Categories
Miniature painting

Edge highlighting: mind go boom

So I was browsing Reddit before family movie night, clicked on a post about edge highlighting and how difficult it is, and had my mind blown by this comment (emphasis mine):

So it looks like your paint may be too thick and that you’re trying to highlight using the tip of your brush instead of the edge. Try thinning your paints down a bit more. Dip your brush in the paint, and then wipe it on a paper towel to get most of the paint off. Then take the edge of your paintbrush and run it along the edge of whatever you’re trying to highlight. Use just enough pressure that the bristles have contact with your mini, but no more than that. Go slowly and carefully if you need to.

Greystorms on Reddit

Another commenter mentioned a Zumikito Miniatures video demonstrating this technique, and man does that video seal the deal. It’s basically like a more precise, localized version of drybrushing, except the brush isn’t dry and the end result is crisp.

I’ve painted dozens and dozens of miniatures over the past couple of years, and never once considered edge highlighting with the edge of the brush.

My edge highlights are serviceable, at least for my “looks good at arm’s length standard,” but they’re rarely more than that. They’re thick lines, with point highlights for the second layer color (also fairly thick/chunky), and that’s okay…but they could be better.

My Land Raider Crusader Judgment, painted in 2020
Mukkit the Killa Can, also painted in 2020

I can see how this use-the-edge approach would be leaps and bounds better. And I can imagine the brush in my hand and how it would feel to highlight this way — and, unlike many other painting techniques, it actually seems like I could pull this off at my current skill level.

Now I’m excited to paint something with lots of edges, so I can give this a shot!

Categories
Leagues of Votann Miniatures Warhammer 40k

It’s been almost 30 years

I never thought I’d hold a box of 40k Squats again!

Happy day!

Squats were my first 40k army back in the mid-1990s, although I had an “army” of maybe 1-2 squads and 40k didn’t really click for Past Martin. When I got back into the game, and really became a miniature painter, in 2020, Squats hadn’t been a 40k army in many, many moons.

Now they’re the Leagues of Votann, and called Kin rather than Squats (except when they’re not, I guess, since these are Ironhead Squat Prospectors?), with awesome lore, a more serious treatment, and an updated look — which someone on RPGnet described as “practical blue-collar sci-fi,” and dang but that’s a perfect description.

I don’t play Necromunda (yet…), but my plan is to buy every model GW puts out for the Leagues — and either 1) start playing Necromunda, which I should be able to do with the terrain I have for KT and 40k, or 2) kitbash or otherwise use these models, or bits therefrom, in a 40k Kin army, Kill Team, or both.

Space dwarves rule.

Categories
Godsbarrow Tabletop RPGs

Making good progress on the manuscript for The Unlucky Isles

I’ve finished my first draft of half the countries in The Unlucky Isles!

I also have about 60% of each of the other three countries written up, awaiting all the new material and restructuring I’ve done with the first three, as well as a good chunk of the introductory elements.

It’s clocking in at around 20,000 words so far, which is already more than I expected when I started this book.

When I was planning to lay it out in my word processing software, include a few pieces of royalty-free historical artwork, and convert it into a PDF, I was a lot closer to done. But I’m going a slightly more involved route — and that’s given me time to slow down and really consider what I want to see in a setting book like this.

Which in turn has meant writing a lot of new material, restructuring more of the existing material than I expected, and doing a deeper dive into each country — while, I hope, still striking the balance between depth and conciseness that works best in a regional gazetteer like this one.

I’m also just plain having fun. Rounding out the corners of these places with “sensory snapshots,” notes about cuisine and names, and all the details that bring a fantasy nation and its people to life has been a blast. I’m learning about Godsbarrow as I write about it, which brings me joy — and I’m working to share that joy with you in a useful, gameable way.

Want to be notified as soon as The Unlucky Isles is published?

My friend and former partner in crime at Gnome Stew and Engine Publishing, Matt Neagley, asked what the best way was to find out when The Unlucky Isles is published, and that’s a great question with an easy answer.

On the Halfbeard Press publisher page [affiliate link] on DriveThruRPG, on the left side of the page, you’ll see a spot that says “Check this to follow Halfbeard Press” with a little checkbox next to it.

Check that box, make sure you don’t have publisher emails turned off globally on DTRPG, and you’ll get an email whenever Halfbeard Press puts out a product — starting with The Unlucky Isles.

Categories
Godsbarrow Tabletop RPGs

Getting back into publishing: Halfbeard Press

After spending 15 months developing Godsbarrow, getting to actually start up a campaign in this setting was the spark I needed to convince me to give publishing another shot.

Today I founded Halfbeard Press, the company I’ll be using to publish Godsbarrow material.

Halfbeard Press has a logo, an incredibly spartan website, a (currently empty) DriveThruRPG publisher page [paid link], and a plan: I’m about 50% done writing its first product, a gazetteer of the Unlucky Isles.

Feel the hand-coded-in-Notepad energy!

Many, many thanks to my wife, Alysia, my kiddo, Lark, and my friends Alice, John, Reagan, and Renee, who consulted on numerous iterations of the logo and made it so much better than my first draft (with special thanks to Reagan for suggesting the half-beard be on the left, and merged with part of the H).

I don’t regret selling Engine Publishing in 2019. It was the right choice. But I have missed publishing (or aspects of it, anyway), and I always suspected I’d be giving it another shot at some point.

Like Yore, which is more personal, barebones, and eclectic than my more focused ventures (Treasure Tables, Gnome Stew, Engine Publishing), I’m taking a smaller, quieter approach with Halfbeard Press.

I’m trying to do as much of it as I can myself, even the parts of it (cough cough graphic design) where I’m, at best, a clumsy dabbler with decent ideas. I’m not taking out thousands of dollars in loans to fund upfront publishing costs (as I did for Engine Publishing books). I don’t have a marketing budget, or an established readership like the gnomes had when we published Eureka [paid link] back in 2010.

Hell, this might not work out at all. Like Engine Publishing back in 2009, this venture is far from being a sure thing. But no matter what happens, I’m excited to be working on a short book about a campaign setting I love.

As soon as I have more to share about the Unlucky Isles gazetteer, and Halfbeard Press, you’ll hear about it here!

Categories
Godsbarrow PbtA Tabletop RPGs

The first Godsbarrow campaign

Yore has been quiet, but I’ve been busy for the past couple of months — hobby-wise, painting Warhammer 40k terrain (which I haven’t gotten around to photographing yet) and starting up the first Godsbarrow campaign.

After over a year of lonely fun creating this setting using Worlds Without Number [paid link], it’s absolutely delightful to be running a game set in Godsbarrow. There’s a simple, powerful magic to creating a setting and then playing in it, and it has been decades since I ran a game in a homebrewed setting. (Most of my fantasy campaigns have been set in the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance’s other continent, Taladas, Warhammer’s Old World, or Spelljammer, with detours into Ravenloft and Dark Sun.)

Even when I did run games set in my own world, as a kid, my settings were never very developed (not that that’s a bad thing), and none of them were ever My Setting in the way that Godsbarrow is. This time, it feels different.

Bal Acar, hexcrawling, the the Keepers of the Thousandfold Chains

The three of us wanted to play a hexcrawl, exploring a strange and dangerous place, and we liked the idea of using Dungeon World [paid link] and exploring Godsbarrow.

Before our first session, I created the largely unexplored island of Bal Acar (situated north of Kadavis, east of the Arkestran Dominion, and northeast of the Unlucky Isles) for us to collaboratively develop through play. And unlike the rest of Godsbarrow, I left it blank save for one settlement, Drem Kallow, which would be the party’s home base.

During the first Godsbarrow session (ever!) on June 7, 2022, the other players, my friends Greg Mumford and Rustin Simons, created the Keepers of the Thousandfold Chains, a coven of witches who both bind and exploit the Bleating Horde, an infinite evil — a deity whose every aspect contains part of the whole.

Both of their characters, Auderna, witch of the Bleating Horde (Rustin), and the Witchblade Dabr de Aaust (Greg), are part of the coven, and have had nightmares about demons, riddles, and Bal Acar. The coven tasked them with exploring Bal Acar to seek the truth behind prophetic dreams and the irrational, unnatural scratchings of sages which spoke of that strange place.

In our second session (June 14), we finished up character creation and started mapping the area around Drem Kallow using The Perilous Wilds [paid link]. (Which, as an aside, isn’t just one of the best Dungeon World supplements ever written — it’s one of the best gaming books ever written.) That mapping process stretched into our third session, on July 5, when we started in-character play — the first time characters had ever ventured into Godsbarrow!

Our Google Jamboard map as of the end of our first session, created using the rules in The Perilous Wilds and showing the party’s first day of travel (the dotted line heading southeast from Drem Kallow)

The mapping process from TPW was a hoot, and it produced all sorts of stuff none of us would ever have come up with on our own. I staunchly resisted the urge to develop Bal Acar in any way between sessions, with the lone exception that A Market in the Woods [paid link] was just too perfect to pass up; I knew I wanted that one on the map, so when it was my turn to add a steading, I added the Market.

We’d previously decided that rather than Dungeon World’s default “hard frame” start, we’d open with the expedition leaving Drem Kallow. The guys picked the Market in the Woods, known for being a source of information about Bal Acar, as their destination, and headed out into the driving rain to explore Bal Acar.

A Danger (per TPW) was encountered on day one (the 1 on the map), so I rolled it up randomly using TPW. Auderna, Dabr, their abnormal goat, Thett (a Horde Goat, connected to their deity, who can talk), and their two hirelings, Nus and Amsan Peśna (both rolled up randomly using TPW), bypassed the danger and made camp. They missed on Manage Provisions, and now don’t have enough food to make it to the Market and back; a problem to solve down the road.

The TPW hexcrawling moves, and the random tables for Dangers, were solid gold. Even with zero GM prep, and only a small amount of collaborative prep (characters, backgrounds, and the starting map), player choices and the outcomes of moves were all we needed to get things off the ground in an interesting way. The random danger I rolled up, the Shattered Man, will likely become one of the fronts I create before our next session.

Our sessions are short (about two hours), but even with only an hour of in-character play we got a feel for the two PCs and two out of three NPCs, and a feel for Drem Kallow; established a feeling of danger in exploring Bal Acar; introduced a strange entity, the Shattered Man, with a connection to Nus, and collaborated to make him more than just a wandering monster; and came away excited for our next session. It was a blast, and one of the most fun sessions I’ve played as a GM.

There’s a strange alchemy to gaming, and from Greyhawk to the universe of The Expanse (which began as an RPG campaign) settings which have been lived in, filled with the quirks and twists and perfectly odd elements introduced by the groups that have gamed there, are fascinating in part because they’ve been infused with that alchemy through play. It means a lot to me that Godsbarrow is now part of this tradition, and I can’t wait to run more sessions set there.

Categories
RPG community Tabletop RPGs

Mastodon is the new Google Plus (I hope)

I’ve set Twitter aside and decamped to Mastodon (specifically, the dice.camp instance), where you can find me as @martinralya.

Returning to Twitter during the pandemic made me realize three things:

  1. I miss the social connections and serendipitous path-crossings and discoveries that social media can be good at facilitating.
  2. I miss Google+ a great deal.
  3. As much as I get #1 from Twitter, it brings me angst at least as often as it brings me joy — and it’s never brought me nearly as much joy as Google+ did.

Considering what a Musk-ified Twitter could be like got me thinking about leaving, and reflection on what I wanted out of social media — if anything — made me realize how important #2 on that list was to my calculations.

G+ 2

I want Mastodon to feel as much like G+ as possible. It has some of that feel, more of it than I’ve felt anywhere else, and that makes it worth my time.

There’s curation on my instance, BBS-style, by an admin I trust. I can curate my follower list to ensure that I follow folks who primarily post about gaming stuff.

There are no circles, but the first two points should help there.

If I post gaming stuff, generally off the cuff, and keep my posting reasonably focused, then I’m helping that work out from my end.

That sounds like a good start.

What it ain’t

I’m incorporating something into my usage of Mastodon that I learned from G+ going away: A fair number of my G+ posts should really have been blog posts, so when my Spidey-sense tingles I’m going to listen to it.

Yore is my most permanent home online. It’s been running since 2009 and a blog since 2012, longer than than Treasure Tables and my time on Gnome Stew.

For conversation and rejoicing in our shared hobby: Mastodon. For permanence: here, where it should be.

On smaller audiences

Why leave a huge potential audience on Twitter for a much smaller potential audience on Mastodon? Well, why not? Google+ was always smaller than Twitter, and I was happier on G+. Both are smaller than Facebook, and that place mostly made me miserable.

I left a large readership on Gnome Stew for a much smaller readership here. I left publishing, with 40,000+ sales worldwide, for not publishing, with zero sales worldwide.

There are cons in both cases, like fewer people interacting with my work. But on the pro list is something that’s become increasingly important to me: I just do what I enjoy, and if other folks enjoy it too then that’s awesome.

Categories
Godsbarrow Tabletop RPGs

The Headless Child, Captain of the Endless Fleet

When someone in Godsbarrow dies at sea, the Headless Child lays claim to them.

If they died in sight of their own god, or gods, or if their faith was strong enough, the Child cannot take them. But if not, they join the Endless Fleet,[1] serving its unspeakably cruel captain for eternity.

And the Endless Fleet has but one mission: to bring ruin to all of Godsbarrow, and to the gods who murdered the Headless Child at the dawn of creation and discarded Its corpse into the sea — or abetted those who did, or stayed silent and did nothing.

The Child’s appetite for vengeance is as black and bottomless as the sea, and as endless as Its fleet.

(This post is one of a series about worldbuilding with Worlds Without Number. I’m using the setting-creation approach detailed in Worlds Without Number [paid link], which is a fantastic resource.)

[1]: This idea grew out of the concept of the Black Fleet, in which Klingons who died honorably sail after death, which I first heard about in an early episode of Star Trek: Discovery. I’ve already got a black ship in Godsbarrow — what about an endless fleet, instead? And one in which no one sails voluntarily? And what’s the creepiest captain I can think of for that sort of fleet?

The rest flowed out of a recent session of Follow I played with my online group. We’re playing rather unpleasant gods trying to regain our former glory, and touching on hells and limbos and other unifying cosmological concepts — an area I’ve largely left unexplored in my Godsbarrow work to date.

Categories
Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Terrain Warhammer 40k

40k Sector Mechanicus terrain color guide

I started my 40k terrain collection with pieces from the Manufactorum line, and then added a bunch from the Sector Mechanicus line — enough stuff that, if I built all of it, I could kit out a 2,000-point 40k board. My plan has always been to find a paint scheme that unifies these two themes, and after looking at lots of possibilities I settled on this one.

My goal here isn’t to replicate the studio paint schemes for Mechanicus terrain (although they’re great!), it’s to make my bombed-out table full of a mix of Manufactorum and Mechanicus pieces looks cohesive. I’ve gotten ideas from Warhammer TV videos and Google searches, referenced Citadel’s mini-guides for specific colors (e.g. Deathworld Forest), and used my Manufactorum color guide as my baseline.

In the dark future there are no bare bottoms

Tying Sector Mechanicus to Battlezone: Manufactorum

My approach is to follow these steps in this order. That entails a rattle can primer/base coat, tackling the biggest sections, completely finishing everything but the tiny details (pipes, plaques, handles, screens, wires, and the like), then doing those details (with no wash/highlight steps for them!), and lastly weathering the whole piece.

  1. Spray everything Leadbelcher. Tackle each piece in two stages: broadly, top and bottom. Flip them over and wait 15 minutes before spraying the second stage.
  2. Big stuff:
    • Stanchions and gantries: base coat the tops of the gantries Deathworld Forest (over the existing Leadbelcher primer/base coat); touch up any overspill with Leadbelcher; wash the stanchions and both sides of the gantries, starting with the undersides and waiting an hour before doing the rest; and then completely finish these sections (all the way up to top-level drybrushing). That way I can be messy with my washing and drybrushing before painting the other elements.
      1. Tops and edges of gantries: Deathworld Forest > Agrax Earthshade > Elysian Green drybrush > light Screaming Skull drybrush
      2. Undersides of gantries: Agrax Earthshade
      3. Stanchions: Agrax Earthshade > Ironbreaker drybrush > Necron Compound drybrush
    • Red metal (large plates, tanks, doors, some pipes): Khorne Red > Nuln Oil > Wazdakka Red drybrush > very light Squig Orange drybrush
    • Railings and large pipe joints (compatible with Manufactorum pipes): Wraithbone > Seraphim Sepia > Agrax Earthshade pin wash along seams/wherever they’d be really dirty > Tyrant Skull drybrush > Praxeti White drybrush, focusing on the high points and edges
    • Bare metal (ladders, chains, hooks, etc.): Agrax Earthshade > Ironbreaker drybrush > Necron Compound drybrush
    • Bronze: Warplock Bronze > Agrax Earthshade > Brass Scorpion on the relief elements
    • Big 3-D Cog Mechanicum: The metal elements are already done (silver spray, wash, drybrushes).
      • White: Corax White > Apothecary White contrast paint > light Praxeti White drybrush
      • Black: Corvus Black > Basilicum Grey contrast paint > light Eshin Grey drybrush
      • Eye: Corax White > Khorne Red > Evil Sunz Scarlet
    • Small Cog Mechanicum: The metal elements are already done (silver spray, wash, drybrushes), and these are all too awkwardly situated for me to do much else to — so I keep them simple.
      • White: Corax White > thinned-down Agrax Earthshade wash in the recesses
      • Black: Abaddon Black
    • Hazard stripes: Averland Sunset/Chaos Black (use 3mm Tamiya hobby tape to mask them off) > very thin Agrax Earthshade wash to dial them back a bit
  3. Little details (wires, conduits, screens, etc.): Base coat in a single color (Averland Sunset, Macragge Blue, etc.) and vary these choices across the terrain pieces (especially duplicates!); it sounds like heresy, but these truly don’t need any follow-up coats/layers/etc.
  4. Weathering:
    • Rust: Thinned-down Skrag Brown > thinned-down Fire Dragon Bright
    • Verdigris: Nihilakh Oxide on bronze elements
    • Bullet holes: Shade them with the rest of whatever surface they’re on, then at this stage just fill them with Leadbelcher
    • Chipping and damage: Sponge on Rhinox Hide, focusing on the blasted edges and torn-away elements, but also randomly putting it everywhere that feels right

If you like this color scheme/approach, there’s nothing about it that’s unique to my setup; it should look dandy without the Manufactorum pieces to complement it.

Note that during assembly I’ve added battle damage and decay to my Mechanicus pieces: holes in gantries, missing ladder rungs, bullet holes, smashed railings, etc. My rules of thumb are: no section of gantry intended to mate with another at the table should be too badly damaged, as that would look weird if the other side didn’t match; and don’t overdo it. These aren’t ruins, like most of the Manufactorum pieces, but they have seen some shit.

Drilling holes and taking big bites out of my gantries (April 27, 2022)

My hope is that the mix of ruined and intact pieces, which is common to both terrain themes — out of the box in the case of Manufactorum, and added by me in the case of Mechanicus — will make the whole battlefield cohesive, immersive, and fun to look at.

Categories
Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Terrain Tyranids Warhammer 40k WIP it good

WIP it good: Tyranid Warriors and terrain

I’m currently working on three things in parallel, all at different stages: my second Hive Fleet Balaur unit for Kill Team, three Tyranid Warriors; a batch of Manufactorum terrain; and a couple of larger Sector Mechanicus terrain pieces.

Tom Servo of Finland watching over three freshly-glued Warriors

These guys were every bit as fun to build as my Genestealers. And despite having no names, no personalities, no quirky equipment — none of the stuff I’m used to using as my roleplaying hooks for how to assemble and paint an interesting figure — these models are packed with opportunities to convey intent (nom nom nom), motion, and character.

I’m honestly surprised how much I enjoy building and painting Tyranids.

My Tyranid Warrior Fire Team: Venom Cannon, leader, and weapon beast

Since I’m combining pieces from two lines, Manufactorum and Mechanicus, for my table, I started out with the Mechanicus stuff by just faffing about and seeing how it looks alongside my Manufactorum pieces.

I love how modular the Mechanicus terrain is

Alongside creating interesting terrain, my goal is to balance the modularity of the Mechanicus kits with a desire for durable, functional pieces I don’t need to fuss with.

These kits can be painted in pieces and assembled at the table, then broken down and reassembled a different way the next time. But some of the elements, like the railings, are going to mar whatever you attach them too — and in any case, that level of modularity seems like overkill to me.

So instead I built four anchor pieces, all of them fully assembled and glued — and all of them capable of being combined in lots of different ways. I left space for a Ferratonic Furnace under the octagon at the back, but glued my second furnace to the platform up front. The long gantries can each accommodate one or two of the larger Mechanicus tanks being slid under them, and almost all of the “mating” ends of the gantries and platforms can be mixed and matched.

This took a couple of hours, but I’m happy with how my pieces turned out.

My four anchor pieces (just press-fit at this stage, not glued)

After sleeping on my choices, I tweaked a couple things here and there, picked two to start with, and got them glued together.

The Ferratonic Furnace and platform will be glued together after I’ve sprayed them both (to make it easier to reach all the little crannies behind the ladder, cables, etc.)

Then I shifted gears and did the first wash on four Manufactorum pieces I’d previously primed, with an eye to finishing a full Kill Team board worth of terrain as soon as possible.

I’ve yet to figure out the secret of not being messy with terrain washes

It’s a weird angle, but this is my current overflowing work area: freshly washed Manufactorum pieces at the bottom, a mix of finished and WIP Tyranids and terrain in the center, and my first two huge Mechanicus pieces waiting for a dry day so I can spray them.

My desk hasn’t looked like this in months, and I love it!

Shifting from working on 2,000-point 40k armies to Kill Team squads has been just the ticket for getting me jazzed about painting again. It’s also helped me find something to focus on with terrain, since I’ve got a much shorter-term goal than filling a Strike Force board: one Kill Team board, which is maybe 4 large pieces, 2 medium ones, and a handful of little bits.

Categories
Finished miniatures Kill Team Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k

Five Hive Fleet Balaur Genestealers wrapped up

Last night I finished my first minis since May 20, 2021: one Hive Fleet Balaur Fire Team for Kill Team, a unit of Genestealers. These guys were a ton of fun to paint, and given that I started them on April 8, went on a short vacation, and worked on my Warriors during the 16 days it took me to finish them, I feel pretty much back on track with painting.

Hive Fleet Blue Steel

Their underbellies creep me out a bit
Golden angles
Front
Back

I figured I’d shoot one with some terrain, too.

Hive Fleet Balaur scuttling through the ruins

And why not take advantage of the rare opportunity to do a before/after? I painted the blue/pink Genestealers (from Space Hulk) in 2012. It’s not quite “10 years later,” though, because I didn’t paint anything from 2012 to 2020, when I got back into painting and starting both taking it seriously and actually enjoying it. So it’s really more of a “two years of progress” before/after, since this is how I was painting in 2020.

Current way vs. old way, front view
Rear view

Nid thoughts

This was my second time glazing, and the first time I haven’t painted over my efforts and gone with a different technique. (I tried glazing a Custodes sword several times, but just couldn’t get it right.) My glazing isn’t great, but these first four Scything Blades taught me quite a bit; I’m hoping to improve my technique as I work on my Warriors.

I’ve also never used dotting tools before. Still room for improvement there as well, but there’s just not that much surface to work with on Genestealers and I didn’t want to overwhelm their shading. The Warriors’ carapaces are a larger canvas, so I’m looking to step up my game on them.

As a splinter fleet of Hive Fleet Leviathan, I like how my twist on Leviathan’s color scheme turned out. There are at least two official Leviathan color guides out there (one in White Dwarf and one on Warhammer TV), but the main differences between Leviathan and Balaur are the toxic green claws and spotted carapaces.

My goal for these Genestealers was to evoke brightly-colored bugs and poison dart frogs, and to combine that with a “snake’s underbelly” body color for an unsettling — maybe even unpleasant — look that befits the terrifying nature of Tyranids.