven't seen done before.  Stay tuned.

* * *

Last month was my best month ever for hits on this blog.  Thank you all for stopping by the old Abox residence.  You folks are the best motivation evar!