Categories
Dice Miscellaneous geekery Tabletop RPGs

Tiny dice purses

I have a container fetish.

Not a problem, mind you,[1] a fetish.

Browsing in office supply stores is dangerous for me. When we moved to Seattle, and everything I owned became, at some point, another fucking thing to haul across the country, I threw out a box full of smaller boxes.[2] I own more dice bags than anyone could possibly need. Ditto tiny tins for storing gaming bits and bobs. I blog about bags.

So when I picked up a pair of Flytanium anodized titanium d6s, the next thing I went looking for was a tiny container to keep them in. Not my regular dice bag, because metal dice are heavy and not always kind to plastic dice in transit, but something specifically for these dice.

As is so often the case when it comes to weird little things like this, I found what I was looking for on Etsy: tiny coin purses.

This little guy is the perfect size for these two dice. I love it.

The purse is lined fabric, and the outer layer is fairly thick. It provides plenty of padding for whatever the dice bump into, and it fits into my dice bag. And unlike a box, it keeps the dice from rattling.

The dice themselves haven’t yet been rolled at the table (at the moment, we’re not playing any games where 2d6 rolls come up often), but they’ve proven to be fantastic to fiddle with. I keep them on my desk, next to my high-tech worry stone, and they’re a perfect size and heft to keep my fingers busy.

They’ve also acquired a lot of character in the process, which you can hopefully make out in the photo. Anodization wears off with use, which I like, and on dice it makes sense that it’s going to wear off fastest on the edges. I can see some nice wear on the flats too, though; I love how that looks.

But when I get to bring them to a game, they’ll be riding in their cozy little dice purse.

[1] I can stop anytime I want.

[2] Some of which were, yes, full of even smaller boxes.

Categories
Miscellaneous geekery Tabletop RPGs

Gaming bag additions and second impressions

I’ve had a chance to use my new Tom Bihn Pilot as a gaming bag twice now, and I’ve made a couple additions.

I can also confirm that everything I loved about the bag when it first arrived still holds true: This is a great bag!

Carrying it around has made me noticed something else about it that I really dig, too: the strap. I’m using the standard strap (which it came with), and I’ve found that when worn cross-body, I can keep the pad on my shoulder while sliding just the bag around to the front — the pad holds its grip, and the strap slides through it. That’s awesome for getting into it without taking it off.

Paracord silencer zipper pulls

Zippers are jingly! I don’t like being jingly. But Tom Bihn uses lovely zippers, and I didn’t want to snip off the pulls and replace them (the quietest option). So I knocked together some paracord (paid link) silencers:

The bag came with a baggie full of shock cord zipper pulls, but I prefer paracord to shock cord for zipper pulls.

I don’t know much about knots, so I used a simple overhand knot.[1] I trimmed the ends and melted them with a lighter to seal them up. (Folks who are into paracord crafts can do much, much cooler knots and finer sealing, but this is good enough for me.)

To add a bit of character, and to make it easy to distinguish the center pocket zipper from the two nearby front pocket zippers just by feel, I added a brass Hinderer Mount St. Helens bead to it. I love mountains, and Washington, and Mount St. Helens ticks both boxes. I chose brass because it’s one of my favorite metals, particularly because of how it patinas and takes on a life of its own through use.

By happy chance, the length that looked good to me — roughly 2.5″ — also happens to be just about perfect for keeping that center pocket pull from hitting the ground when the pocket is open:

That length is also pleasing in-hand, and makes the zippers a breeze to pull in both directions.

Hydration and tokens

I thought the Nalgene N-Gen (paid link) would be a perfect fit for the dedicated water bottle pocket, and it is! The mouth of the bottle is a bit bigger than I’d like,[2] but small enough that it shouldn’t be too easy to slop water all over myself while walking around.

I’ve got a host of tokens I use for games, from clay composite poker chips (paid link) to little glass beads to coins, but they tend to be heavy. Koplow mini poker chips (paid link) are about the size of a penny and come in a variety of colors, and a tube of 50 weighs 1.1 oz.

Here they are together:

I’ll be bringing this bag on the road to Go Play NW this weekend, and I can’t wait to see how it does as a day bag for a convention.

[1] More accurately, I used “a knot that seemed okay,” and then looked up what it was called.

[2] In between Nalgene’s wide and narrow options, but closer in size to the wide/standard mouth.

Categories
Tabletop RPGs

The Tom Bihn Pilot as a gaming bag: first impressions

I’ve been using a Timbuk2 Rogue (paid link) backpack as my dedicated gaming bag for the past year or so, and as my needs have changed it’s been less and less ideal.[1] I asked for recommendations on G+ and got some great ones, but it was Jerome Comeau’s suggestion I kept coming back to: Tom Bihn.

After entirely too much research, reading forum posts and reviews, and narrowing things down, I decided that to go from 95% sure to 100% sure, I’d need to see a couple different bags in person. Tom Bihn is local, so I visited their showroom-warehouse-workshop, which was awesome. They’re super-friendly, and they’re bag geeks too: I asked if it was weird that I’d brought a bunch of stuff to test out in different bags, and they said not at all.

I went with the Pilot in burnt orange exterior/northwest sky interior.

I’ve only had it for a few hours, and I haven’t even taken it to gaming yet, so grain of salt and all that. But my first impression in-store is backed up by my second impression, after loading it up at home: This is a fabulous bag.

The product page covers all the stats, so I’ll focus on why I chose it as a gaming bag and what I’ve got in it at the moment.

For context

Most of my gaming these days is done with digest-sized (or similar) books, but not all of it; I use 8.5″x11″ gaming books, too, so I need a bag that can hold them. But I don’t need one that can hold a lot of books — I can always switch to a backpack for those rare occasions when I need a mess of books.

What I do need, alongside a few books, is just the right amount of space for doodads: dice bags, decks of cards, pencils, and the like. I also need room for a water bottle and maybe a raincoat or warm layer, and I want the flexibility to use this bag at local cons (starting with Go Play NW in a couple of weeks) and on occasional airplane trips.

A straight-up messenger bag isn’t ideal for this use case, because they tend to be primarily one big compartment plus a few slim pockets. That leads to jamming card boxes and shit in around books, which is annoying. And a strap designed to position the bag diagonally, with one end at my shoulder, is awesome for commuting on my bike, but less awesome at every other time.

Finally, I like a bag that doesn’t feel under-loaded when I don’t have much in it, but which also doesn’t feel overloaded when I’ve jammed it full of stuff. That’s a hard balance to strike!

Enter the Pilot

The Pilot is long enough for 8.5″x11″ books, and tall enough to accommodate a three-ring binder and oversized folders (slightly larger than 8.5″x11″). In the showroom, I fit my DCC RPG core book, big red folder/folio thing, and a three-ring binder in it — tightly, but it fit.

But look at how it’s segmented, as seen from the top:

Half of the Pilot is “book space,” and the other half is “small stuff space.” For how and where I game, and with the stuff I use, that’s a perfect split for me.

Here it is with the three main compartments open:

It’s divided down the middle, along the line of the handle. The way the pockets are positioned — two on the “book side” of that division, and the rest on the opposite side — is, like so many things about this bag, quite clever.

It makes weight “collect” along the central axis, which, along with the stiffness of the ballistic nylon exterior, makes the Pilot stay standing up quite easily. By contrast, my current bike commuting bag, a small Timbuk2 Commute (paid link), concentrates most of its pockets on the front edge; unless the main compartment is fully loaded, it flops over on itself.

In the Pilot, I’m currently using the two “book side” pockets to hold digest-sized gaming books. Here they are, along with the stuff that shares that main compartment:

My group in Seattle generally plays three games at a time, on different nights, so I like to keep the bag loaded for all three of them. With fewer books, I might use those thin pockets for something else.

Bag dump

Here’s everything I have in it at the moment, with stuff positioned near the pocket it inhabits:

By section, that’s:

  • Five small gaming books, a large Moleskine notebook (paid link), and my folio/folder thing for loose papers in the main compartment
  • My Rory’s Story Cubes (paid link) collection, snacks, tissues, and a card case that holds some 3×5 index cards and a Harrow Deck[2] (paid link) in the left front section
  • Pens and pencils, replacement leads, ibuprofen, and my dice bag in the right front section

There’s room left over, too. I could squeeze another book or two into the main compartment, plus maybe my bag of poker chips; there’s also room to spare in both front compartments.

And, of course, no hydration — yet!

Agua

The central pocket on the front is made for a water bottle, but can also hold a small umbrella, a rolled-up raincoat, or anything else about that size and shape. Unlike exterior water bottle pockets, which in my experience have limited or no use for much else, this one is more versatile.

I’ve experimented with a couple different bottles and settled on the 24 oz. Nalgene N-Gen (paid link). My beloved narrow-mouth 32 oz. Nalgene (paid link) fits, but requires some wrasslin’ going in and coming out. The pint version (paid link) doesn’t use as much space as it could, and I’d rather have a bit more water than that near to hand. I suspect the 24-ouncer will be perfect.

I love this bag

Overall, the bag is built like a tank, and the quality level is through the roof. There’s nary a stray thread in sight, all the seams are tight, and the zippers are a delight. It’s comfortable as a shoulder bag, a cross-shoulder bag, slung around to the back, and as a briefcase (special mention goes to the grab handle, which rocks). I can see why people rave about these bags.

So there it is! Untested on the field of battle, but already feeling like mine. Many thanks to Jerome for the recommendation, and to Matthew at Tom Bihn for his help!

[1] Where it shines, and will continue to shine, is as a family day pack — particularly when we’re going somewhere crowded. It’s long and slim, but holds three water bottles, three raincoats, snacks, and other miscellaneous items well, and being thin means I don’t bump into people all the time while I’m wearing it.

[2] Story Cubes and the Harrow Deck are my two favorites sources of ideas for improvisation. I should really write a post about them sometime!

Categories
Frostgrave Miniatures

My Frostgrave setup

My first game of Frostgrave (paid link) is tonight, so over the weekend I spent some time setting up a sample city — “my” Frostgrave. I’ve done proofs of concept before (most of which resulted in buying more terrain), but this is the first version I really like.

I spent a lot of time researching terrain and looking at other folks’ takes on Frostgrave, and I often wished they’d break things down a bit more. This post is my answer to that wish: Along with pictures of the finished city, I’ll share my goals and list everything that went into my version of Frostgrave.

(Here’s a larger version of this top-down view.)

Goals

Here’s what I had in mind when buying and setting up my city of Frostgrave:

  • Don’t paint or build anything. I don’t really enjoy painting minis, and I have no interest in painting or making terrain.
  • Make it look as good as I can. I tried to get the most bang for my buck with every terrain element.
  • It should be crowded. Per the rules, line of sight should never exceed 24″ (and should usually be a lot less). It’s a knife fight in a phone booth, not a battle in an open field. I’ve seen some otherwise gorgeous setups that have lots of wide-open spaces in them, and to me that isn’t Frostgrave.
  • Incorporate elevation. Everything in Frostgrave can be scaled by default, and elevation is fun.
  • Make it feel real. Real ruins are cluttered (and some Frostgrave tables looks too clean and tidy to me), so I added clutter. Real cities are rarely just one color, so my Frostgrave isn’t mono-colored either. A city full of undead servants and crazy wizards, like Frostgrave before the big freeze, would have a death motif, so I added one. It would also be a weird place, so I tried to make it feel weird.
  • Keep it portable. Except for the battle mat, it all fits in a plastic storage box.

The other parts of the equation are miniatures and storage, which I’ve written about on Yore in the lead-up to this post:

My Frostgrave

I took photos of the city from all four sides, and then took a few “in-the-streets”-style shots to round things out. Weird factoid: I don’t own a table large enough for Frostgrave (although our coffee table is close), hence the carpet.

From all four sides

First view (larger version):

Second view (larger version):

Third view (larger version):

Fourth view (larger version):

Street views

Street view one (larger version):

Street view two (larger version):

Street view three (larger version):

Street view four (larger version):

Looking at the photos, I can see a spot or two where I’ve got a sight-line over 24″, but I have plenty of stuff to drop in or move around to eliminate that. I assume it’s easier to police LOS during setup with two people looking at it, too.

Maybe it’ll feel different in play, but just messing around with it I’m happy with how my Frostgrave turned out. It’s crowded and death-y, with lots of elevation, and there’s plenty of variety to the terrain.

Terrain elements

Hold onto your hat! Here’s everything you see in the pictures above:

  • F.A.T. Mat Alpine 3×3 (paid link): Holy shit are there a lot of battle mat options! But this one was my favorite by far. It’s basically a huge mouse pad, complete with a smooth-but-not-slick play surface and a neoprene bottom that makes it roll up smoothly, lay perfectly flat, and stay in one spot. The graphics are great, and I was surprised how big a difference this made over the piece of plain white felt I used in earlier incarnations. It’s worth it.
  • Battlefield in a Box terrain (the irregularly shaped dark grey ruins): These are out of print, but they’re awesome if you can find them. I have Collapsed Corner (paid link), Fallen Angel, and Buried Monument, and I love all three. Collapsed Corner, which is the tallest and most impressive of the three, is the best value.
  • LEN Design Concepts custom pieces (big grey squares, bridge, wide stairs): I was amazed how hard it was to find “hills” that don’t look out of place in a city, but this Etsy seller offers just the thing. I got in touch with him and asked if he could take the mossy green out of the paint job, and wound up buying four risers with fieldstone sides, a bridge, and two small sets of stairs as a custom order. They’re all prepainted, and the risers in particular are great for giving the city a much-needed “crowded streets” feeling. He was awesome to work with, too.
  • Mage Knight Castle Keep (paid link) and Gatehouse (paid link): These are awesome! (Here’s my Yore post about them.) I’ve got two keeps and one gatehouse in my Frostgrave, and they’re one of the best values in prepainted terrain. They’re out of print too, but often available cheaply (at least for now).
  • A big aquarium decoration (paid link): Aquarium stuff is an interesting option for prepainted terrain, but it’s often out of scale, expensive, or both. This huge head is perfect.
  • War Torn Worlds terrain (smaller square ruins, walls, tiny rubble piles): They’re out of business and this stuff is tricky to find, it’s worth the hunt. It’s made of recycled tire rubber, and it’s tough and looks good. I have 8 Ruinopolis sections, a host of walls (curved, ruined, modern, and fieldstone), and a few rubble piles.
  • Legendary Realms terrain (all the little stuff): This is my clutter — little resin bits and bobs scattered all over the place. (Here’s the Yore post about it.) I have large and small trees, graves, skull piles, seated skeletons, lizard god statues, stairs, knight statues, skeletons on slabs, 2″ bubbling pools, and wooden treasure chests. These folks are currently producing terrain, so for once I’m not recommending something out of production.

I’ve had a lot of fun writing about Frostgrave over the past few weeks, and I can’t wait to actually play it!

Hopefully this breakdown was helpful to you. Thanks for reading!

Categories
Frostgrave Miniatures

60 quarts of Frostgrave

The compactness of Frostgrave (paid link), both in terms of the size of the play area and the amount of stuff you need to play, is one of the things about the game that appeals to me most.

I started with none of what I needed, and went from “zero to Frostgrave” pretty quickly. As I picked up pieces of terrain, played with sample layouts, and thought about how to maximize my budget, I kept another end goal in mind: I wanted everything for the game to fit into a single box I could toss in the truck and take to gaming venues. I came pretty close!

100% of my Frostgrave stuff fits into this 60-quart Ziploc WeatherShield (paid link) storage box, excluding the battle mat:

It ran me about $20 locally, and it’s one hell of a sturdy box. It includes a foam seal that’s supposed to keep out moisture (handy in Seattle), and I like that it locks in six places for a snug fit. We’ve got some holiday decoration storage tubs that only have two latches, and they don’t hold up all that well.

I also like that its more squared-off than a lot of similar boxes. Sometimes they have deeply curved corners, bulges on the bottom to facilitate stacking, etc. that cut into the usable storage space for terrain. This sucker can swallow a lot of stuff.

Inside are three big pieces of Battlefield in a Box terrain, an aquarium decoration, a Plano box full of Pathfinder Pawns (plus a sidecar baggie of monsters), three Mage Knight Castle pieces, a ton of War Torn Worlds rubber terrain elements, the rulebook, some stickers for the pawns’ bases so we identify who’s pawns are whose, four custom “risers,” a little bridge and some stairs, and a big baggie full of Legendary Realms clutter to round things out.

I’ve finally got everything I need to actually set it all up and take some photos of my Frostgrave. When I do, I’ll include an itemized list of what goes into my take on Frostgrave to help folks track down things they might like to include in theirs.

Categories
Frostgrave Miniatures

My Frostgrave pawn storage solution

One neat thing about using Pathfinder Pawns (paid link) as Frostgrave (paid link) miniatures is that they’re flat, and therefore easy to store.

After raiding the Inner Sea Pawn Box (paid link) for spellcasters and soldiers, I cracked open the NPC Codex Box (paid link) and went through that one as well. While I was punching out interesting-looking pawns, I thought it would be fun to try to match them to specific types of Frostgrave soldier.

I pulled out every pawn I thought could match a soldier type, then sorted them all again and chose the best ones — this time, using my storage solution of choice for gaming bits: a Plano box. Specifically, a Plano 3700 (paid link):

I oriented it vertically to show the pawns better, but if you imagine it rotated 90 degrees counter-clockwise, the pawn slots are in the same order as they appear on the soldier table in the rulebook (left to right, top row first). Soldiers are followed by spellcasters, which occupy several slots.[1]

I rounded the pawns out with 4d20, a bunch of pawn bases, and two 3-foot tape measures (paid link). Close it up, and it makes a tidy package that fits neatly into my larger storage solution, a big plastic tub that holds everything I need to play except for the battle mat (which is too big to fit).

Some soldiers are better matches than others, but I love the variety in the Pathfinder Pawns. For this box, I chose only unique pawns — rather than every Viking-looking armored dude, for example, I just pulled one Viking-looking armored dude and included him with other unique pawns that fit that soldier type.

I’m getting together with a friend to play Frostgrave next week, so I’ll get a chance to try out this sort-and-store method, Pathfinder Pawns in general, all of my nifty terrain, and — best of all — the game itself.

[1] Monsters are in a plastic baggie, because 1) there just aren’t that many of them, 2) they’re different sizes, and 3) I don’t think they’ll come up often enough to need to be pre-sorted, unlike soldiers and spellcasters.