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

A year of Godsbarrow worldbuilding

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.)

Categories
Godsbarrow Tabletop RPGs

WIP Godsbarrow poster map, 13th anniversary of this site

Work on my first proper multi-region map for Godsbarrow continues apace. All of the settlements and roads are in place, I’ve tweaked a bunch of coastlines and island shapes and whatnot, and the center third has its mountains, fields, and most of its forests done.

Current state of the poster map

I also dialed the white back by 90% in the Ice Courts, and shrank the area of the Abvärwinter in the west. A few rivers have moved, and Ahlsheyan has more settlements now. And of course Middenglum is being worked on along the way. (The little triangle of forts along the Ahlsheyan-Middenglum border has been fun to write up.)

Once I get all of the symbols redrawn — and finish Middenglum — I’ll go back in and touch up the colors, add a scale, and then step back and see how things look. If it all feels right, the final step will be adding a couple hundred labels to the map.

I’m not sure how to add region names, or if I’ll even be able to include them; I still need to wrestle with that one a bit more.

13th anniversary

As of today, martinralya.com has been online for 13 years. (It wasn’t a blog until 2012.) I can’t believe it’s been that long!

2022 will actually bring three anniversaries for this site: the 13th overall; the 10th anniversary for Yore, which launched on August 28, 2012; and the first anniversary for Godsbarrow on March 16th. I guarantee I will forget at least one of them when the day rolls around!

(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.)

Categories
Godsbarrow Tabletop RPGs

Godsbarrow: Why not create a world map first?

Writing yesterday’s post about banked fires and leaving countries partially unmapped made me realize how much I’ve thought about this stuff over the past several months, and how non-obvious some of it might be to anyone outside my personal flesh-prison.

I’m sort of mapping Godsbarrow the least efficient way possible . . . but stitching together my big map is proof that, for me, the dumb way that creates extra work in the future is the key to my success.

Why not start by mapping the continents?

I see gorgeous continent-level maps all the time on r/Wonderdraft. And it makes sense: Look how many things in the map below I will need to fix in order to turn X regional maps (the “tiles”) into a unified pan-regional map that spans a large chunk of Godsbarrow, none of which I’d have to fix if I’d started with a larger canvas.

Future Martin is not going to thank Past Martin for the extra work required to correct every boundary on this map

Hell, even if I’d stayed at the regional scale (rather than continent scale) but started with a six-tile blank map in Wonderdraft, filled it with ocean texture, and then added landmasses one region at a time, I’d wind up with a finished map that had none of the technical issues present in the map I currently have. But I know me: That blank space would have overwhelmed me, made this feel like work, and probably torpedoed the whole venture.

Every boundary, every thing I develop, is a constraint. Starting with continents establishes a whole bunch of boundaries right off the bat. Starting without even thinking about continents leaves all that stuff where it belongs, for now: nonexistent or purely notional.

Why? Three reasons.

Because WWN says so

Worlds Without Number [paid link] advocates strongly for not building stuff you don’t need, and I agree. More than three decades of gaming, including several abortive attempts at creating campaign settings which began, full of excitement, with me creating world maps, has taught me that I virtually never need to know about continents at the gaming table.

Is it nice to know what the Forgotten Realms looks like at a world map level? Absolutely. And maybe in a published setting with the scope of the Realms, I’d expect that. (Here, as a WIP on a blog, I absolutely don’t expect that.)

But in actual play, have I ever needed to know what the continents look like, or what the whole of Faerûn looks like? Nope. Not even once.

Which flows into…

Conversation of time and creative energy

I’m one guy, doing this for fun, not getting paid for it, with a finite amount of free time and creative energy, and spending those resources worldbuilding means I have less time and energy to spend on other things — including the more gameable aspects of worldbuilding.

If I spend a bunch of time and creative energy on a world map of Godsbarrow that I don’t even need, I might burn out. Even if I don’t burn out, I will have spent those resources making something I don’t actually need and placing constraints on my future worldbuilding.

Which flows into…

Because whimsical, improvisational worldbuilding is more fun for me

I’m not here to police anyone’s “lonely fun.” I upvote those gorgeous continent maps on r/Wonderdraft, and I love that folks are making cool shit even — especially — if it’s not how I might have made it. As my wife often says, with genuine affection, “You do you, Boo-Boo.

But personally I find it much more freeing, and more fun, to develop a Godsbarrow region without any real idea what’s next door. When I step back for a minute, as I did when stitching together that large map above, I see a developing setting that I never would have come up with this way if I’d sketched out all the coastlines for the large map at once.

Toriyama Akira and the art of improvisational creation

This connects nicely to having just finished watching Dragon Ball and started Dragon Ball Z. I was curious how much of Z Toriyama Akira had planned when he was working on Dragon Ball, and apparently the answer is “none of it, or at least not much of it, especially early on.” He was just doing what interested him, following his heart and seeing where it led him, and the end product — Dragon Ball — is full of whimsy and surprises and strange turns it likely never would have been full of if he’d mapped it out from the beginning.

Circling back to Godsbarrow, if I’d written up the Unlucky Isles knowing that a slug-god-kaiju was crushing mountains to the west (in Kurthunar) and the region to the south was locked in perpetual winter and populated by, among others, courtly werewolves and mushroom pirates, I would have written it differently. For one thing, I’d have had to hold a lot more ideas in my head while writing it. For another, I’d have worried about conceptually mapping out all of the nations’ relationships with places further away, which likely would have made me lose interest.

If I synthesize all of my regional write-ups into a unified document, will I need to add and tweak some things? You bet. Just like my stitched-up map, what came later would necessarily prompt a gentle rearrangement of what came before.

But as a price to pay for capturing the original raw spirit of Godsbarrow, channeling that into the Unlucky Isles, stoking the fires of creation and diving in while they burned brightly, and creating something that I still want to continue developing eight months later, that is a vanishingly small price indeed.

TL;DR: Start small. Which is, like, the oldest RPG worldbuilding advice ever. This post explains why I started small, and why, eight months after starting work on Godsbarrow, I still love this approach despite the imperfections it introduces into the process and the WIP version of Godsbarrow.

See also: Yore

A lot of what I’ve said here also goes for Yore itself. This blog will be celebrating its 10th anniversary later this year, on August 28th.

I’ve been blogging since 2005, and Yore is my third RPG blog. I ran Treasure Tables (still archived on Gnome Stew) from 2005-2007, and ran and contributed to Gnome Stew from 2008-2016. I may have my math off a bit, but I believe I wrote 871 posts on TT and 453 on GS.

So not only does my post count here — 463 as of this one — exceed my count on the Stew, even prior to the actual 10th anniversary I’ve already posted on Yore for longer than either of my previous blogs. Yore is the one where I just do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it, whether or not that’s an efficient way to build an audience (it’s not), get pageviews (it’s not), create a brand (it’s not), make money (it’s not), or stay relevant in the RPG hobby as a whole (it’s not).

In other words, philosophically Yore is pretty similar to Godsbarrow. I loved blogging on Treasure Tables and Gnome Stew, and look back fondly on those years. But part of the reason I’m still blogging here, nearly 10 years on (and well past the heyday of blogs’ relevance in the hobby), is because here is the place I just do my thing. Or don’t do it. Or shift gears and do new things.

I know folks out there have gotten good mileage out of stuff I’ve posted here, and that brings me joy. I hope it continues to be the case. In the meantime, I’ll just keep puttering away and doing my thing.

(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.)

Categories
Blood Angels Space Marines Deathskulls Orks Life Miniature painting Miniatures Space Hulk Terrain Warhammer 40k

My 2020 in miniature painting

In 2020, I became a miniature-painter. Prior to February, I was a guy who sometimes painted miniatures and generally didn’t especially enjoy it. But this year I painted more minis than I had in my 30+ years of sporadic painting prior to 2020 — almost twice as many, in fact. So I’m still a beginner, in many (many!) ways, but not quite as a green as I was before.

All of the miniatures I painted in 2020

Before I get into stats and silly stuff I kept track of, though, I want to pause to write about the pandemic.

Yore isn’t a news or current events blog (there are many better places to go for that sort of info and content), so I haven’t really blogged about the Covid-19 pandemic. This is one of my refuges, and I hope that perhaps it’s been one of yours.

The toll this virus has taken is staggering: over 340,000 dead in the US alone. More than 418,000 Americans died in World War II; that we’re likely to match that total before herd immunity is reached, and with so many of these deaths being preventable, is heartbreaking.

If you’ve lost someone this year, my heart goes out to you. I can’t imagine what that must be like, in the midst of all of this. If you’ve lost your job, your peace of mind, or any measure of stability, I am so sorry for that loss. Whoever you are, reading this right now, I hope things improve for you and yours.

Miniatures by the numbers

In 2020 I finished painting the following models (I’m not counting assembled, primed, or partially painted minis — just varnished and ready for play):

  • Blood Angels (56):
    • 35 classic Space Marines
    • 10 Terminators
    • 5 Primaris Space Marines
    • 1 Land Raider
    • 1 Rhino
    • 2 Dreadnoughts
    • 2 Teleport Homers
  • Deathskulls Orks, Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas (22):
    • 10 Ork Boyz
    • 1 Nob
    • 10 Gretchin
    • 1 Killa Kan
  • Space Hulk (15):
    • 12 Terminators
    • 3 objectives
  • Terrain (4):
    • 1 medium/large Manufactorum piece
    • 3 small Manufactorum pieces
  • Grand total: 97 miniatures

A full quarter of my output was in December, when I set a personal record: 26 miniatures in one month. I know that’s small potatoes for dedicated hobbyists, but it’s a lot for me!

My overall favorite miniature that I painted in 2020 is also my last one of the year: Mukkit, my first Killa Kan. It’s not just recency bias, either; I poured everything I’ve learned about painting into this guy.

Mukkit the Killa Kan

I got out the first miniature I finished in 2020, Brother Scipio from Space Hulk (2/27), and threw them in the lightbox together for a first/last comparison shot:

My first (L) and last minis (R) of 2020

My MVP brush for the year, the Citadel S Layer — which I bought before learning that animal-hair brushes were a thing — finally died at the end of December. I replaced it with a Princeton Velvetouch size 0 Round, an excellent synthetic brush with similar characteristics. This size has become my workhorse, handling everything from edge highlights to base-coating details to eyes.

I spent about 10 months painting 2,200+ points of Blood Angels (November 2020)

I learned a lot about painting this year. I still have a lot to learn, and a lot to continue improving upon. Painting was a real source of joy for me in 2020. Capturing that joy and that learning process here, and hopefully in ways that might be useful to other painters, has been a lot of fun as well.

I like tracking stuff

A few other stats I’ve kept track of:

  • Hobby streak: From the day I started painting again to the end of the year, I maintained an unbroken hobby streak of 314 days. Doing at least a little bit of assembly/priming/painting every day played a huge role in keeping me motivated and moving, and in getting this many minis done.
  • Hand-washing: Since mid-March, I’ve recited my Covid-19 hand-washing mantra — the opening narration for Star Trek: The Next Generation — approximately 950 times. (I don’t, like, log this or anything; I’m backing into my total based on an average of 3x a day since March 12, when we went into isolation.)
  • Audiobooks: Having gotten into audiobooks at the same time as 40k, and explicitly as an accompaniment to painting, I listened to 15 excellent 40k books this year (almost all of them by my favorite author/narrator pairing, Dan Abnett and Toby Longworth). Favorite titles include Ravenor (Ravenor v.1), Necropolis (Gaunt’s Ghosts v.3), and Brothers of the Snake.
  • Movies: I watched 183 movies, 44 of which were 2020 releases. Birds of Prey was my favorite 2020 film, and the last thing I saw in the theater; I hit four viewings by year’s end. (I log and comment on every movie I’ve seen on Letterboxd.)
  • Music: I listened to 52 hours of music, all on Spotify; genre-wise, hip-hop and electronica were my top two. My favorite 2020 releases were Birds of Prey: The Album (various artists), HOUSE OF ZEF (Die Antwoord), and BE (BTS), and dang if that isn’t a decent snapshot of my musical tastes.
  • RPGs: I played 87 RPG sessions, 27 of which were solo. I only played one 2020 release, Brindlewood Bay; it’s a hoot. Unusually, it’s the first game I can remember that both of my groups are playing at the same time.
  • Blogging: I wrote 166 blog posts, about 40% of my total output here on Yore since 2012. 2020 also marks the year when Yore crossed the tipping point from being primarily about tabletop RPGs (166 posts as of December 8) to being primarily about minis and my hobby journey (the 167th minis post was on December 8).

Here’s to 2021

While I doubt we’ll get “back to normal” in 2021, I think things will start to look up in the spring and summer, and playing 40k seems like it could happen next winter. (I’m last in line for the vaccine, as I should be, and my family’s bubble, distancing, mask usage, and other precautions don’t seem likely to change for months.) But there’s ample reason to hope for a better year, and hope for it I do!

Thank you for reading Yore. Stay safe out there.

Categories
Miniatures Warhammer 40k

A strong contender for a third 40k army, Necrons, and a Yore milestone

Picking up a second-wave Indomitus box marks the first time since I got into 40k minis that I’ve bought models outside one of my chosen factions. I know I could Ebay the Necron half of my set and plow those funds into Orks or Blood Angels, but I’ve been looking ahead to 2021 (much of which seems like it’ll be a lot like 2020, isolation-wise) and thinking that a third army might be enjoyable to paint.

And it’s not just the convenience of already owning 36 Necron models: When I was choosing my second army, Necrons were a strong contender based on their sculpts and lore. While the notion of having one force from each umbrella faction — humanity, xenos, and chaos — is appealing, when I browse the chaos units (as I’ve got humans and xenos) I’m not blown away by some of the figures.

By contrast, virtually every current Necron model looks amazing. Based on the pre-refresh sculpts, I’d largely dismissed them; painting the same robot skeleton over and over sounded dull as dishwater. But these evil mofos look like a blast to paint — and they’d have a different aesthetic, vibe, and process to my Angels and Orks.

So while I’m not ready to commit to Necrons, nor give them a page of their own here, I do want to list what I have on hand for future noodling and/or Kill Team use:

  • Indomitus:
    • 1x Overlord
    • 1x Royal Warden
    • 1x Plasmancer
    • 1x Skorpekh Lord
    • 20x Necron Warriors
    • 2x Cryptothralls
    • 3x Skorpekh Destroyers
    • 1x Canoptek Plasmacyte
    • 1x Canoptek Reanimator
    • 6x Canoptek Scarab Swarms

If my pace holds steady with Orks, it’ll be 10-12 months until Moonkrumpa’s Megalootas are all painted up — plenty of time to ponder a potential army number three.

167 v. 166

Incidentally, this post represents the first past a tipping point on Yore: It’s my 167th post about miniatures, surpassing my 166 posts about RPGs. (As is traditional for Yore milestones, it’s just a plain ol’ post.)

I play/run RPGs twice a week, loving every minute, and if anything I’m more engaged with actual play than I was when I started blogging about RPGs way back in 2005. During those 15 years, I’ve written something like 1,500 blog posts about RPGs, mainly GMing topics.

I’ve found that some topics, especially perennial ones like fudging die rolls or player personality types, just don’t interest me anymore. I’m open to new ideas, but I know where I stand and why I stand there. I haven’t written a dedicated RPG advice blog since 2016, when I left Gnome Stew, and Yore’s occasional forays into advice tend to be one-offs written when some topic really grabbed me.

All of which is to say that I think the joke I made in February that got me back into blogging — about turning Yore into a miniatures blog — has borne fruit. I’ve kept Yore on the web even during its many fallow periods because this is the blog I come back to — the place where I write about whatever I want to write about, usually hobby stuff, and in the past that’s most often meant RPGs. These days, it’s minis.

Next month, or next year? Who knows! I sure don’t. But I hope you’ll stick around, and I appreciate your readership. Thanks for reading!

Categories
Miscellaneous geekery

Black Lives Matter

I’ve been largely quiet here about news and the state of the world because this isn’t that sort of blog. It is, generally, my hobby outlet. I want it to be a place readers can come to find — again, generally — posts about RPGs, miniatures, Gunpla, comics, books, and all the other geeky joys in my life.

But as this pandemic stretches on, with over 100,000 Americans dead; with my country’s national response bungled and actively opposed by the racist, misogynistic, venal buffoon that ~40% of the electorate variously loves, supports, or tolerates; as centuries of systemic, endemic American racism are laid bare — again, always again — by the murder of George Floyd by racist cops, and by the subsequent response from white supremacists, Republicans, militarized police departments, and the national disgrace that is the current administration; this doesn’t feel like the time to blog about miniatures.

Black Lives Matter.

Trump is a piece of shit. How anyone can in good conscience support him is a complete fucking mystery.

If you support Trump, or if your first response to the phrase “Black lives matter” is “all lives matter,” you are not welcome here on Yore as a reader or commenter.

I’ve made a donation to Black Lives Matter. If you have the means, I encourage you to do the same — or to donate to the ACLU, local causes, or other organizations fighting for progressive causes and against injustice.

I’m taking this week off from posting here on Yore, maybe longer. Stay safe out there.

Categories
Miscellaneous geekery

Yore is back in business

I’ve overhauled many blogs many times over the years, and this time around I embraced WordPress’ emphasis on customization without coding and installed the excellent default theme, Twenty Twenty. This saved me hours of hunting for themes (which often turn out to be expensive, crappy, or both) and more hours tweaking their code.

But an overhaul always entails work, so I did some:

  • Current-gen WordPress is built around using “blocks,” and the Twenty Twenty theme offers some neat options for combining blocks on pages; I played around a bit with those.
  • As a result, the about me page is now a little personal history of the 21 years I’ve spent writing about, and creating stuff for, RPGs on the internet. My published work page is slicker, and I’ve updated a gaggle of out-of-date links.
  • A bunch of stuff no one used is sort of tucked away now, like the list of posts by category (it’s in the footer) and the complete list of post tags (here, and in the footer). My blogroll kept shrinking as I took the hobby’s bad actors and their apologists off of it, so I scuttled that months ago; it won’t be coming back.
  • All the sidebar links to popular posts on the blog went away, and I liked those — so I brought them back on a dedicated page accessible from the top menu.
  • The main page is back to being the blog, not my CV. I’ve pulled back from the RPG industry (though not from the hobby!), making the CV stuff less important on the site — and I want to focus on starting to blog again, which this should help with.
  • I’m kind of digging Twenty Twenty’s default colors, although I never would have imagined that taupe background/black text, fuchsia links, and a white header/footer would look good! Every time I fiddle with them in the customizer, the results look worse; the default is probably here to stay.
  • I updated the site’s favicon to match the snazzy new logo.

This new theme is also much more mobile-friendly than the old one, which is awesome. Mobile users account for about 35-40% of Yore’s traffic and my previous two-column newspaper-like theme from 2012 was less than ideal on mobile.

Honestly these types of blog maintenance posts are never all that exciting — but another thing I’m embracing, thanks to the shake-up of migrating from G+ to Twitter a year ago, is just kind of dashing off my thoughts, not worrying overmuch about getting every detail perfect, and being myself. This sort of post is part of that.

Categories
Life Miscellaneous geekery

New template, mucking about a bit

After nuking all my Judges Guild posts — along with, in the past year, much of my personal fandom for the old-school corner of the RPG industry — it felt like it was time for a change around here.

Having recently spent a couple happy hours scrolling through five years of archives on the excellent Warpstone Pile miniatures blog, I was drawn to the clean, no-nonsense presentation — and the author’s persistence in staying the course over many years, even during periods where they didn’t post often. I’ve been blogging in some form, mainly about RPGs, since 2005. I enjoy doing it, and it’s not time to toss out the baby with the bathwater quite yet.

So I switched blog templates and started juggling things around. I think I set up the redirect for the old “/yore” link to the blog properly, and didn’t manage to break anything else — but I know things will look funky for a bit.

My previous theme had a skinny main/reading column, so all of my pre-2020 photos are sized for that narrow bar. They look weird now.

But overall this feels like a breath of fresh air and a much-needed change.