Saturday, August 24, 2013

DIY Tabletop Minis Redux

Here be the first batch of minis made specifically for the Swallowed campaign. I'll explain a little more about the Leviathan itself in a future post, but for now it seems pertinent to mention that time in the Belly is stretched and skewed. Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey. The creature itself is huge and thousands of years old, but due to reasons, hundreds of thousands if not millions of 'years' have passed inside it's body, giving ample time for it's unwilling denizens to breed, adapt, evolve, and thrive within. So! Here come the first eyeless albino monstrosities. 

First stop was my favorite miniature supplier, my local dollar store. They usually have these bins of cheap plastic bugs right up front. I used some cockroaches in a previous post to create a band of post-apocalyptic bug-men. I've seen similar bins at toy stores and craft stores, but for three to ten times the price. A dollar and sixteen cents later, I am the proud owner of a little plastic bag full of centipedes. Centipedes are inherently horrifying, that's science.

Since I detailed the process in this post, I'll not run through whole boil, bend, shock process again here. Pictures below are pretty self explanatory. Behold! Click to embiggen.

A dollar and about an hour later, and we have a handful of minis more or less ready to go. I repainted the base edges black, and then hit the bugs with some spray gloss to make them nice and shiny. The paintjob is pretty bad, but works from a small distance. Under closer scrutiny, I didn't let the primer dry enough before I started painting, because I am tragically impatient. Additionally, the toothbrush bloodspatter is a bit heavy. I wanted them to look a little grisly, since they are burrowing creatures, erupting upward through the meat below - but I think it was a bit much in hindsight. Anyhow, a dollar and an hour later, five minis, ready to go. 


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Organic Terrain Board - Belly of the Beast

  So! I finally managed to get the party swallowed by the Leviathan, pursuing notorious wereshark pirate captain Kieran the Blackfin across a storm-wracked forbidden sea. This is the segment of the current campaign that I have been looking forward to the most. Also, it presents me with opportunity to gin up some
really fun terrain pieces and models, not to mention new environmental hazards, NPC factions, monsters, and setting specific quest ideas. Happy DM. Anyhow, first things first, I needed a good base terrain board. I thought I could do better than the Chessex mat for this new, alien landscape. I wracked my brain for a few weeks as to how best balance playability with the look I was going for. I couldn't figure out how to preserve the grid on these pieces like I have on others, but that doesn't present much of an obstacle for play, really. Having played on the Red Grace for the past few months, the players are pretty accustomed to measuring movement by base width, and paying more attention to facing and whatnot. Anyhow, on to the board.

I started with and old piece of masonite, some vestige of a failed or abandoned past project. It was spattered with random paint and swirls of old dried pva glue. No matter. First order of business, since I
decided to make a bottom 'bile' board to lay the meat islands on top of, I ran a bead of hot glue along the edges, to build a retaining wall for the Water Effects I planned to pour all over it. Then I spray primed the whole thing black.

Next up, I started painting the board itself, trying to give it the illusion of depth. I'm not the best painter, I'll be the first to admit.

I used a limited palette of three or four cheap Apple Barrel acrylic paints for the entirety of this project. I think the paint for everything I made here cost somewhere around 5 bucks. Black, White, Tuscan Red, and
Linen. After putting down the basic sub-surface shapes, I went back with a scrap of dish sponge to try and work in some bubbles and ripples. The finished paint job looked pretty passable to me, though if I have opportunity, I might give it another shot with more of a blue/green color scheme, to give the 'water' more visual distinction from the 'land'.

Now the fun part! I had bought this bottle of Water Effects a few years ago, and never used it. Maybe because it is so ridiculously expensive - $22 for that little bottle of clear resin. I'm sure there is a cheaper
alternative, but I dont know about it. Regardless, I had decided that now was the time to give it a shot. I dumped 3/4 of the bottle into the center of the board, and pushed it to the edges of my hot glue retaining wall, and then walked away for about two hours. NAILED IT.

Don't ever do that. Water Effects spreads like crazy. Apparently the key is several very thin layers. When I walked back through the dining room a few hours later, it had breached the retaining wall, run across the table, and through the leaf in the middle to pool on the hardwood beneath. My wife was not amused by this result. Thankfully I managed to scrub it up before it finished setting, but it did somehow manage to bleach the table and floor in the process. So... whoops. Don't do that.

Crisis averted, I started work on the meat islands. I don't have a jigsaw, so I couldn't cut masonite to the shapes I needed, so I based them all on foamcore. Foamcore presents it's own problems in the form of

warping, but other than that, it works great. I pulled out a sheet and a few scraps from another project and started cutting. I tried to bear in mind the modular intent, and cut into shapes that could work independently from one another.

Then I used and X-acto knife to bevel the edges towards the 'water-line' a bit, to try to make them blend a little better, cutting at roughly a 45 degree slope around every exposed edge.

I plugged in my foam cutter and started whittling down a few pieces of blue polystyrene to give the pieces some height variation, and then adhering them to the foamcore bases with pva glue.

This step took a while, as I kept going back to it, trying to keep my cuts smooth and 'organic' rather than jagged. Here they are all finished up.

Next up, I used a can of expanding foam filler to blend the edges of the polystyrene into the foamcore base and to add larger polyp-like growths here and there. This stuff expands like nuts, so err on the side of too
little. Also, wearing gloves is a good idea. It's nasty stuff, and is ridiculously difficult to get off of your hands. Acetone seemed to help with the latter.

Then I used PVA glue to kinda drool long, ropey veins all across the surface of the pieces. It helped to integrate the expanding foam into the foam a little.

To add a little more texture variation to the large, blank areas, I used one of my favorite 'gross texture' techniques, super glue dripped into wet yellow wood glue. I saw this a long time ago on
some Nurgle-themed Chaos Marines, and I take every opportunity I can to use it. It just looks awesome. And by awesome, I mean grotesque. It smells terrible while the chemicals are reacting, so it is probably best to do outside.

While all of that glue dried, I made a few clusters of giant fungi - the main light source in the Leviathan. I used some of the drips of expanding foam from my work-board, carved down a little with and X-acto and the edges burned a bit with a lighter to smooth them out. I mounted them on
the same twisted and burnt pipe-cleaner trunks that I like to use for trees. The weird texture of the trunks works fine, and it lent itself really well to making the small, branching clusters of mushrooms. I only made a few, but I was really happy with them. I will likely make more free-standing clusters to use with the larger terrain pieces, so that I can control the light level of certain areas better during play. I cemented them into the larger terrain pieces with PVA.

I also went to my bits box and found a few sprues of bone and skull festooned wooden poles from a LOTR goblin terrain set, and jammed a few of them into the polystyrene here and there for a
little added detail. Then I went about painting all of the exposed foam (including the edges of the foamcore) with black acrylic to protect it from the imminent spray primer. Once that dried, I blacked the whole thing and started with a base-coat of 50/50 black and red.

I then put down another three layers of color, working up from black/red, through red, red/linen, to a pink/white highlight on the veins and harder edges. It looks really pink in the picture here, but not quite so much with unaided eyeballs.

I went back and started painting in the details, like the 'shrooms and bone sticks. After that, I hit the whole piece with a high gloss finish coat to make it look slimy and wet. I also dripped tiny amounts of my remaining Water Effects into low lying areas to create puddles and pools. The gloss is a bit lost in the following pics, but trust me, it looks wet and unpleasant. All in all, I think it came out great. The players seemed to really enjoy the big reveal as well. Now to start populating it with horrific, eyeless albino mutants!

Thanks for the look.

Monday, August 12, 2013

AVAST! An exercise in inexpert 28mm ship building.

As mentioned in a previous post, my current campaign is a bit nautically centered - at least until I get these PCs swallowed by a larval godworm, then it becomes something else entirely. I started scouring the interwebs for 28mm scale ships, intending to buy a few if I could find some reasonably priced, but alas, I couldn't find a single one that even remotely approached what I considered to be reasonable. Maybe it's because I'm cheap, I dunno. There are some amazing ships out there, but nothing I would want my jackass players stomping their miniatures all over.

  However, I did stumble across quite a few articles on DIY ships which looked frankly amazing, and more than a few of these are based on Gary Chalk's templates, originally printed (as far as I can ascertain) in Wargaming Illustrated #183. The templates are available all over the place. Here's a link to them here.
The instructions call for cereal box card and balsa, but I had some extra foamcore lying around that I thought would be a bit sturdier than a Lucky Charms box, so I went with that in lieu. All together, the materials cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-8 bucks, so definitely a win on the cheap front.

  I usually stick to 'organic' type terrain for a reason. My giant, clumsy hands are not all that well suited to fine detail work. Sculpting tiny filigreed balustrades is not my forte. My blunt, thick fingers are more suited to hewing cliff faces from pink polystyrene. The kind of projects where defects can be easily transformed into 'features'. Ship building is not like that. It requires craft. It requires effort. Hopefully I put in enough of the latter to mostly disguise my lack of the former.

I started by printing Chalk's templates and then transferring them onto the foamcore. After cutting out the segments, I realized I didn't have, nor could I find, anything resembling 'assembly instructions'.  At this point, only fifteen minutes into the project, I began to just kinda wing it.

The foamcore holds a good bend, for the hull sections, and the balsa decking looked decent. I started embellishing the plans with cut in stairs and banisters. Then onto the masts. I wrapped varying lengths of dowels together with craft wire, and cemented the joins with super glue. You can see in the photo that I punched the rear mast straight through the deck in completely the wrong spot, and then tried to cover my shame with a balsa patch and wood glue spackle.

 Chopped apart an old pre-painted D&D mini for the figurehead here, jammed up under the bowsprit. Added platforms on the masts to facilitate play.

At this point I started thinking about doing elaborate netting and rigging, and decided it would only serve to interfere with the 'playability' of the boat. Also, lazy.

Here she is fully assembled at right, and below with sails and paint. For me, it didn't really come together until I added the canvas sails. For some reason, up until that point, even after painting, it looked like crap to me. The sails, though. They make me happy.

  We've been playing with the boat, dubbed the Red Grace, for a few months now, and it serves exactly the role I had hoped. Though it could still stand with more embellishments and details it's been a great addition to the tabletop, and I'm pretty proud of the results. Apologies for the weird formatting, Blogger is outsmarting me today.
Thanks for the look.          -JM

Friday, January 25, 2013

Swallowed Campaign / ¡Mapocalypse!

   New Year, new game! Kicking off a new campaign next Tuesday, focusing (initially at least) on a more nautical theme. I've got plans. Ye gods, do I have plans. But, then again - I always do. I guess we'll see how they pan out. The Level-0 Baelheim game is on hiatus for now. I still think that it was a success, though we wont be going forward with the setting for the time being. After a nearly three month break (during which my lovely wife and I welcomed a new, tiny human into our home), I was having difficulty getting myself back into the right headspace for the writing of it - the excitement had petered out, for me at least.
   One night clicking through the Cartographer's Guild (I am a barely closeted map fetishist), I was glancing through some maps I had made a few years ago and posted up for critique. It's a really supportive and constructive community over there, and I recommend that anyone who has the slightest interest in mapping (fantasy or otherwise) check them out. Anyhow, there was one particular map that I had entered into their monthly Lite Mapping Challenge contest that I have always been proud of. The challenge was to map a fairy tale location, and having always had a kind of terrible fascination with the story of Jonah and the whale, in all of its variations and iterations, I chose to map the belly of a ship-swallowing leviathan. I'm still proud of it, though my Photoshop-Fu has gotten better in the past couple of years. I think. Well, at least I've gotten better at blending my layer effects. Click to embiggen.

It won!

I can't imagine a more hopeless and hostile location to strand my PCs. I can't wait. I'll be redoing the map soon, greatly increasing the scale to accommodate a slightly longer term campaign arc, and in general expanding on the basic idea. Here will be the meat of the new game (so to speak). First, I just have to railroad my group down the throat of a larval god-worm. Should be good times. Anyhow, as I mentioned, the game will start off more nautically themed, with the PCs having been press-ganged into service aboard a privateer trading ship. I've ginned up an area map for them to start off in, set in a portion of the same world I have set our previous games in - Iberra. 

   The Eye of Idriis, that odd little ringsea, is where my leviathan makes it's home. Just have to get them there. The above map was made with references from the Saderan tutorial, from the aforementioned Cartographer's Guild. I think it came out nicely. I'm looking forward to some ship to ship combat, so my next order of business is to make up a few ship proxies without miring myself too deeply into perfect scale replica galleons with swinging booms and changeable sails and working anchors and johnny boats and elaborate figureheads and... Proxies, the safe word is proxies.
   Lastly, while I'm dropping maps here, I'm going to put up the following - my first submissions to the CG, a series of goblin warrens from an older campaign. I've always been particularly proud of the water effect on these, by the end I think I've gotten it just about right. Goblins! Aboleths! Goblin Aboleth Thralls! I have fond memories of this particular dungeon set.  Maybe someone will stumble on them and be able to put them to use.

/ ¡mapocalypse!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hiatus Interruptus and Zero Level PCs

  I am going to lay the blame for my long blogging hiatus fully at the feet of my lovely wife and gestating larva. My son, my heir, has required massive attention in preparation for his imminent arrival - including appointments, classes, research, and home remodeling. The latter is still underway, and sadly my painting and modelling cave is being retrofitted into a new expanded kitchen area, and all of my assorted bits and bobs are temporarily boxed and stuffed into a spare bedroom while a new office space is arranged.
  In lieu of a modelling and painting update, I guess I'll just leave this here - some of the campaign materials from my groups summer game. A few of my players are teachers, and when summer hits, one of them escapes the stagnant swamp of Virginia for fully three months in exchange for cooler climes. This necessitates a break from regularly scheduled programming. Well, necessitates is a strong word. I suppose 'presents an opportunity' is more accurate. After a year of post-apocalyptia, the itch for some good old fashioned fantasy arose. 
  Had an idea to run a short summer game in the same world as our group's last two fantasy runs, though set a few hundred years in that world's future, allowing me to season the setting with some Victorian gas-lamp goodness. It's essentially fan-service, the premise revolving around the final fate of our group's very first party, which due to shifting player schedules, was never quite resolved after two years of playing. These characters and their shenanigans are still oft quoted and remembered fondly at the table, after four years and a few intervening games. So - I give them the city of Baelheim. A sprawling, seeming endless mega-city, and cast them as children. The idea of PC's as children appealed to me for a few reasons, foremost being that heroes are made, not born.
  In your standard D&D character generation rules, adventurers are exceptional individuals from the outset. You know, that farm-boy who can punch an ornery cow unconscious and is for some reason innately comfortable in plate armor, despite, y'know, never seeing any before.  Low levels have always been the most fun to DM for me. Once you hit around... I dunno, level 12-14 - the PCs realistically have the skills and resources to deal with whatever world annihilating horrors you can dream up with relative ease and aplomb. I greatly prefer being able to ravage them to the point of near-death with a pack of dire rats. It's not just my sadism, though that is certainly a factor, but the blase 'Oh, another ancient lich and his horde of undead servitors' ho-hum workaday attitude that develops. Point being, I want these fuckers scared. Setting them as children in a hostile urban wilderness seems just about perfect to me. 
  I scoured the interwebs for ideas on systems to develop 'under-powered' 0 level characters, and found quite a few great ideas scattered around. I pieced a few of these together and decided on a point-buy system that would allow the PCs to create characters without the physical means to render draft animals thrice their size comatose with a fusillade of fisticuffs. Even better, it seemed to work. First, they get a splash of flavor text and scene-setting. 
  One hundred and fifty years ago, the great northern capitol of Balin's Watch was razed to the ground in a legendary battle between the Three and the nameless horrors awakened by the necromancer Vethin and his illithid thralls. Iberra heeded the call of the Three, and the ranks of the Army of the North swelled with heroes of legend, united against the seemingly endless tide of darkness. The battle raged for nearly a year, the armies gathered and led by the Three clashing against the creatures disgorged from the Abraxus riftsea north of the Ettinspine mountains. They fought, the weight of the entirety of the world on their weary shoulders. They fought, and they lost.
Betrayed in the end by a creature called Kasparov, the Army of the North was scattered and destroyed, the battlefield soaked with the blood of heroes. A final desperate charge was mounted by the Three and their remaining allies, striking deep into the heart of the enemy, forcing them to abandon defense of the city.
In their absence, the remaining defenders were overwhelmed, and the flood of darkness poured through the city, slaughtering it's inhabitants to the last and tearing it's ancient towers from their foundations. The creatures flowed over and through Balin's Watch, Iberra's last bastion against the tide of nightmares threatening to drown the world in darkness. All was lost. The cities and villages of the north were swallowed whole.
And then, the Flare. There are some among the long-lived races who still remember those dark days, when the end of all things loomed close enough to taste on the wind. A flash of white, from the distant north, a light of such purity and ferocious intensity that it struck witnesses blind for days afterward. The flash, and then the Howl. A chorus of screams from the advancing armies of the rift, a cacophony of rage and frustration, so loud that it is said that it rattled the windows in the southern desert palaces of Khapra. The darkness was gone.
Though they never returned from that final charge, it is commonly held that the Three and their allies somehow managed to seal the tear between the worlds at their end, banishing the darkness back to the void. They were raised up by the religions of Iberra as martyrs, and shrines were erected throughout the Thirteen Kingdoms. It is claimed by many that the Three and their allies were lifted up by the gods at the last to reward their sacrifice, and they are widely considered to hold places among the pantheon. Zende the Black, patron saint of warriors and pirates. Rhona the Wolf, matron of madness and the hunt. Dracht-Cha, patron saint of storms and the wild. In recent times, worship of Olidimarra has been almost entirely abandoned in favor of Garren the Grand, one of the Three's staunchest allies, who accompanied them on their final charge, as the patron saint of thieves and luck.
Balin's Watch stood abandoned for a decade, a cursed place, haunted by the dead. But the living have short memories. The promise of abandoned riches drew adventurers, the lure of arcane secrets drew scholars and mages. Behind these enterprising pioneers, settlers began to creep back into the lands of the north. The village of Baelheim was established over the ruins of Balin's Watch, and grew quickly. Wooden palisades and clapboard hovels rapidly gave way to permanent structures, and stone towers again began to climb into the sky. Up and up they stretched, their upper stories connected by broad covered bridges, wrought from stone scavenged from the bones of the dead city beneath them, blanketing the lower city in perpetual twilight of factory smoke and shadow. Gaslamps burn on most corners in Lowtown, a feeble attempt to banish the fog and murk that Baelheim's lower classes work and live in.
In recent years, harvests have been especially poor, the once fertile ground gone sour, the livestock barren and sickly. Lowtown is hardest hit, the winter dead stacked like cord-wood at the intersections, picked over by Collectors from the Scholia Biologica or the hooded acolytes of the Brotherhood of Silas. Countless refugees are driven into the great city from the outlying villages, their homes either ravaged by plague or razed by the pale-haired, sharp fanged White Elves of the Ettinspine mountains. It is a hard, cold place. As the snows begin to fall, the debauched nobles and scholars of the Upper City debate politics in teahouses warmed by alchemical light-globes while below them orphans with black, frozen fingers dig through the red slush run-off of the abattoirs for scraps of fat to sustain them.
The city is a nest of warring factions and guilds, an endless parade of alliances and betrayals, bribery and blackmail. Gangs offer the only chance of survival for many in Lowtown, and their ever-shifting turf boundaries are marked in the blood of their rivals. The High Guard, with their faceless, gilded helms, patrol the Upper City, but Lowtown is left to it's own sort of brutal, primal law – survival of the fittest. Beneath them all, the Under Guard stand their thankless watch, debtors and sentenced criminals pressed into service in the endless, unmapped web of ancient collapsing sewers, tunnels, and mines that honeycomb the earth beneath Baelheim – and things have begun to again stir in the darkness beneath the city. Black, nameless things, like from the stories of the Three.  

  There's the fan-service portion, Zende, Rhona, Dract-Cha, and Garren being characters from previous games, raised at this point to sainted status. The setting lifts ideas from all sorts of places, most notably Wermspittle and Vornheim. I like to think 'inspired by', though bits and pieces are stolen whole-cloth.  From here, they rolled out their characters from the point-buy system detailed below.

Character Creation -

Characters in this campaign will start as adolescents, orphans living in the Lowtown streets of Baelheim. When creating your character, consider what path you envision them taking at level one, selecting from among the more traditional base classes. This choice will determine your starting Baelheim class.

Fighter –             Street Tough      +1 HP, +1 Str                Typically street gang muscle
Barbarian -          Feral                   +2 HP, +1 Con             Usually nonverbal loners
Rogue-                Guttersnipe        +3 skill points, +1 Dex  Pickpockets and hoodlums
Ranger-               Streetrat             +1 Dex, +1 Wis             Self reliant survivors
Sorcerer -            Witchborn          +1 Wis, +1 Cha            Tainted blood grants magic
Wizard -              Squint                -1 HP, +2 Int                Physically weak, smart
Cleric, Monk -    Adept                +1 Wis, +1 Con             The faithful are few

I particularly like the idea of 0 level characters having access to under-powered setting-specific analogues to the traditional classes. I realized later that I left druids out of the list, unintentionally.

Ability Scores -
Ability scores will be determined with a 'point buy' system. All ability scores start at a baseline value of 8. You have 22 points to distribute among your character's abilities.

Each increase in an ability sore, up to 14, costs 1 point. Thus, raising any ability from 8 to 14 will cost 6 points total. Raising an ability to 15 costs an additional 2 points, as does raising one from 15 to 16. Thus, bringing an ability from 8 to 16 would cost a total of 10 points.

Lowering a score below 8 earns 1 point for each step down taken. For example, lowering Charisma to 6 will garner 2 points to spend elsewhere. However, no ability can be lowered below 6.

With these points, you will have created a character whose scores are average at best, and could appear under developed. Well, they are. Your character has unrealized potential. Upon reaching 1st level, your character will receive a small pool of bonus ability points to be again distributed in the above manner, raising their ability scores to 'heroic' level.

This seems a good idea to me, as well. A character achieving level 1 in Baelheim will be just a touch above a normal level 1 in terms of skills and ability points, owed to the harshness of their upbringing. It's a hard-knock life. For us.

Game Statistics -

0 level characters have a Base Attack Bonus of +0
0 level characters do not receive any base bonuses to saving throws.
0 level characters determine their Hit Points by rolling 1d3+1, and adding their Constitution modifiers (if any) to the total.
0 level characters have no proficiencies in armor or shields.
0 level characters are considered proficient in clubs, daggers, and quarterstaves.

Feats -
At 0 level, a character is granted one bonus feat, which should be selected from the list below.
Acrobatic, Agile, Alertness, Athletic, Deceitful, Deft Hands, Diligent, Nimble Fingers, Persuasive, Skill Focus, Self-Sufficient, Stealthy, Toughness
Others may be deemed acceptable at the DM's discretion.

Skills and Skill Points -
To determine your skill points, add 2 to the character's Intelligence modifier, and then multiply the result by 2. If the character is Human, add 1 to this total. This will result in a total between 3 and 11, which represents the number of points that can be spent on skills.
The skill list for 0 level characters is limited, and dictated primarily by their environment and upbringing. Available skills are listed below -
Balance, Climb, Craft, Jump. Handle Animal, Knowledge, Listen, Profession, Riding, Swimming, Spot, Survival.
Each rank in one of these skills costs 1 point, and characters can gain no more than 3 ranks in any skill at level 0. Buying a rank in any skill outside of the above list costs 2 points, and characters are limited to only having one rank in them.
Once the character achieves 1st level, these skill points will be considered a bonus. They will not be subtracted from the 1st level point pool (determined normally, as per the PHB rules).

Spellcasting at 0 level -
Characters planning to be spellcasters at 1st level will be handled in the following manner -
A 0 level character recieves a number of 0 level spells per day equal to ½ what he or she would receive at 1st level as their target class. The character's spell selection is subject to the same restrictions that affect their target class. If the character is to be of a class that only knows a select number of spells, such as a sorcerer, halve that number as well.

  From this system, we ended up with a Feral (Barbarian), Witchborn (Sorcerer), Adept (Cleric), Streetrat (Ranger), and a Guttersnipe (Rogue). And so it started off, five orphans living in Castor's Home for Wayward Youth in the Kettleblack Downs district of Baelheim's Lowtown. After four or five game sessions, I can say that forcing them to create theses decidedly 'un-heroic' characters has really changed the pace and feel of the game. It's been great. There is no 'kick down the door' playing, they are forced to think carefully before fighting when they could pretty easily be murdered by a pack of giant hairless molerats, and even those among them who rarely engage in RPing seem to really be getting into their characters.  It has been a really great experience so far. 
  While my modelling stuff is currently packed away, maybe I will try to put up the occasional game report or synopsis. Anyhow, that's all for now.

-JM out

Friday, May 18, 2012

Let There Be Paint

  Finally got those other grems painted up a bit, and in honor of their departure from the WIP shelf, I even threw a little digital paint over the original concept sketch.  I'm not much of a painter, but I think they turned out pretty well. Of course, everything looks better at 2am, when my eyes are all bleary with sleep deprivation and cigarette smoke. Could use a little more detail work - like boring out the gun barrels with a pin vise, and a black wash over the teeth to define them better and make them a little less cartoony. At any rate - behold! Click to embiggen.

That's all I've got at the moment. Still struggling with my airships - having a hard time striking the balance between practicality and playability.  They're in the works though.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Modular Post-Apocalyptic Scavenger Compound

  My PC's got robbed by a band of roaming scavengers last week, leaving them stranded in the hostile wastes, their vehicle stripped of useful parts and their precious gasoline siphoned away. Nothing quite like returning successfully from a quest into a hidden valley full of horrific mutant parasitic plants to find your hard-won and handcrafted apocalyptic tank/truck standing up on blocks. With my PC's searching the grasslands of the Caldera Basin for the aforementioned compound, I figured I had better whip up something for them to find.
  I initially started gathering pieces to create a big terrain piece, an entire compound of ramshackle fences, huts, and towers standing on a polystyrene bluff. And then I looked at my terrain shelf, noted the other large pieces I have made in the past. They're cool, and fun to build, but I can rarely get more than one or two uses out of these highly specific 'specialized' pieces. It seems to me that it's much more useful to make a bunch of smaller pieces that can be assembled in different ways, giving them a little versatility and most importantly 'replay value'.
  This theory in mind, I decided to make a bunch of short lengths of scavenged wooden fence-wall, that could be used as stand-alone pieces or combined into a larger enclosed compound. As always, click to embiggen.

  I started with a few styrene scraps sporting flat sides for a level base. I sculpted them down into low 'hills' by plucking pieces away with my fingertips.

Next I planted the 'posts', carving the ends of the balsa strips down into a point and anchoring them into the styrene with a little PVA.

Then, the crossbeams. I decided to extend the fences by a section on either side of the styrene bases to facilitate the modular aspect I was shooting for.

Then the fun part. I cut a pile of fence boards from balsa, varying the lengths slightly, carelessly breaking and damaging them as I went. To make them more post-apocalyptic, certainly not because I'm careless and lazy. Certainly not that.

  I started attaching them to the cross beams with PVA, following the contour of the styrene hills as much as possible, and then edging the bottoms with rocks and fine sand where I thought wind-blown dirt would accumulate in drifts.

  Then the rivets. Or nails. What have you. Whenever I use greenstuff, I end up mixing far more than I actually need. It never fails. I roll the excess into long cylinders and let it cure that way - granting me a nice supply of easily cut rivets for detailing terrain.

  I spent some time attaching the 'nails' here and there with PVA, wherever I thought the fence looked like it needed extra support. The scale is all wrong for nails, but looks good. Unless they used railroad spikes for construction. Yep, that's it. That's my new justification.

At this point, I realized I needed some kind of an entryway, or gatehouse. I started gluing balsa together with little to no plan, and an hour or so later, I ended up with this, which I was pretty happy with. A few lengths of craft chain and a few random plastic bits salvaged from who knows where yielded an almost functional pulley system for raising and lowering the gate, along with a nice, defensible lookout post. Note, if I had been smarter, I would have added the chain last, after priming and painting. Alas, I am not, so I spray primed it right along with the rest, rendering the links sticky and prone to kinking - making my almost functional gate into a barely functional gate. I learn most lessons the difficult and stupid way.

Now the moment of truth. Paint time. I always get a little nervous when I start painting a terrain piece. Am I about to completely wreck this? Or conversely, is this pile of crap going to look good after I slather paint all over it? Here we are after a Krylon H2O spray basecoat and a layer of drybrushing.

Another, lighter drybrush on the fence itself, and then I moved to the ground, in the usual color scheme. I made sure to over-brush onto the bottoms of the fence posts, to imply weathering and staining.
A final pure white highlight on the fence, and a few patches of flock at the base, and it was pretty much good to go. I should have gone back to touch the railroad spikes with a silver, maybe a few streaks of rust staining downwards from them - but I was out of time. The pieces hit the table, still reeking of spray prime, as has become the developing pattern.

Below, you can see the finished pieces all assembled and ready for game night. It was a good fight, and the gate, while barely functional, still played great. And, as a bonus - I think the modular aspect of it all was successful, the fence-walls look good, even standing alone. Next time - airships. Of a sort.