Godsbarrow Tabletop RPGs

Building the Unlucky Isles: “The Region,” part three

Like all of the advice in Worlds Without Number, the stuff about cities gets straight to the point: put the capital in the center of the best arable land, on water; put other cities on water, and near resources; if you stick one in the middle of nowhere, assume there’s a kingdom-level water source not visible on the region-level map. Given that this slice of Dormiir is all islands and water, I figured most cities would be coastal.

Because of the cool natural-looking coastlines I’ve generated in Worldographer, a lot of my cities look like they’re floating in the ocean. But on a zoomed-in, kingdom-level map, they’d be placed in a sub-hex that’s on land.

Per yesterday’s post about population figures, I might reduce the number of cities a bit — but for now, here’s the current state of the Unlucky Isles.

I added a lake and two rivers to Kadavis, because it felt like it needed them

Next up is roads! Once I get my cities stitched together, I’ll have a better feel for how much wilderness is present in each kingdom (and where those wild places are).

I also added a few ports, so that well-connected places have connections that make sense

I tried to tell some basic stories with my road placement. Brundir is prosperous, populous, and the regional powerhouse: lots of roads, and the capital city is a true hub. The western edge of the Arkestran Dominion, and Kadavis proper, are also pretty well linked-up. Meskmur has sorcery and political isolation in its favor, so they’ve got roads galore.

But Rasu Miar (the island just off the coast of Kadavis, in the east) is sparsely settled and a pretty crappy place to live, so they don’t have a robust road network. And Ahlsheyan is a bit of a mix, with some logical connections missing — because those dwarves love to sail, so some overland trade routes just never really developed.

And looking at the current state of the map, I have to say that I’m not especially worried about reducing the number of cities — because there are tons of areas that aren’t even within a hex of a city or road. Even Brundir, where fully a third of the islefolk live, has lots of areas within its borders that could be wild, lawless, and dangerous.

What’s next?

Looking ahead, I’m now in a good spot to finish answering the rest of the questions in WWN’s “The Region” section: historical events for all six nations, their relationships with one another, and — optionally, but I’ll probably do it — assigning every kingdom its faction statistics. For folks who might be reading this and thinking that the amount of work I’ve already done is at odds with the “get to play quickly, but with a meaningful foundation for your setting” approach WWN advocates…you’re right!

I could easily have skipped several enjoyable hours of figuring out population sizes, placing cities, adding roads, and twiddling the terrain to suit — and instead just finished the rest of the region questions, picked Brundir as my starting kingdom, and moved on to answering the kingdom questions. Hell, I could have skipped making an actual map and just sketched out some vaguely island- and kingdom-shaped outlines on a piece of paper (as WWN suggests in the early stages).

But my goal isn’t to get to play quickly, or even in the medium term — it’s to create My World, one that I’ll be excited to continue to develop for a long time to come.

I might use WWN to gin up Brundir in more detail and then start a fresh map one “block” to the north, covering the Arkestran Dominion — and leave the rest of the Unlucky Isles exactly as they are at the end of “The Region” process. Or I might fully develop each kingdom in the Isles, and the sub-hex around a likely campaign start point in Brundir, so this whole region is richly developed and ready for play. I’m going where the wind takes me, doing whatever moves me.

Worlds Without Number is providing structure, keeping me on track so that I don’t drift off into stuff that won’t ever matter in play. It’s the tool I’m using to ensure a solid foundation for the Isles, and for expanding my worldbuilding to encompass other regions of Dormiir. I want to create a useful, gameable setting full of useful, gameable information — and devoid of cruft, wordy prose, or other stuff that often clogs up published settings. So far, WWN is perfect for that.

(This post is one of a series about worldbuilding with Worlds Without Number.)

Godsbarrow Tabletop RPGs

Building the Unlucky Isles: “The Region,” part two

This morning in the shower it hit me that in a region called “the Unlucky Isles,” with six kingdoms, only three of those kingdoms were fully contained within the Isles (the other three stretch off the map) — and one of those is “fantasy Switzerland.” Would that generate enough local conflict to fuel adventures?

But sitting down and looking at my map again, I saw that I could expand my plan to have disputed islands — originally, just one or two between Ahlsheyan and Brundir — to include a Brundir/Dominion disputed island in the north. And I figured that Rasu Miar, while it’s part of a nation that stretches off the map (Kadavis, to the east), is basically an island kingdom — so that’s four, not three. I’m feeling good about all of that.

So this evening I tucked into finishing the regional map, which needs cities in order to match the example in Worlds Without Number, plus a few more non-major-but-still-sizeable geographical features, like scattered woods and whatnot, for visual interest. After adding some terrain where I planned to put disputed claims, and some more because I liked how it looked, I turned on grid numbers:

The state of play before dropping in my cities

Population figures

WWN presents some great back-of-the-napkin math for determining population figures, and then using those to back into number/size of cities, so I started there. I counted hexes by hand, ignoring the partial/ragged coastline hexes, and jotted down the ballpark population for each kingdom (or portion thereof which appears on the map, for the three that aren’t fully contained within the Isles).

  • Arkestran Dominion, 287,000: 215 hexes not counting the Wastes = 430,000 = 43,000 in cities, but the portion on the map is lightly populated hinterlands, so that’s too high. Let’s say 287,000 = 29,000 in cities = no capital city here, so one major city of 10,000, plus 19,000 in other cities.
  • Yealmark, 84,000: 41 hexes x 2,000 = 84,000 = 8,400 in cities = 2,800 in capital city, and 5,600 split between two other cities.
  • Brundir, 840,000: about 420 hexes x 2,000 = 840,000 = 84,000 in cities = 28,000 in capital city, 14,000 in second-largest city, 42,000 in other cities.
  • Kadavis, 248,000 on Rasu Miar, 266,000 in Kadavis proper: 165 hexes in Rasu Miar = 330,000 = 33,000 in cities, but the population is a little lower in this inhospitable place, so let’s say 248,000 = 25,000 in cities = no capital here, so 8,300 in major city, 4,200 in next-largest city, and 12,500 in other cities.
    • …and 133 hexes of Kadavis proper on this map = 266,000 = 26,600 in cities = no capital city on this map, so 9,000 in major city, 4,400 in second-largest city, 13,200 in other cities.
  • Meskmur, 230,000: 115 hexes x 2,000 = 230,000 = 23,000 in cities = 7,600 in capital city, 3,900 in second-largest city, 11,500 in other cities.
  • Ahlsheyan, 550,000: 225 hexes on this map = 550,000 = 55,000 in cities = capital city isn’t on this map, so 18,000 in major city, 9,000 in second-largest city, 28,000 in other cities.

That would make the population of the Unlucky Isles 2.5 million people. That’s roughly equal to the population of medieval England in the early 12th century, which seems like the right ballpark. I’m starting to get a sense for the scope of this region, which is exciting.

I view 2.5 million as the upper bound. WWN notes that wilderness hexes don’t count, and until I have some cities in place and have drawn in some major roads, I won’t know even roughly how many wilderness hexes are in the Unlucky Isles. So I expect those stats (and maybe the number of cities) to go down a bit, at least in some of the kingdoms. (And I should note that WWN doesn’t have all this population stuff happening for the whole region at this stage — I’m electing to do it now because it’s fun, and because it keeps my map grounded so it can serve as a firm foundation for ongoing development.)

But for tonight I’m calling it here — after a surprisingly time-consuming amount of math and fiddling with cities — because it’s time to play Fortnite with the kiddo!

(This post is one of a series about worldbuilding with Worlds Without Number.)

Godsbarrow Tabletop RPGs

Building the Unlucky Isles: “The Region,” part one

In yesterday’s post I sketched out some high-concept stuff about Godsbarrow, and having finished Worlds Without Number‘s “The World” steps I’m moving on to “The Region” — the slice of Dormiir called the Unlucky Isles.

As with the first Dormiir post, large portions of this one are pretty raw — more or less straight from the Notepad file I’ve been massaging and into WordPress. (I’ve learned that if I obsess over polish at this stage of worldbuilding, I get bogged down and never get much further. The raw fire of creativity is where it’s at!)

The Unlucky Isles (as of March 17), with landforms, major geographical features, and nations in place

The Unlucky Isles

Name the region.

The Unlucky Isles, so named because the god Slljrrn (“SULL-jern”) died here, sinking into the sea and cursing this scattering of islands — and because the isles draw the ill-fated like moths to a flame.

An aside: names

Before I tuck into the next step, there’s some advice about names in WWN that I love and want to share here:

Conventional fantasy names tend to be random nonsense-syllables picked from the creator’s cultural phoneme stock, and places often end up as the city of AdjectiveNoun or the NounNoun river. While some of this can work perfectly well, it’s easier for the GM to pick some obscure or extinct real-world language known to nobody at the table and use it for names. Even if the words they use from it have no relation to what they’re naming, the consistent set of sounds and syllable patterns will help give a coherent feel to the work.

Worlds Without Number, p.119

That tracks with languages in Star Wars, which are (or were, anyway) often real-world languages not likely to be familiar to a primarily English-speaking audience; I’ve always thought that was a fun approach.

I decided to stick to dead languages. Palaeolexicon offers dictionaries of long-dead languages, and browsing through them was a lot of fun. In coming up with names, I used dead languages where it felt right, and made up my own bullshit everywhere else (because I do enjoy making up my own bullshit).

That shook out to dead languages for some names associated with three nations — Etruscan for Brundir, Proto-Turkic for Ahlsheyan, and Thracian for Yealmark — and made-up stuff for the other three.

Choose about six major geographical features.

Before this step, I started working on my map. I used Worldspinner to cycle through arrangements of continents until I found one that pleased me, and then switched to Worldographer Pro to build my hex map. (I’ve been using Hexographer, its predecessor, for almost a decade; both are excellent, and both offer robust free versions.) I can’t think too much about a fictional place without a map of it, so I’m jumping ahead a bit, WWN-wise.

The Unlucky Isles in “raw” form, created in Worldographer

Armed with my landform map, I jotted down my major geographical features, adding them to the map as I went:

  • Ulscarp Mountains, a range of jagged, snowcapped peaks in Ahlsheyan
  • Vykus and Vnissk, the twin volcanoes of Deathsmoke Isle
  • The Ockwood, a vast, dense forest in Brundir
  • Sculn Hills, a rocky region on the island of Rasu Miar, in Kadavis
  • Atrachian Wastes, a region of badlands and dead forest in the Arkestran Dominion
  • The Vorga Forest, light evergreen woods that dot Meskmur
All six major geographical features of the Unlucky Isles

This step necessarily bled into the next couple, as kingdoms, gods, and other elements of the setting popped into my head, were iterated upon, and got plugged into the other region-creation steps.

Create six nations or groups of importance.

Brundir (“BRUNN-dihr”), the largest and most central of the Unlucky Isles. Brundir is rich in natural resources, including timber and arable land, and boasts a coastline full of protected bays. Brundir is a mercantile power with a large and powerful navy. It’s also a haunted place and a breeding ground for strange creatures, thanks to Slljrrn’s lingering essence, and Brundirans tend to have a pessimistic streak.

Arkestran Dominion (“arr-KESS-trun”), stretching off the map to the north. A militaristic, expansionist elven nation, the Dominion sits atop an entire pantheon of dreaming gods and makes extensive use of the Wraithsea to exert their influence across Dormiir. The southern reaches, however, are lightly populated hinterlands dominated by the inhospitable Atrachian Wastes; the Dominion’s main focus is to the north…for now.

Meskmur (“MEHSK-murr”), a small kingdom of sorcerers on the southernmost edge of the Unlucky Isles, is a secretive, isolated place. By and large, the Meskmuri stay out of the politics of the Isles, and so Meskmur serves as the de facto “neutral ground” for moots, summits, and other gatherings (collecting payment and tribute in exchange). Temples and shrines to Jiur and Sarrow, the Red Twins central to Meskmuri faith, dot the island.

Ahlsheyan (“ahl-SHAY-ahn”), a chilly, windswept dwarven kingdom which abuts the Unlucky Isles to the south. Ahl dwarves are equally at home deep underground and plying the waves. The three pillars of Ahl society are wind, waves, and stone (representing impermanence, opportunity, and the past, respectively), and Ahl relationships are often tripartite (polycules, business ventures, etc.). Ahl “wind sculptures” — made of stone shaped so as to change in interesting ways as they are worn away by wind and weather, and not sold or exhibited until decades after they were first made — are famous throughout Godsbarrow.

Kadavis (“kuh-DAVV-iss”), in the east, is notorious for the raiders who populate Rasu Miar (“ill-fated land” in Kadavan), the island that marks its westernmost territory. Between the rocky Sculn Hills and the pall of smoke emanating from Deathsmoke Isle, Rasu Miar is a harsh place; outcasts, exiles, and wanderers who don’t fit into Kadavan society often find their way here. Kadavis itself is a prosperous, decadent kingdom composed of dozens of squabbling fiefdoms. Kadavan culture places great value on ostentatious displays of wealth and glory.

Yealmark (“YALL-mahrk”) consists of two small islands wedged between the Dominion to the north, Kadavis to the east, and Brundir to the south, and is the youngest kingdom in the Unlucky Isles. Formerly part of Brundir, Yealmark was granted to the Nuav Free Spears, a large mercenary company, some thirty years ago as payment for a contract. The Free Spears are disciplined in battle but run wild between contracts, so Yealmark is a strange mix of organized martial society and raucous revelry, and attracts more than its share of pirates, ne’er-do-wells, and adventurers as a result.

Identify regionally-significant gods.

  • Brundirθana (“THAH-nah,” the forest; the versatility of trees) and σethra (“SHETH-ruh,” good fortune), commonly referred to as the Mast and the Sail (the strong, well-made foundation that enables you to catch the winds of good fortune, taking you away from the ill luck of the Isles).
    • Etruscan is my source for some Brundiran names, including special characters like Sigma and Theta (used above).
  • Arkestran DominionTaur Kon Drukh, the Ceaseless Flame, who burns away the threads of fate woven by other gods, and soothes the slumber of the old pantheon (ensuring the Arkestrans don’t lose access to the Wraithsea).
  • MeskmurJiur and Sarrow (“JEE-oor” and “SAH-row”, the Red Twins, believed to live inside the volcanoes Vykus (Jiur) and Vnissk (Sarrow) on Deathsmoke Isle, and venerated in large part to keep them there — and away from Meskmur itself (ditto the smoke, which most often drifts north instead of south, fouling the air over Rasu Miar).
  • AhlsheyanKōm (“COMB,” wind, impermanence), Ebren (“EHB-run,” waves, opportunity), and Iāka (“ee-YAY-kuh,” stone, the past) are the cornerstones of Ahl faith and society.
    • Proto-Turkic is my source for some Ahl names.
  • KadavisIskuldra, the Golden Mask (“iss-KUHL-druh,” wealth, glory, recognition), principal deity in a pantheon that includes over 200 “small gods” (other aspects of prosperity, commerce, fashion, etc.) who are venerated in its many fiefdoms.
  • Yealmark — Pays obeisance to Brundir’s principal gods, θana and σethra, but also to Bruzas (“BROO-zoss”), the god of blood and revelry from their original homeland, Nuav (whose symbol is a blood-filled golden bowl).
    • Thracian is my source for some Yealmark names.

Many islefolk also pray to Nsslk (“NUH-sulk”), son of long-dead Slljrrn, who sleeps beneath the waves in the Unlucky Isles, in the hope that their prayers will keep him from dying — and thereby further cursing the Isles.

Make a sketch map of the region.

Mapping advice is scattered around the worldbuilding chapter, and doesn’t perfectly match the book’s setting, so I did some head-scratching and came to my own conclusions. WWN recommends a square 200 miles on a side, with 6-mile hexes, for the region map — but the example in the book is more like 300 miles x 360 miles, and I liked its size. So I went with 60 hexes by 50 hexes (widescreen monitor-shaped, not book page-shaped), for a regional area of 108,000 square miles.

That would make the Unlucky Isles the eighth-largest US state by area, and roughly the size of Colorado, Nevada, or Arizona.

WWN notes that rivers and (optionally) large lakes/inland seas come next, and to make logical rivers I needed to add some mountains and hills to my extant map (and fiddle with some of the existing features, too). That plus country labels gave me the map I used to open this post:

The current state of the map

Worldographer has a really cool feature called Child Maps that auto-generates a version of your current map on a different scale, with a number of hexes per parent-map hex that you determine. For example, I can take the Unlucky Isles at World level and step down to Continent level with 6 hexes per hex, and Worldographer will spit out that massive map.

WWN’s process doesn’t have you adding cities and other features to your kingdom-level map, but major features do appear on its example map. I want to see more detail than I currently have on my region map (at 6 miles/hex), so my next step will be to add cities and features to this map. (If I were about to start a campaign, I’d probably set it in a central region of Brundir, generate a 6-hexes-per-hex child map, and add villages, caves, dungeons, ruins, and so forth to those 1-mile hexes.)

I’ll do that as part of answering the three remaining WWN questions about the region — and in another post, as this one’s already massive!

(This post is one of a series about worldbuilding with Worlds Without Number.)

Godsbarrow Tabletop RPGs

Dormiir, also called Godsbarrow: worldbuilding using Worlds Without Number

Earlier today, a chance comment on RPGnet alerted me to the release of Worlds Without Number (paid link; there’s also a free version of the game), Kevin Crawford’s fantasy version of Stars Without Number (paid link; and again, there’s a free SWN), which I immediately bought. That in turn led me to think about how I feel like a bad gamer for never having had my own fantasy setting that I’ve tinkered with for years, and run games in, and the ways in which I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to setting creation.

For example, writing two paragraphs before getting lost in daydreaming about what accent colors I’m going to use the in the setting book I eventually publish…and then thinking about how difficult it would be to build up a brand, a company, and a potential audience again; or how I’m going to screw up and accidentally use a bunch of problematic tropes I don’t recognize as being problematic; at which point I abandon the project and go watch cartoons.

But I also realized that getting properly into miniature painting has given me a blueprint that works for my weird brain — one that I might be able to apply to worldbuilding: Pick a big goal, pick a small goal, pick a goal somewhere in between; work on it for at least a few minutes a day; blog about it, as the mood strikes, to help make it real (and because it’s fun if other people use it). I think I can use that model here.

So I sat down with Worlds Without Number, skipped to the worldbuilding section, and started reading. I’ve loved Crawford’s work for years, and we share a strong commitment to not making stuff that won’t have a direct impact on play at the gaming table (unless making it is fun in its own right). Brass tacks, realistic expectations, time spent well — I’m right there with him.

But first, the Larch

I didn’t want to abandon Bleakstone, or its successor setting, the Crystal Marches — but I also didn’t want to feel like I was retreading old ground. I didn’t build momentum last time, so why would it work differently this time?

I love settings with colloquial names formed from ordinary words, and I was thinking about my longtime interest in an island setting — when poof, the name “the Unlucky Isles” popped into my head. I wondered why they’d be unlucky — and hey, wouldn’t it be cool if they were cursed by the gods?

Or what if a god had died there, and bad luck was a lingering aftereffect?

“A world where gods can die” was the boom moment I needed to get my creative juices flowing.

(From here on in, this post is pretty raw — basically just straight from my notes, archiving my thoughts as they first came to me.)


I popped up Worlds Without Number and started answering questions, sketching in high-level setting concepts while I thought things through.

  • Gods can die, and in its early days the world was a tomb to many of them.
  • Magic and other strange phenomena are attributed to long-buried gods, their essences leaking into the soil, water, and air.
  • The current gods will die someday, too — and every time a god dies, their death shakes the world.
  • When young gods die, their essence may only influence a small region — but entire kingdoms and continents are shaped by the essences of dead older gods.
  • Some gods don’t die, but go into a state of torpor much like death; their dreams can become real, and people can enter those dreams
  • Bleakstone, the Crystal Marches, and other setting concepts I have can become part of Dormiir.

After spending the evening answering the questions in the first section, “The World,” I wrote this post. (The free version of Worlds Without Number includes this entire section, so I’m not giving away Kevin’s farm here.)

The World

What’s the name of this world for people in your campaign’s scope?

Dormiir (“to sleep” in French, with an extra “i”), but most people in the Unlucky Isles call it Godsbarrow (with barrow being a tomb-mound; Goadsbarrow is a real place in England, which I also like).

Are natural physical laws mostly the same as in our world?

Yes, except that Godsbarrow has two moons. One in a stable orbit (providing Earth-like tides) and the other in a highly eccentric orbit, which causes wildly powerful tides at the two points where it passes closest to the planet. (Coastal communities must be built accordingly.)

The weird moon is believed to be the corpse of a titanic deity, curled up into a ball. Some religions hold it to be the source of all magic.

Are there any spirit-worlds, alternate dimensions, novel planes of existence, or other cosmological locales generally associated with the world?

The Wraithsea is the common name for the un-place composed of the dreams of sleeping gods. People can go there in their dreams — or be drawn there — and if they linger, they disappear from the physical world.

Are there any grand global-scale empires or groups that impinge on the campaign’s scope?

The Arkestran Dominion (“Arkestran” is an elven word for “eternal”) sits atop the tomb of an entire pantheon of dreaming gods, and uses the Wraithsea to extend its influence across the world while its military might expands the borders of their empire.

How interconnected are the parts of your world?

About like medieval Earth, where people have heard things about faraway places — but more often myths and legends than actual facts. Regional weirdness caused by long-buried gods tends to keep people close to home, but nothing stops folks from travelling.

Are there any vast global events that have happened recently?

Bakhmyut, He Who Holds Back Hell — the principal deity of the country of Duspira — died five years ago, plunging the entire world into darkness for three days (one for each thousand steps in the passage to hell guarded by Bakhmyut, the Three Thousand Stairs).

That darkness lifted everywhere but Duspira, which has remained under the night sky ever since. Bakhmyut’s death also unleashed strange magic and stranger creatures, which have been spreading outwards from Duspira — along with ordinary Duspirans, fleeing a land in which no crops will grow.

Up next is “The Region,” which I already have going in my little Notepad file on Godsbarrow.

(This post is one of a series about worldbuilding with Worlds Without Number.)

Deathskulls Orks Finished miniatures Lightbox photos Miniature painting Miniatures Warhammer 40k

At long last, Thragg’s Deff Ladz! Plus six variations on Ork skin

I built the first of Thragg’s Deff Ladz (my second mob of Boyz for my Deathskulls Ork army, Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas) on January 17th, and have chipped away at them slowly but surely for the past two months. Since I’ve mostly painted rank-and-file Orks so far, this 98-point unit brings me up to 356/2,000 points and 34 finished models.

Back in February, after I abandoned the notion that I was going to paint these lads in two batches; painting 11 minis at once kind of bogs me down, but I can’t argue with the logic of it

I’m not painting at the same pace in 2021 that I did in 2020. And that’s okay! Even if I only do 5-10 minutes in a given day, my hobby streak remains unbroken (today is day 387) and those few minutes are still more than the zero minutes I was putting in for many, many years.

Part of it is that after a year in isolation, the prospect of actually playing 40k still seems like it’s probably 8-12 months away. I’m still enjoying miniature painting as a hobby, but now I have one finished 2,000-point army — the goal of finishing a second feels less urgent. So I’m taking it easy, not gunning the engine and risking burnout.

Along the way, I also picked up a second paint rack. My whole paint library is now accessible, with room to spare. I’m an organized person, by and large, and this appeals to me greatly!

Man, I picked a weird-ass angle for this shot

Anyhoo, time for some Boyz! Let’s fire up the ol’ lightbox.

Get stuck in, you gits!

Thragg is in the center; my favorite in the mob is on the far right, biting that Space Marine dagger blade-in because Orks are not so bright
Rear view of the first five
The second batch; I also like the rightmost mini a lot
Rear view of the back six

And as always, a casual shot (a mix of natural and artificial light):

All 11 of Thragg’s Deff Ladz

Ork skin tones

With Thragg’s Deff Ladz complete, I’ve now used all six skin tone recipes that are currently in my main Ork color guide (plus 3/5 of the recipes I use for Deathskulls blue, and both of my teeth/nails options). The Ladz are a mix of two quite different schemes, one based on Castellan Green and the other on Caliban Green. I love the Caliban version; they start out super-dark green (with a black wash) and highlight up to a very cartoony look.

Now that I’ve tried them all, I took four photos showing each of the six colors, all in the same order (which is the order in which they currently appear in my color guide). So in terms of base paint > shade paint, that’s:

  1. Waaagh! Flesh > Biel-Tan Green
  2. Waaagh! Flesh > Athonian Camoshade
  3. Deathworld Forest > Athonian Camoshade
  4. Deathworld Forest > Biel-Tan Green
  5. Castellan Green > Athonian Camoshade
  6. Caliban Green > Nuln Oil
It took some doing to find one of each with no war paint on their left arms!
Same models, but in a full-body view
And again, but this time in a casual shot with different lighting
Same lighting, full-body view

Recipes 1 and 2 are almost identical to one another; ditto with 3 and 4; really, I have four major recipes with two variations. The variations only differ in which shade paint is used, and unless they’re side by side and you know to look for it that difference is hard to spot. But I like variety in my motley crew, and even just counting the four “main” recipes I’ve got quite a bit of it in my army (all tied together, I hope, by their shared palette of secondary colors and especially by their war paint).

Similarly, my blue recipe built on Kantor Blue is quite similar to the default Macragge Blue version (at least the way I wash and highlight them). But Thousand Suns Blue makes for a vibrant and quite distinctive finished product; I really like that one.

Next up is Da Fancy Wun, my Taurox/Trukk conversion, which is currently primed, partially painted, and waiting for the sealant on the bottom-most wheel spikes to cure.

Life Miscellaneous geekery

My bonsai tree, Hulkling

Back in 2009, when we still lived in Utah, I fulfilled a longtime dream by buying a bonsai tree. I named him Elkhorn, after the dwarf from the D&D cartoon.

Elkhorn in April 2009 (Utah); if memory serves, he was a Dwarf Hawaiian Umbrella

I’ve never had a green thumb — quite the opposite, really — so I put my heart into trying to do everything right with Elkhorn. Despite my best efforts, he died in 2011.

We were buds (no pun intended), and I felt terrible that he’d died under my care. It wasn’t until this year — 10 years later! — that I felt ready to try again with a new tree.

This little Chinese Elm arrived on the 13th, packed so well by Eastern Leaf that not only was he upright, intact, and unperturbed by the journey, his soil was still thoroughly moist after several days in transit. I’m still trying to decide which is his front view, but it feels like it’s probably this first one.

The likely front view (Seattle)

I’m not sure if the broken-off root or branch in the foreground is a mistake or part of a bonsai style I just learned about, where dead wood is created intentionally for aesthetic reasons (jin is a bare branch, shari is a stripped portion of trunk). Given the wire scars on the trunk, my layperson’s guess is that it’s a growth/pruning mistake, but I don’t mind it.

Here’s the other view, the one I was initially drawn to before I’d given them both due consideration.

The view I initially thought was the front view (still deciding!)

After sleeping on it, and casting a wide net for possible names, I decided to name him Hulkling.

I like Hulkling as a character (I have a slabbed Hulkling cover, Young Avengers #9, hung on the wall); he’s smaller than Hulk, and working in a size joke is traditional; he’s a prominent gay character; he’s impulsive but easygoing; and he has an inner grace to him that I feel is reflected in this little tree’s sinuous shape.

Deathskulls Orks Miniatures Warhammer 40k

Converting a looted Taurox Prime into an Ork Trukk, part 2

Part one
covered measurements (Trukk vs. Taurox), most of the cab, the chassis, and the axles and wheels. As before, the foundation of, and inspiration for, this conversion — my first — is the excellent work done by Hobbyistgirl on her Taurox Trukk conversion. I’ve diverged a bit from her build, and I’m diverging from it more in this second post.

This is the final second in a five-post series documenting this Trukk. Assembly started in part one, the color guide is in part three, a few WIP shots are in part four, and the finished product is in part five.

I want my converted Trukk to still look ramshackle (an actual game mechanic that means you can only do so much damage to the vehicle, as it’s so full of holes and gaps already), despite the pristine armored compartment for the driver. That starts with the engine compartment, which I’ve built around the idea that my Meks chopped off the front end of the Taurox and slapped in a big-block engine with a blower.

My finished Taurox Trukk conversion

Let’s get choppin’

First, I shimmed the spot where the engine will sit to make it the right height.

I think this shim is a piece of Trukk chassis
I added the exhaust pipes on the right side of the Trukk engine, but not the left

Then I cut and weathered the Taurox engine compartment panels and glued them in place. I used the Taurox exhaust pipes on both sides; on the left side, they’re intact. I also used the Taurox light on the left side, since I like asymmetry in my Ork stuff.

On the left side, I was able to keep the whole Taurox exhaust assembly

I didn’t notice the cool NOS attachment that’s supposed to go on the left side of the engine until it was too late; I’ve already partially blocked that spot. (No worries, though; I trimmed it a bit and jammed it on there later.)

Right side attached
Top of the engine compartment attached, and now you can’t see inside so there’s less to paint

I covered the unsightly gap, and the shim, with a bit of trimmed-down Trukk scrap.

Corrugated Ork scrap

Then I roughed up the grill from the Taurox and stuck it to the engine, alone with the Trukk bumper (attached exactly as the kit intends, since I left the front of the Trukk chassis intact in part one).

Taurox grill, Trukk bumper

I like the idea of my Orks being like, “Oi, let’s put dis bit back, hurr hurr,” and then sticking the grill back on because it’s funny.

Next I added the bed sides, armor, and roll bars per the Trukk instructions.

Stock Trukk bed parts, assembled per the instructions

DakkaDakka lists the Trukk’s height as 3″, and my converted Trukk is already 3″ high at the roll bars. I wasn’t sure I liked the boarding ramps, so this is a great excused to not use them as they’d make the Trukk much too tall. So instead I chopped them to roughly match the height of the bed sides.

Ork OSHA does not approve of these side panels

Next I added the turret, gunner, and Wreckin’ Ball. This pushed my Trukk up to about 3 1/2″ tall, which doesn’t seem like a huge deal. I forgot to take a photo of that stage, but I built those bits just like the stock Trukk; the Trukk turret is exactly the same diameter as the hole in the Taurox roof.

After that, it was time for greeblies, covering up holes, creating new holes, and weathering the Taurox bits so they don’t look too pretty. I also added a Squig, because I love Squigs and empty truck beds on miniatures look weird, and I stuck a sign with the Ork glyph for “danger” just below him.

Right side of the finished conversion
Left side
Every pickup truck needs an angry dog in the back, right?

This was a really fun conversion, and a good choice for my first. Thanks to Hobbyistgirl’s WIP pics and guide, I had the confidence to give it a shot and a basis for diverging from her build where I wanted to achieve a different effect.

It’s about 1/2″ taller than the stock Trukk, but it’s the same width and length. The silhouette is roughly the same, although the cab is certainly more solid. I tried to make that section look as ramshackle as possible while still being recognizably a Taurox Prime. All in all, I did a pretty good job of hitting all of my initial design goals — not perfect, but I’m digging it.

After a bit of thought, I’m naming this Trukk Da Fancy Wun.

Deathskulls Orks Miniatures Warhammer 40k

Converting a looted Taurox Prime into an Ork Trukk, part 1

One of the things that drew me to Orks for my second 40k army was the conversion potential — which goes double for the Deathskulls, who are notorious for looting stuff before the battle has even ended. When I was looking for Trukk conversion ideas that I thought I could pull off, I came across two awesome posts by Hobbyistgirl where she converted and then painted up a Trukk built around a looted Taurox.

I’ve dabbled in kitbashing but never done any proper conversion before, so this project was a bit daunting — but also quite exciting. Uncharted waters!

This is the first post in a five-post series documenting this Trukk. Further assembly is in part two, the color guide is in part three, a few WIP shots are in part four, and the finished product is in part five.

Spoiler alert: this photo is from the end of part one

Gits love maffs

Grab a shaker of salt for this bit, because holding pieces in place to measure things isn’t the most exact science, and I’m not building a stock Trukk and Taurox just to have them on hand for easy measurements. That said, my measurements/notes for the salient dimensions are as follows:

  • Length:
    • Trukk maximum (ram in place) is 6 1/8″, but the ram is optional so 5 3/8″ is also a legal size
    • Taurox with bumper but without rear door (which I know I wouldn’t be using) is 4 1/4″
  • Width:
    • Trukk measured at the widest point on the side armor plates is 3 1/8″
    • Taurox at the rear bumpers (skipping the tread units because I know I won’t be using the rear ones) is 2 5/8″
  • Height from bottom of wheel/tread to top of chassis:
    • They’re damn near identical at the highest point in the rear, so I didn’t measure

The beauty of Hobbyistgirl’s conversion is that she neatly solves two problems at once: Since the Taurox is too short, lengthen it with the Trukk bed; and since it’s too narrow, widen it by including the stock Trukk bed’s side armor. The height difference is negligible, so that’s not a problem.

I want an Ork instead of a turret, so my Trukk will be about 1/2″-3/4″ higher — in the cab area only — than a stock Trukk. The tallest parts of the stock Trukk are the roll bars and raised boarding ramps, and those will still be about the same height as usual.

As always, my goal is to do nothing that could be considered modeling for advantage. My aim is to preserve the dimensions and silhouette of the Trukk as closely as possible, and if in doubt to err on making it too large (which is a disadvantage, as it’s harder to fit behind cover).

Commence flailing about

It took me a surprisingly long time to actually glue two things together and start this project, because one significant screw-up could mean wasting two costly model kits on a failed project. I did a ton of noodling, test-fitting, measuring, and fiddling before putting glue to plastic.

When I did start, though, I started with what I knew and loved about the foundation of Hobbyistgirl’s conversion: the Taurox cab.

Taurox cab and chassis plus Trukk bed

I cut the sides of the cab at the same point she did, and then I roughed them up a bit so it would look like the Orks had done a crude chop job. I left the engine housing off because I’m doing it differently than she did; that step comes later.

I used the same two Trukk bed pieces she did to seal the open back of the cab (I have no interest in painting the interior), and snipped what I suspect is the same chunk out of the top one so I could “slot” the Taurox roof right into it. The bottom one needed a bit of shaving to sit flush. (Later on, I’ll cover the gaping holes with Ork scrap.)

Trukk bed pieces, with the top one modified to accommodate the Taurox roof
Top view showing how the Taurox roof slots into the Trukk bed

I played with tons of ways to attach the wheels, and ultimately decided that I didn’t like the idea of this fairly heavy kit being held on by tiny contact points on the chassis. So I settled on combing the chassis from both vehicles.

By cutting the Trukk chassis in half, removing most of the lateral supports from the center, and then flipping the Trukk axles upside down, I got the height and amount of glue contact I wanted. Mind you, this Trukk now has the ground clearance of an overladen minivan…but then again, 1) it’s Orks, 2) it just has to look right, and 3) Orks have a unit that’s a teleporting dragster with basically zero ground clearance. It’s fine.

I started by filling the gap between Trukk bed and Taurox chassis with a couple of Taurox bits I’d trimmed off earlier.

Does it look like crap? Yes, indeed it does

Then I added shims of scrap plastic (center supports from the Trukk chassis) where the rear portion of the Trukk chassis was going to go.

I circled the bits of shim that I added to the chassis

Next I glued on the chassis, then the axles (upside down, relative to how the Trukk kit wants them used).

Shimmed rear portion of Trukk chassis with Trukk axles flipped upside down

For now, the wheels are just friction-fit; I’ll glue them on later so I can position them correctly — because, unsurprisingly, with all the shit they have bolted onto them they’re not uniformly round.

I wanted to keep the oil drum, and it fits, so I glued the front Trukk chassis in place with that bit intact. (I also left the front ends untouched, in case they’re helpful in mounting the bumper later on.) Then I dropped in the front axle, picking the orientation that made it level with the rear wheels (even though the mechanics of this piece now make no sense in the real world).

I had to shave the boxed area with my hobby knife to get it to sit snugly around the protrusion on the Taurox chassis

I set it down to make sure all six wheels touched the level countertop, and that the Trukk itself was reasonably level (it’s not perfect).

We’ve come full circle

I wanted zero chance I’d break anything off while fiddling with my next steps, so at this point I let the undercarriage dry and cure overnight.

Next up is the front end, which I’ll be building around the big-block Trukk engine. The bed will be framed out per the Trukk kit, and I’ve already test-fitted the Ork gunner, his pintle mount, and the Wreckin’ Ball, so that should be pretty straightforward as well.

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First finished mini of 2021: Facepeela, Ork Deff Dread

My first mini of the new year (although, having been completed on January 23rd, “new” is a bit of a stretch) is my first Deff Dread, “Facepeela” Snarg. Facepeela is also the first model I’ve ever magnetized, a process that was not without its problems…leading to this also being the first model I’ve ever done that incorporates green stuff (Kneadatite).

Facepeela brings my Waaagh! up to 308 points. Still a ways to go!

I heart big and stompy

“Facepeela” Snarg’s Golden angle
Front view
Left side
Rear view
Right side

I also experimented with using mostly natural light (no lightbox) and just a piece of printer paper as a backdrop. It’s more, well, natural than the lightbox, but I don’t think I have this technique quite figured out yet. Here’s Facepeela’s golden angle shot that way:

Golden angle, mostly natural light, piece of paper as a backdrop

This kit was fun to build and paint, validating my choice to make my first Ork army list about 50% vehicles — including a second Deff Dread, three Killa Kans, and a Morkanaut. Not too surprising, as it’s basically a super-sized Killa Kan — and that’s one of my favorite 40k kits I’ve ever built.

Just for fun, here he is alongside a sampling of the Orks I’ve painted so far:

Facepeela, Mukkit, and a few of Skrudd’s Krumpas and Runt-Eata’s Grots

Green stuff for a green lad

The necessity for green stuff came about when, as I was working on highlights, I noticed that the secure position for his lower saw arm — the position in which it stayed in place the best, resisting drooping — only worked because the arm was braced against the socket, scraping paint off the edge every time I snapped it in place. I tried Blu-Tack, and that was fine, but I didn’t like the idea of leaving a blob of it on there forever.

Blithely assuming that green stuff was just easily-moldable putty that would dry into something about as hard as plastic, I decided to go that route instead.

Turns out, green stuff is incredibly sticky, not terribly easy to work with, and dries semi-soft. But it did the job better than Blu-Tack, as it’s hard enough to stay in place and can be primed/painted/varnished. I didn’t take any pictures of that process (because it was pretty frustrating), but it was basically: apply green stuff in a blob much larger than needed, just in case; let it cure overnight; trim it to fit with a hobby knife, slowly, testing the fit with every trim; prime and paint normally; two coats of varnish (and two in the socket, too).

My second Dread isn’t using this arm, so I might build the arm again, drill it better this time around, and replace the one currently on Facepeela. Or not! It works, and unless you’re looking for it the ugly blob of green stuff isn’t noticeable.

Deff Dread color guide

My Deff Dread’s base includes one bit not found on my usual list. Color-wise, apart from that, it’s just a bigger Killa Kan.

  • Demon skull horns: Zandri Dust > Seraphim Sepia > Ushabti Bone drybrush

I like Facepeela’s static, menacing pose, but I don’t want two of it; my second Deff Dread will probably be posed raising one leg, about to gleefully stomp on something. Not sure what, but maybe a grot. We shall see!


Best Hit Chronicle 1/1 Cup Noodle

The best Bandai kit ever made finally landed at my house today:


Yes, it is indeed a 1:1 scale model of a sealed Cup Noodle.

I love the warning labels — “don’t eat this,” of course, but also “don’t pour hot water into me.” I also love that it’s not in any way a Gundam model, not even slyly; it’s just a Cup Noodle.

Although 40k minis completely sidelined my Gunpla hobby activities from March 2020 onwards, I preordered this kit back in October because it’s a thing of motherfucking beauty. I know the bug will bite me again, and when it does…Cup Noodle will be waiting for me.