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HeroForge Delivers

March 23, 2015 3 comments

IMG_1357The HeroForge Kickstarter just delivered two miniatures to my door and out of an arbitrary 10-star system, I would give them a solid six edging up to seven. I have been following and waiting patiently on the entire HeroForge idea since it was first announced. It is a system where you begin with a basic model (of which several are available) and customize it to your heart’s content. Male, female, robotic, halfling, human, dwarven and more… and then hundreds of options for equipment, poses, clothing, and sliding scales for things like musculature, height, curviness, expressions and so on. Hex bases, round bases, square bases. They have thought of everything and it’s really a lot of fun to make up different miniatures, and I highly suggest you go to the site and do so for yourself.

IMG_1359I think I was hoping for more from the miniatures themselves, especially for the price. At $25 a pop, they are expensive. Does the customization justify the cost? I’m really torn. When “acceptable” Bones miniatures are in at $3 and $4 and higher end miniatures from DarkSword are $10… I’m just not 100% sure based upon the quality I have seen so far. I opted for the “high quality” prints and I was impressed with the overall process. You get in hand what you see on-screen. Very fine details abound. The sneery little halfling thief I wanted for my 5e Dungeons & Dragons Adventurer’s League games has his little sneery face and top knot haircut, a murderous little gleam in his eye. My hands-up pacifist cleric for our new Temple of Elemental Evil game has the perfect pose, the chiseled jaw, the lack of weaponry and the open expression I wanted. The customization is not the issue.

IMG_1360I wonder that I personally may have had my bar set too high. While I was in on the Bones Kickstarters both times, I’m an old-fashioned kind of mini-painter. I like the metal. I think you get better overall miniatures and they paint up a lot nicer. In the photos, on the top you can see the HeroForge miniatures as they arrived. Oddly translucent (was not expecting that), they have a very ‘rough’ feel to them. I almost want to sand them all down, but then of course you’d lose all the details. That roughness is made very apparent in the bottom set of photos, where I have primed them. Metal miniatures (and even the Bones) are just plain smoother and seem like they will take paint better. On the HeroForge Facebook page there’s some definite “table-top” quality miniatures that have been painted. They look fine for using in a game… and isn’t that the purpose?

As a new and emerging technology, 3D printing like this is surely going through some growing pains. I can imagine that come two or three years, the quality will skyrocket. I’m also relatively certain most people would give them more stars. I am just honestly worried to put paint to them… it’s not like I can easily and cheaply order another if I muck them up somehow. My Kickstarter pledge comes with one more miniature and a mounted miniature (which are not available yet). Stay tuned and in a couple weeks (after we get back from GaryCon!) I’ll have them painted up and show off the “final” product.

heroforged

Categories: Minis, Reviews, Technology, Tips

Warhorn101

September 7, 2014 3 comments

Warhorn.net is a great site for convention organizers and Friendly Local Gaming Store event planning. For the uninitiated, it can be a bit confusing to sign up, and reserve your seat at the gaming table. Somewhat recently the site went through a significant overhaul, with one main feature being that once you sign up for your free user account, you can use that same account for recurring game days at a FLGS or a yearly convention, like Asheville Comic Expo.

This is going to be a screenshot-heavy article, as I would like to detail the process on how you sign up for an account, and register for tables. Once you sign up, keep your login credentials handy, and you can use them for any events organized through warhorn. You can even add your Pathfinder Society Number and DCI (WotC/D&D organized play) numbers that will follow your login from event to event, but let’s not put the cart before the horse.

First, go to warhorn.net and sign up for a login in the upper right corner of the site:

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Fill out the form with your email, desired username, and password. You can use either your email or your username when you login to the site:

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It will now ask you to verify your email address. Clicking on confirm will send another confirmation email (check SPAM filters!):

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In your email you should see a message much like this. Click the Confirm my Account link in the email:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 12.25.40 PMOnce your account is confirmed, we can use warhorn Event listings to search for events in the area. They are divided into recurring game days (frequently at FLGS) or Upcoming Conventions:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 9.09.48 AMUse the search field just above dates to search for events happening in your area, or an area where you will be traveling:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 9.10.18 AMClick on that event to get more info and register for tables by clicking on the Register for this event button in the upper right. If you have questions you can also email the organizer on the far left:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 9.10.36 AMOnce you are registered, check out the Event schedule and sign up for tables:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 9.11.02 AMFor both conventions and recurring game days, games are typically listed by start time, and title. Open tables will list a “Play” if you want to be a PC or “GM” button if you want to run that table. It also gives you the option to join a waitlist if the table is already full. If there is a no-show, you are in!

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After clicking “Play” the site will ask you to confirm, just to make sure you got in on the right game:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 9.12.28 AMOnce you click Save it will reserve your spot at the table, allowing organizers to plan for more GMs if necessary, and allows you a guaranteed seat at your favorite game! If something comes up, or you want to switch tables before the event, you can always click “Withdraw” and sign up for something else:

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 9.12.52 AMBe sure and check for recurring game days in your area as well, and support your FLGS!

Screen shot 2014-09-07 at 9.14.58 AMHope this helps, and remember, once you’ve created your account you can use it for any conventions or game days organized through warhorn. It’s also a great site to see events in your region you may want to travel for! In less than two weeks, the Skyland Games crew will be running the RPG tables for Asheville Comic Expo (ACE). Sign up at the warhorn, and we’ll see you around the table!

 

 

Try before you buy – Board games on iOS

July 21, 2014 Comments off

Recently I’ve picked up a few games for the iPhone that started out as more traditional board or card games. A lot of them are great versions of the originals, with the added bonus of always being in your pocket, and allowing online games with friends who may not be able to make game night. They also tend to be a fraction of the cost of the physical board game.

hive.pngOne of my favorites is Hive. I bought this first as a physical board game at the recommendation of the Wyvern’s Tale. Essentially it is like a game of chess, in which different bugs move in different ways, and the object is to completely surround the opposing player’s bee. This is one of those easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master games, and has won a ton of awards. It quickly became one of my favorite games, and the quality of the physical tiles is fantastic. They have a nice weight and are clearly built to last. Not sure if you’re crazy about the concept? At a list price of $32, that can be a lot for something you may or may not like. Why not try it out first? The $2 iOS version will teach you all the rules through a tutorial, has two player local or online play, as well as play against various difficulties of AI. If it becomes one of your favorites, you can always pick up a copy at your friendly local gaming store!

Screen shot 2014-07-21 at 10.25.43 AMAnother one I tried out at a recent board game night was Fluxx. This is another seemingly simple game, that can great pretty crazy pretty quickly. The main goal is to collect “keepers” that match whatever the current goal card has on it. Keepers can be physical things, or concepts such as cookies, pizza, love, dreams, music, the brain, the rocket. The goals combine these like “Hearts and Minds” which requires both the brain and love, or “Dreamland” which requires both dreams and sleep. It’s kind of weird starting out, but you quickly get the hang of it. Other cards allow you to draw or discard more cards, or affect other player’s hands to try and get the keepers you need to win! There are a ton of expansions for Fluxx, The physical deck lists for $16, but if you’re not sure, the iOS version will only set you back $3.

QuarriorsScreen shot 2014-07-21 at 10.26.00 AM is a dice and card game that requires a little more screen real estate than most, so is iPad only. I’ve had my eye on this at the game store for some weeks, but never pulled the trigger. I *do* love dice games, but I didn’t know if I would like this one or, (more importantly) if my wife would like it as she is often my co-player. At a list price of $70, I really wanted to be sure. In Quarriors you start out by rolling dice to give you Quddity, a type of currency you use during your turn to summon your minions or capture other dice that are available on the cards dealt for the game. The cards are either other minion or spells which boost or augment minions, quiddity, or how many dice you draw from your bag. Overall I think it is enjoyable, but not something everyone would be in to. Is it worth $70? I don’t know. Is it worth $4? Absolutely!

Screen shot 2014-07-21 at 10.26.20 AMI’ve heard some very good things about the iOS adaptation of Lords of Waterdeep, but haven’t picked that one up as of yet. Next time you are on the fence about a board game, try before you buy! There may be an excellent mobile version out there already!

Categories: Board, Card, Dice, Reviews, Technology, Tips

Reconnecting with Roll20

July 14, 2014 Comments off

Roll20Recently, I started to really miss gaming with a group of friends who I had gamed with for years. We started together playing Living Greyhawk,and that branched out to many games and systems. We would play at different people’s houses, at libraries, one year we all travelled together and played GenCon and when I became “Triad” for the Florida region of Living Greyhawk, they helped me run conventions locally. We would play anywhere and everywhere we could. But then Living Greyhawk dissolved, I took a long break, and the group scattered.

I had moved from Tallahassee, Florida to Asheville, North Carolina. Another couple scored great jobs and had moved to Texas with their family. Another had gone south to Orlando… the band broke up. We’d chat on Facebook, like people do, and one of the gang said “Man, I wish we could play again like we did before!” and a light bulb went off: roll20.net

We had used roll20.net locally when a blizzard struck and we couldn’t get our Reign of Winter campaign folks all together. We had also used it to roll DCC characters and magic items, utilizing the free dice rolling utility in preparation for a week day game. For some odd reason it had never occurred to me to try and corral everyone together for a game until that point, but I’m glad it did.

We’ve used it now a handful of time and now have a weekly game happening every Tuesday night. I sprang for the “Mentor” level of sponsorship so that we can get all the bells and whistles that roll20.net has to offer. They have really upped the bar over tabletop and, as odd as this may sound, I almost prefer it to face-to-face gaming. Almost.

The “Dynamic Lighting” feature alone is worth the very low per-month charge. You can set each player’s “token” to their specific mode and strength of sight, assign someone to carry the torch (or light spell) and if that person moves away…? Well, then the rest of the party can’t see who is lurking in the cave or in the belly of that ship. If you prep beforehand, it takes into account line of sight, shadows, walls blocking the view… they have really thought of most everything. Macros, character sheets and click-to-roll buttons, sound effects, background music… it’s fantastic.

It does take longer to prep for a game, since you have to hunt down tokens or artwork, scan and size maps (which can be a pain) and scan in any handouts, puzzle pieces and so on. We use a Google+ hangout as well, since we found the voice and video to be buggy. Those quibbles and workarounds aside, it’s a great service and one I am happy to promote and support.

There is a large group of people using roll20 to organize on-line Pathfinder games, and the roll20 forums are filled with people looking for more players… so if you find yourself with some time to spare, check it out and give it a try.

Categories: Reviews, RPGs, Technology, Tips

Exercise in Character Creation, Part 3

May 12, 2014 Comments off

We have finally made it to the end of this little journey! If you have not been following along for the past month or so, read up on these two past articles (Part 1 and Part 2). Here are the results from the last round of voting (from 33 responses):

  • Personality – Lady Redfalcon (39%), Adris Redwing (33%), Longfang (27%)
  • Class – Slayer (39%), Urban Ranger (33%), Swashbuckler (27%)

I now present Adrian Redfeather’s alternate persona while adventuring with the Pathfinder Society; Lady Redfalcon. To disguise himself from his father’s peers and keep his identity an upmost secret, Adrian decided to make over himself the most drastic way he could think of; as a woman. Borrowing a pair of fighting fans from his father’s collection of the Far East along with a kimono that was given to his mother and a long, black-haired wig, he is incorporating them into his new persona. Drawing upon skills learned from his father, Adrian is able to combine aspects of rangers and rogues to create the mystique of the shy and demure, yet positively deadly, woman known only as Lady Redfalcon.

I want to thank everyone who voted for voting. I think this was kind of an interesting process that I will definitely have fun with the results. Thank you all again!

Powerful Paper: Cardstock Modelling in Your Game

February 18, 2014 Comments off

Fat Dragon Games’ Depths of the Drow

Today ended a successful Kickstarter campaign for Fat Dragon Games‘ medieval village of Ravenfell.  The village of Ravenfell, and the products of the inevitable stretch goals, are paper modelling products:  You print them, cut them, paste them, and viola! you’ve got as much scenery as you could possibly need (for that particular setting anyway).

I got into this many years ago, and spent a week toiling away cutting out bits and pieces for my planned game of Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords.  That module (30 year old spoiler alert) takes part largely in the Slaver City of Suderham, and several bars come into play.  I printed and prepped several key barroom items and I was able to mix and match my way into the appearance of several unique appearing locations.This is before I sank unmentionable sums on the last Dwarven Forge Kickstarter, (in fact, it predated kickstarter) but I think it added something, and could potentially be quite worthwhile to produce decent scenery on the cheap.

Paper Modelling is in some ways superior to your plaster and plastic backgrounds and scenery, in that they are objectively quite beautiful and not subject to your potentially substandard painting skills.  You also have as much as you care to print, and could potentially manufacture an entire city for the price of the PDF and an ink cartridge (or two).  I’ve been using Posterize to great effect to get the benefit of the beautiful maps from Paizo’s modules, as I stated a few blog posts ago, but this is a higher order entirely: Three dimensional, and now stacked in layers, if Fat Dragon’s Tom Tullis is to be believed.  I clicked in at the “Beggar $1.00” level for a while before finally being sold to jump in at the Knight level at $50.00.  It’s a lot for some PDF’s but I appreciate the effort and support the project.  And what do kids really need with a college education anyway.

There are significant downsides, to be sure.  Paper modelling takes time.  Precise cutting and gluing can be tedious work, and sometimes things don’t seem to come out quite how you expected they would.  Ink isn’t cheap, either, and depending on your printer, you might wonder if you’re really saving money or not.  Traditionally, the items are not as durable as a resin or plaster product (though are infinitely more replaceable) and can be tricky to store without crushing.  Fat Dragon has apparently attempted to address this with collapsible pieces, which I look forward to giving a try.

Should you choose to download a copy of their other products, I believe you’ll be pleased with the quality of the artwork, and you’ll find that your time invested can be richly rewarding.  You’ll want to pick up a few items to complete your ‘kit’ for paper modelling.

1. “Self-healing” cutting mat – these come in various sizes and serve to protect your tabletop while allowing your blade to cut the template cleanly.

2. Exacto knife – You don’t want to try this with scissors…. you might have one of these already from your miniature modelling, which will save you a few bucks.  A must for these sometimes complex templates.

3. Water based glue – a type of craft glue that is tough yet forgiving (you may want some super glue at some point for certain models, however).

4. Markers – You’ll find that darkening the edges of the scores and cuts that compose the corners of your models will drastically improve the quality of their appearance.

5. Metal Ruler – Typically with a cork back, this will avoid slipping while cutting and make sure your cuts are a little more clean.

Consider going out and buying a set or taking a shot with the various free samples out there on the internet.  You may find that you’ve got a new hobby, or at the very least the perfect prop for that encounter makes a particular encounter special.

Not Just XP – How to Tell Your NPC’s Story

October 28, 2013 2 comments

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A lot of times when you have a published campaign, especially some of the ones I’ve seen from Paizo, there are richly developed NPC villains that may have complex and fascinating motivations…. that the PC’s will probably steamroll right over without ever getting a glimpse of it.

Perhaps one of my favorite examples of this was in the old Living Greyhawk module The Reckoning wherein a party of would-be waylayers are involved in a love triangle that can somewhat irregularly shift the targets of their attacks in mid-combat if you injured their would-be lover.  I ran the combat several times, and only once did anyone figure it out.

So how do you draw this material to the surface?  Sometimes it’s right in the module: a journal, a note, or some box text.  The other tools at your disposal vary depending on the resources you have at the ready, but a few ideas follow that can help tell your module’s story in its richest form.

Clues: Sometimes, present or not in your module, you can take certain liberties to make sure that the party comes into the information and motivations of your NPCs.  Perhaps an infatuated mercenary has sketches he has made of the beautiful mage that has hired him, or a pile of half-burned or crumpled attempts at poetry in the fireplace or behind his bed.  Something you, as the GM, should become used to is the feeling that you are hammering your players over the head with these clues.  In my experience, if you feel like it’s plainly obvious, your players will feel very proud of themselves when they deduce the “secret” after 10 minutes of contemplation.  It’s plain as day from your side of the screen, but they’re dealing with a lot of abstract stimuli.

Monologuing – This is perhaps the worst kind of obvious tripe, but trust me, its a tool in your GM toolkit that you need to use.  An epic boss fight NEEDS to have this happen, so the villain takes on robust character and the PC’s can feel their hate for this guy.  Further, it keeps him from being just a bundle of stats.  I’ve fought several major villains who never said a word, and it amounted to bad GM’ing.  But, the key here is DON’T JUST RESERVE THIS FOR MAJOR NPC’s.  Trash talk happens, and it warms up NPC’s beyond just statistics, especially when they really have something to say.  It needn’t be a speech, but a few words to tell that character’s story.  With the star-crossed lovers, shouting out the name of the love lost as he is struck, or muttering, “I won’t leave her” may seem (again) heavy handed but it’ll be received as just enough for the players to get on the same page as you.

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The Rumor:  Maybe the player hasn’t seen something, but rest assured in a small town, or in a society where information is currency, a barkeep, courtesan, beggar or child may have seen the way one NPC regards another, or perhaps overhears something said in anger or frustration.  This could be delivered naturally as part of some other interaction with the information holder in question, or could be as obvious as a Knowledge (Local) roll, probably depending on how much time you want to spend  on it.

Cutscene:  This can be done live, though it is often hard to do well.  In a game where we rescued the Juliet to the bandit chief’s Romeo, the GM successfully pulled off a complex dialog by making little puppets with his hands.  While hard to take too seriously, we got the story of their lost love that we might not otherwise have noticed, and it changed the fate of the bandit chief when we escaped and had the upper hand.  He eventually evolved into an ally, which made a much better story than another defeated CR 3 encounter left behind in our wake.

It is more easily done through a message group, email, or dedicated site for your game (like the Google sites we discussed in Customized Gaming or, our favorite, Obsidian Portal). Here, you have the opportunity to plan what you’re going to say, describe details and actions, and even let the players read minds (“Milady, there is no Thieves Guild,” the Watch Captain lied, thinking how he might spend the silvers that threatened to burst the seams of his coinpurse.”)

The content of a cutscene is just like we see in a movie.  It is material that the characters do not see but the players are made aware of.  It is not for all players.  Some may not like it, some may not be able to separate what they know from what their characters know.   But showing how they have left behind a clue for a pursuer, for example, may explain to them the unlikely events that follow when the bounty hunter appears on their doorstep, etc.  These take some skill, and some good players.

Now that we have the HOW, the next question is the WHAT.  What do you put in these cutscenes, these hints, these rumors?  The answer is “Just enough.” A few simple guidelines:

  • Never spoil any surprises – You can hint, but don’t solve the mystery.  A cutscene or clue is to bring the player and the character up to speed with story developments, but not to catapult ahead to a conclusion.  Think Empire Strikes Back when Obi-Wan says, “That boy is our last hope” and Yoda’s response, “No, there is another.” Whet their appetite.
  • Know your players – Some people cannot handle knowing something and not using it.  If you’re running a cutscene that contains sensitive information, beware of players that might metagame their way out of a challenge.  Either know they’re good for it, or if not, lock them in before hand, then spring it on them right away, or don’t give them enough in the cutscene to metagame with.
  • Don’t overdo it – This tool may have been around forever, but the way we’re used to seeing it in the 20th and 21st centuries is through film.  Use it to tell your story, but be mindful of pacing, necessity, and its overall influence on your game.

Plan it out, then give this a try next time you read the rich background of someone who is going to die after about 3 rounds of combat.  See if it changes the way the characters deal with that NPC, and check to see if the players do anything differently either.  You might be surprised at the outcome.