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Godsbarrow Tabletop RPGs

Three small gods: a ship, an inn, and a family of swords

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

While I was on vacation, away from my Godsbarrow map and the text file where 99% of my notes live, I kept my worldbuilding streak going by emailing myself Godsbarrow ideas. Once I’d done two small gods, rounding things out with a third felt right. I haven’t explored small gods much yet, focusing instead on regional ones, so this was a fun change of pace.

The Spynix Mandus

The Spynix Mandus, the largest pirate vessel in Middenglum’s Red Flag Isles, is in fact a small god. The constant storms, caustic seas, and tearing winds of the region keep it weak by deity standards.

It needs only the worship of its crew to survive, and in the unforgiving environment of Middenglum obtaining even that is a struggle. Most of its crews never even know it’s a god, they just respect its size and power as a vessel. Crews it deems unworthy of it don’t last long.

If the Spynix Mandus ever fell into other hands, more organized than the fractious Red Flag pirates, in calmer waters, and attracted more worshippers, this god-ship would become a force like no other on Godsbarrow.

Polnos Yalba

Polnos Yalba is a small god that is also an inn.

Its location is not fixed. Quite the opposite: Polnos appears in a new location, recharges its spiritual batteries by welcoming guests, and then vanishes without warning, beginning the cycle anew.

It can be a charming place, a terrifying one, a staunch ally, a last-ditch redoubt, or a fickle, fey-touched entity. Its size, style, and other elements often change from one appearance to the next. To date, it has never lingered anywhere longer than a year.

The Selezeer Swords

The Selezeer Swords are a family of blades whose lineage spans centuries. The Selezeer family tree looks much like a human family tree, with generations of swords, child-swords, and branches that bear little resemblance to the trunk.

Each Selezeer sword is a small god. They vary in appearance and motivations, but are always sentient weapons of exceptional quality.

Apart from that, they have little in common. Some branches of the Selezeer family tree are indolent blades, preferring to stay tucked away in their scabbards, while others revel in battle-lust and keep a tally of the lives they have claimed. Some make their nature known to their wielders; others stay silent, never revealing who they are.

Aausti sages estimate the number of Selezeer swords at somewhere between 120 and 200 (although of course they have no way to be certain). Despite the claims made in a popular series of ribald Sou folk songs, it is not known how the Selezeer swords reproduce.

(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.)

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

WIP it good: Tyranid Warriors and Genestealers

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

With my Genestealers’ initial base/wash/drybrush done, I based them and then tested some base rim options.

Doombull, Rhinox, Khorne, Squig
Wild Rider, Wazdakka, Doombull

Doombull Brown is the clear winner in my book, so that’s what I’ll be using for my Tyranids.

Genestealers based and with their full initial base coat in all colors; next comes touch-ups

I also took a box of Tyranid Warriors on vacation with me, and spent some quiet time trimming and filing them. I just wrapped up assembly on the first one (Venom Cannon, Boneswords, and Toxin Sacs), so now he’s in my impromptu drying station.

These minis are every bit as cool as I hoped they would be

Both Hive Fleet Balaur units for my first Kill Team are coming along nicely, and I’m in the groove. If I find myself in a painting mood, I could have my Genestealers completely wrapped up this weekend.

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

WIP it good: Genestealers

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

After letting the glue on the Genestealers I built last night cure overnight, finalizing my color scheme this morning, and writing a color guide for Hive Fleet Balaur, I sprayed these five bad boys:

Even though it was only about 40 degrees out, the rattle can still worked great

While they were drying (Citadel’s rattle cans really are paint-ready in 15 minutes; I love them), I nipped out to Mox for the four paints I was missing. Then I got my ducks in a row for a painting session.

I’d say pardon my dusty desk, but I hate dusting so my figures are almost always dusty

I’ve seen Genestealers painted basically all one color (like the current studio paint jobs for Leviathan) or about 50/50 (like the old Space Hulk models, with their blue bodies and pink hands), and I decided to split the difference. I’m giving them carapaces on their backs, basically from the tail joint up, and treating the rest of the body — including the carapace-like tail and chest/belly — as skin/body tone (whitish-pink).

Among other things, that will let me practice my mottling on these guys before doing it on my Warriors, who are larger and have more carapace areas to paint. I also don’t love the studio Leviathan scheme for Genestealers, which I find too monotone; expanding what counts as carapace lets me avoid that.

First wash applied; I love this unwholesome pink!

Post-drybrush, they’re not as off-white as the studio models, but they’ve definitely changed:

The main body now only needs its final Pallid Wych Flesh highlight

I decided to go back and re-reestablish the Carroburg Crimson in their vents and joints, but that didn’t magically make my drybrushing as adept as a GW studio painter’s work. Maybe the final highlights will balance things out a bit? We’ll see.

Base elements now finished, texture paint applied and drying

I took a closer look at some Leviathan nids in the 8e codex and White Dwarf #463, and I’m pretty sure some of them have a Pallid Wych Flesh drybrush over their Screaming Skull drybrush — so I gave that a shot. It makes a difference! In natural light, this guy reads much whiter:

After the second drybrush was applied

I’m going to call that “close enough for splinter fleet purposes” and move on. Time for some Naggaroth Night!

Quickly checking the compatibility of my two other primary base colors

Once I had the carapace roughed in, I threw a quick coat of Incubi Darkness — my other primary base color — on the claws so I could get a feel for how things will look down the road. Both colors will get darker before they get highlighted up, and I’m hoping the final layers will bring them tonally in line with the flesh while still keeping them dark enough for satisfying contrast.

Heck, how about a quick and dirty test to see what Warpstone Glow and Sybarite Green might look like?

I’m not sure glazing is worth the effort on small claws like these — simple layers look pretty solid

Oh yeah! It fits Balaur’s origins, the colors work together — I’m digging this. I can’t wait to see it with the mottling on the carapace!

This is the most painting I’ve done in about seven months, a full day of thinking about, writing about, and painting Tyranids. It feels good.

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Kill Team Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k

Hive Fleet Balaur lore

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

Armed with their name (in Romanian, a multi-headed dragon associated with weather manipulation, and pronounced like the “ba” in “bad” plus the word “our” with an L in front of it: “ba-lowr”) and my decision to make Hive Fleet Balaur a splinter fleet of Hive Fleet Leviathan, I noodled about why they were a splinter fleet and what caused their coloration. Dipping into the 8th Edition codex gave me the rest of what I needed to come up with Balaur’s origins.

Genestealers of Hive Fleet Balaur (April 24, 2022)

After the war in Octarius, Hive Fleet Balaur — though not yet called that — was one of several that split off from Hive Fleet Leviathan, using the biomass it had consumed to venture into new territories.

The splinter fleet’s first contact with the Imperium was in the Venenum System (Latin for “poison”), which was anchored by the teeming industrial world of Balaur. Balaur was a wretched hellhole, a hive of factories and chemical plants which transformed the toxic and venomous local flora and fauna into rare and useful acids and other industrial materials.

Most notable among the fauna of Balaur were the Balaur Worms, titanic beasts that looked like a cross between a bat and a crocodile (only much, much larger), their brightly spotted hides warning other creatures to steer clear — much as poison dart frogs once did on Terra.

When the splinter fleet arrived, it probed Balaur in various ways: spore clouds, scouts, tunneling creatures, and so forth. When the end came for Balaur, it came on all fronts at once. The Astra Militarum garrison never stood a chance, and the same was true of the Ultramarines dispatched to Balaur in a last-ditch effort to save the planet.

The splinter fleet consumed all.

And when it left, it teemed with Tyranid organisms bearing the toxic green protrusions and bright spots of Balaur’s dangerous fauna — and its own spin on Leviathan’s adaptation- and swarm-heavy tactics.

Two unsettling (hopefully) buggy dudes (April 24, 2022)

Like the many sinuous heads of its namesake, Hive Fleet Balaur tends to begin its assault on several distinct fronts, some subtle and some less so, rather than focusing on any single approach. Once its “heads” have done their work, the “body” follows swiftly, overwhelming the prey world with the numbers and adaptability of its parent fleet, Leviathan.

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Kill Team Miniature painting Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k

Tyranid Hive Fleet Balaur color guide

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

I’m far enough along with my first Fire Team for Hive Fleet Balaur to need to take stock of my paint library, so it’s time for a color guide!

Hive Fleet Balaur Genestealers (April 24, 2022)

As always, this guide is drawn from a mix of GW material (White Dwarf #463 and a Warhammer TV video for the Leviathan scheme, Warhammer TV again for their classic Warriors video), YouTube tutorials (Doctor Faust and CatgutPainting for the mottling), and my own spin on things. Washes/shades are generally in italics, and my notation is base > shade > layer > layer for Citadel’s Parade Ready approach.

Bases

  • Terrain: Stirland Mud > Reikland Fleshshade > Astorath Red drybrush
  • Rocks: Mechanicus Standard Grey > Agrax Earthshade > Celestra Grey drybrush
  • Skulls: Corax White > Agrax Earthshade > Corax White drybrush
  • Horns: Zandri Dust > Seraphim Sepia > Ushabti Bone drybrush
  • Base rim: Doombull Brown
  • Tufts: Army Painter Wasteland Tufts

Models

My Tyranid Kill Team only has two units as of this writing, Genestealers and Tyranid Warriors, and Tyranids tend to be pretty similar faction-wide, so this is pretty much my guide for all Hive Fleet Balaur Tyranids. Balaur is a splinter fleet of Leviathan, so the studio scheme for Leviathan was my starting point.

Paint steps vary slightly from my usual approach because the full-body drybrush is messy, so it has to come before most of the other steps: Prime and base coat with Wraithbone spray, shade the skin, drybrush the skin, deepen the wash in the vents/joints, apply the texture paint to the base, and then do everything else.

  • Body/skin: Wraithbone spray > shade with 1:4 Carroburg Crimson:Lahmian Medium all over > Screaming Skull drybrush > Carroburg Crimson wash in the vents/joints > Pallid Wych Flesh drybrush > Pallid Wych Flesh on high points
  • Carapace: Naggaroth Night > Druchii Violet > Xereus Purple edge highlights > Genestealer Purple edge/point highlights > Genestealer Purple mottling (larger dots), size of model permitting > Fulgrim Pink mottling (smaller dots)
    • Mottling: Apply dots of thinned paint with dotting tools, in varying sizes
  • Claws: Incubi Darkness > Nuln Oil > Warpstone Glow > Sybarite Green on tips/edges
  • Weapons larger than claws: Incubi Darkness > Nuln Oil > Warpstone Glow glaze > Warpstone Glow edge and tip highlighting (as if the glaze weren’t there) > Sybarite Green on tips/edges
    • Glazing: 1:6 Warpstone Glow:Lahmian Medium, 7-8 layers, starting with almost the entire weapon and covering a bit less area every time, working from the base towards the tip; the end should be pretty close to pure Warpstone Glow, but not quite as bright
  • Fleshy bits and tongues: Bugman’s Glow > Reikland Fleshshade > Kislev Flesh
  • Teeth: Screaming Skull > Agrax Earthshade > Screaming Skull
  • Eyes: Averland Sunset > Casandora Yellow > Flash Gitz Yellow
A WIP Genestealer from my first Fire Team (April 9, 2022)

Notes

I’m still pretty new to using Lahmian Medium, and my first attempt for the main body/flesh wash — 1:3 Screamer Pink:Lahmian Medium, my best guess at the ratio used in White Dwarf #463 — went on more like a base coat than a wash. So I switched to using my shade brush, Carroburg Crimson, and a 1:4 ratio, and that went much more smoothly.

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

Testing Hive Fleet Balaur color schemes

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

After an evening of assembling Genestealers and thinking about paint schemes, I spent the rest of last night leafing through back issues of White Dwarf for Tyranid content.

My initial idea for Hive Fleet Balaur’s color scheme was the bi pride flag: pink, purple, blue. Along with the symbolism and the colors, I also like that it includes 2/3 of the classic Genestealer colors.

But the more pictures of gorgeously painted Tyranids I looked at, the more I found myself drawn to Hive Fleet Leviathan’s paint scheme: off-white body with unsettling pink undertones, like a snake’s belly; deep purple carapace; and dark red claws/weapons. No surprise from GW, but that is an outstanding color scheme with fantastic contrast and perfectly matched tones.

This gorgeous spin on Kronos on DakkaDakka gave me the idea to try green weapons/claws. A CatgutPainting video on patterned Tyranid paint schemes sold me on mottling, which I first saw on Javier Del Rio’s stunning Hive Tyrant in White Dwarf #463:

Miniature painted and photographed by Javier Del Rio, from White Dwarf #463

So I started pondering making Balaur a splinter fleet of Leviathan, and using Leviathan’s colors as my starting point. GW has done Leviathan at least two ways for their studio paint jobs, so I blended ideas from both of them for the body and decided to test Wraithbone base > 1:3 Screamer Pink:Lahmian Medium shade.

Still thinking about bright colors (something I haven’t yet done for 40k) and wanting to see how that would look next to a vibrant purple carapace (with pink dots/mottling still in my brain) and medium-to-bright green claws, I slapped some paint onto a piece of terrain. (I’ll be repainting this area whenever I circle back to terrain, and conveniently it’s already primed with Wraithbone spray.)

Here’s Wraithbone base coat, the Screamer/Lahmian wash, Xereus Purple, and Warpstone Glow.

Test colors

And here it is with a quick and dirty Screaming Skull drybrush over the body color, bringing the body closer to Leviathan:

Getting closer to “snake’s underbelly” whitish-pink

Now to test out mottling the carapace. I did some research and found that some folks do this with a toothpick or a dotting tool; this Doctor Faust tutorial is a good demonstration of one approach. My kiddo has a stash of dotting tools, so I borrowed a few different sizes.

Small and his buddy Real Small

Here’s a Genestealer Purple base mottled with Genestealer Purple and then Fulgrim Pink, with purple done using the larger of the tools above and pink done with the smaller one:

Mottling

Genestealer Purple isn’t much of a contrast (although for adding depth to mottling, that’s probably good), but Fulgrim Pink sure pops. It’s also clear I’m not good at this yet! But I do like the effect.

I threw Khorne Red into the mix and polled my wife and kiddo, and we all liked both options (red or green) but agreed they each give the model a different feel.

(optometrist voice) Green, or red? One, or two?

The more I look at the toxic green, the more I like it. The Leviathan lineage is clear from the identical body color and the mottled variation on the carapace color, the toxic green (coupled with the mottling) cements Balaur as its own thing, and the whole scheme should contrast nicely with my basing recipe: Stirland Mud texture paint, Reikland Fleshshade wash, Astorath Red drybrush (from the ever-amazing White Dwarf Basing Cookbook in the November 2016 issue).

Categories
Kill Team Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k WIP it good

Hive Fleet Balaur’s first model

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

The best way to get stuck in is to get stuck in, so after noodling about Hive Fleet Balaur, I got stuck in and built my first nid.

I think this is an older kit, but it’s a really good older kit
At first I wasn’t sold on the 25mm base, but once I got rolling I started liking how nimble it makes the Genestealers feel
All done! No names (which feels super weird!), so since I want to always be able to identify my first Tyranid I added a unique skull to his base.
I went for a wide, sprawling pose; the posability with four arms is a ton of fun

And a little while later, I’ve got a whole Fire Team built: 5 Genestealers, including some equipment choices (Feeder Tendrils on second from left, Flesh Hooks on fourth from left). I built the first two without even realizing that the Rending Claws on normal Genestealers never appear on all four arms — but in 2021 Kill Team, they can! A happy accident, as Bob Ross would say.

5/8 of my Kill Team

I already love these guys. This is going to be fun!

Categories
Kill Team Miniatures Tyranids Warhammer 40k

Fighting the mini-painting doldrums: Hive Fleet Balaur

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

I haven’t finished a miniature since May 20, 2021, when I wrapped up Stikkit and Skraggit for my Deathskulls army. Almost a year![1]

I’ve done “miniature stuff” since then, including assembling, priming, base-coating, and basing a 2,000-point Adeptus Custodes army, and made it about 80% of the way through my first squad. But pootling about isn’t the same as finishing models.

A big part of that comes down to losing a major motivator: In the two years since I started painting 40k minis, I still haven’t actually played the game. I could be playing it, pandemic notwithstanding, but I’d be simultaneously trying to learn the game, play the game, and make friends, all while wearing a mask for 2-3 hours. Maybe that’s what I should be doing, but my gut says I want my first 40k game in 20+ years to be played unmasked, which means waiting until I feel comfortable doing that.

So I’m trying something else.

I know the 8th Edition codex will be obsolete in literally a week, but having bought a couple codices in both editions I’ve found that I often like some of the 8e stuff that didn’t make it into the 9e version. (Also pictured is the Citadel bottle-holder, which will pay for itself in, like, two paint spills.)

I’ve got a few days off, and I’m going to ease back into things by working on a Tyranid Kill Team: 5 Genestealers and 3 Warriors (the latter of which hasn’t arrived yet).

Me being me, I picked Tyranids half on a whim and half because I’ve loved Genestealers for 30+ years; I have a tentative paint and basing scheme in mind; and I’ve spent a few hours finding a Hive Fleet name that feels right — one that sounds like it came straight from, say, an Eisenhorn novel: Hive Fleet Balaur.

The typical canon Hive Fleet is named after a mythological beast, a practice I love, and a balaur — pronounced like the “ba” in “bad” plus the word “our” with an L in front of it, “ba-lowr” — is a multi-headed dragon from Romanian folklore. They’re also associated with weather, and both metaphors, the multi-headed serpent and a force as inevitable as weather, feel particularly apt for Tyranids.

And, to the best of my searching abilities, it’s almost unique. I can find just one reference to someone else working on a Hive Fleet Balaur, from an abandoned forum thread in 2011. Given the relative paucity of names of mythological creatures which feel right to me for a Hive Fleet and which haven’t already been used in canon or widely used online, this is probably as close as I’m going to get to a unique name.[2]

The mists of time

Funnily enough, the first game of 40k I ever played, back in the early 1990s, pitted my Squats against my then-girlfriend’s (now ex-wife’s) Tyranids. For a myriad of reasons, my poor Squats didn’t stand a chance.

So while I wait for Squats to return — and they are, as the just-announced Leagues of Votann! — it seems fitting to come full circle and give Tyranids a whirl.[3]

Like every other GW faction I’ve explored, Tyranids are more interesting than they seemed at first glance. The longer I look at these ravenous space-bugs, as pure as the Xenomorph from Alien, the more I like them. They’ll also be a pleasant counterpoint to what I’ve painted so far — humanoids in armor, humanoids in fancier armor, and green humanoids with lots of teef. Maybe I’ll bring drybrushing back into the foreground, or take another run at glazing (for their claws and bony swords and whatnot), or trying feathering or stippling my carapaces.

Kill Team

But for now, at least, they’re just two things: a fun, simple way to try and jumpstart my miniature-painting engine again, and my first foray into Kill Team. I’d originally planned to use my boards, terrain, and a subset of my 40k armies for Kill Team, but the new edition of KT makes me want to branch out and explore small forces I haven’t painted for 40k.[4]

Eight rad minis (with 32 arms between them!) is a quantity I could paint in 2-4 weeks if I set my mind to it. I’m tucking into my Genestealers tonight, so that makes April 8 my official start date for Hive Fleet Balaur. Time to get snipping!

[1] I knew this would happen eventually, which is why I write down all my half-baked ideas, half-assed plans, and color guides.

[2] Which, of course, doesn’t matter at all — except that it makes me happy to feel like I’m carving out my little corner of the 40k universe.

[3] I suspect I will be all in for the Leagues of Votann. I’ve wanted to paint a Squat army for years, and if they’d been an active faction when I started up again I likely would have gone with them. I’ve told my wallet to start practicing weeping uncontrollably now so that it will be ready for preorder day.

[4] Like 8th Edition, which I bought into when I started painting, I picked up the previous edition of Kill Team as well. Both games changed editions before I got a chance to play them — in the case of 40k, that change also prompted some midstream rejiggering of at least one army. But as pandemic-related complaints go? That one is beyond minor.

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Godsbarrow Tabletop RPGs

A year of Godsbarrow worldbuilding

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

Today marks a year since I started working on Godsbarrow. It’s been a consistently fun process, and even when I’ve banked my creative fires I’ve still done something to make forward progress every single day.

You can find links to all of my Godsbarrow work, loosely organized, on the Godsbarrow handbook page.

Here’s my first Godsbarrow map:

My first map of the Unlucky Isles, done in Worldographer on March 17, 2021

Still a work in progress (as I’m re-drawing four regional maps, adding a fifth, and unifying them all at once), but here’s the map covering everything I’ve developed over the past year:

The current WIP five-region map as of today

It’s safe to say that without Worlds Without Number [paid link] and Wonderdraft, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near as far as I have this past year — nor had nearly as much fun.

Assuming I don’t forget to do some Godsbarrow work tomorrow, here’s to day 366 of my worldbuilding streak!

(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.)

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Life

Crock pot chili à la Ralya

Now available: The Unlucky Isles

The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG!

I was in the mood to make chili today, but it’s been years since I’ve cooked it and I don’t think I ever wrote down my recipe. (If I did, it was on Google+. Sad trombone.) So here’s my chili recipe, archived on Yore so I won’t lose it again — and shared in case you’d like to try it out.

This chili focuses on flavorful heat over heat for its own sake. It’s hearty and, for me, on the mild end of the spiciness spectrum.

All mixed up and ready to cook

My slow cooker chili recipe

It takes me about 10-15 minutes to prep and cook the beef and onion, and I pour the other stuff into the pot while they’re on the stove. Crock pot cooking time is 4 hours.

1 lb. ground beef
1 large white onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 4 oz. can diced chile peppers
1.5 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
0.5 tsp. Cholula hot sauce
  1. Chop the onions and mince the garlic.
  2. Sauté the beef in olive oil and the onion in butter, both on medium-high heat. The beef just needs to be thoroughly cooked; the onion is done when it looks “wet” and is slightly translucent.
  3. Toss everything into a large crock pot, give it a good stir to mix it all up, and then cook for 4 hours on low.
  4. If it’s convenient, stir once or twice while it’s cooking.
After four hours, everyone in the pot has gotten to know each other well

Notes

These days I make the vegan version of my chili, which just entails substituting plant-based ground beef and vegan margarine for the beef and butter. (Back when I used beef, it was generally 85% lean.)

I love making crock pot chili because it’s quick and fun to prepare, the ratio of work to payoff is extremely high, you can experiment with it pretty much endlessly, and it’s really hard to fuck it up too badly.

Want it to be milder? Take out or reduce the amount of diced chile peppers, chili powder, and/or Cholula. Hate black or pinto beans? Swap in kidney beans, or whatever kind of beans you enjoy. Prefer Tabasco to Cholula? I find it a bit too bitter in this chili, but you do you. Only have a yellow onion? It’ll still be great. Same goes for smaller cans of beans, different broth, or whatnot: Use what you’ve got, it’ll be fine.

Just to name a few examples, I’ve seen cumin, coriander, beer, tomato sauce, green peppers, and Worcester sauce in plenty of chili recipes — and some folks have strong feelings about whether beans should ever be in chili.[1] Make it your own; that’s half the fun.

Trust me on the cocoa powder!

[1]: I love beans, and I’d much rather have a philosophical discussion about what counts as a sandwich[2] than whether beans belong in chili. One True Ways are bullshit.

[2]: Warning shot: Is a Subway sub — where the bread isn’t cut on one side — a sandwich? If it is, then so is a hot dog. And if a hot dog is a sandwich, so is a taco. Shots fired: Is an open-faced turkey sandwich a sandwich? If so, then pizza is a sandwich. Please never talk to me about sandwiches again: If I put a slice of bread between two slices of turkey, is that a sandwich? No? Okay, how about if I put one crumb of bread under the slice of turkey, and one crumb of bread on top of it?