Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hill terrain from insulation foam

After making some progress with my 15mm sci-fi troops, I needed to get some terrain together. As always, I'm really on a budget. I'm also hesitant as a likely move is looming in the near future. Keeping the amount of stuff I need to ship low (and light) is weighing on my mind as of late. So really putting a lot of model time into terrain feels sort of a waste, especially if I'll be throwing out half the stuff I whip up.

I managed to pick up some packing material made of dense foam insulation material about 3" thick. As thick cylinders with nice flat sides, taking a knife to the center meant I could get two hills. Roughing up the surface even more with a craft knife left a lot of nice texture with the edges. And a few I cut with an even sharper angle to give one direction a more impassible facing cliff.

The material was soft however. Using some acrylic paints for canvas and a few coats, I was able to layer on a decent base coat that was more flexible to prevent excessive cracking. A simple wash also brought out more of the crevices and cracks within the cut foam.

A final drybrush really highlighted the texture of the hills. In the image you can see a comparison side by side between a base coat with a wash and one that has been drybrushed. It's a basic project that turned out pretty well. All it took was a few base coats, a quick wash, and drybrushing. Three basic techniques that can provide you good results in record time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Expeditions of Amazing Adventure: The giant battlegrounds of Gormthal Peaks

Far to the southeast lie the Edgeworld mountains. The furthest range east, south of the gap claimed by the Karagan-Shale dwarven clan is the Gormthal Peaks. This harsh landscape of stone and lava has long been a home to both fire and storm giants alike. For centuries, the giant clans held a loose alliance against the stalwart dwarves that clung to old holds at the base of the mountain range.

However, such a tepid alliance was sundered when the widowed king of the fire giants stole away the storm giant king’s eldest daughter. Such a brazen act, without consul from the father for a blessing (and more importantly, a sizable dowry) was deemed an irreverent insult to the storm giant clans. A great war was taken up that raged on for years. Decades later it still goes on, but no longer are great battles fought. Instead small skirmishes continually break out among their borders, primarily from young giants seeking to make a name fighting their enemy kin.

Such a war among these great beings has taken a severe toll on the landscape. Gormthal Peaks was always dappled with volcanic rock. However now the mountain stone is gouged with deep burning slashes and lava exploding into surrounding soot-choked air. As an answer to the continual gouts of flame and lava, ever rolling dark clouds billow above, arcing lightning and expelling frequent bouts of acrid rain.

What forced the fire giant king to do such a reckless act? None can state with any authority. Some claim that the storm giant princess was claimed without her consent and is still a prisoner within his fiery halls.

Other more bardic tales weave one of forbidden love. The princess knew that her father would never bless their marriage and no dowry would ever satisfy her father’s greed, so she herself spirited away to her lover. So enraged was the storm giant king, that he struck out at the fire giants, claiming he was wronged. Better to fight a war than admit the wounding of his pride, that his very daughter sought true love over family honor.

With war brings opportunities for some. Those willing to make the long trek and face the harsh wilds teeming with vile monsters may find some employ among the giants. Each side is always in dire need of reports of troop movements and activities among the respective war councils. Such efforts of espionage is best done with smaller folk and outsiders. While wary employers, known for wicked deceitfulness, some mercenaries with more neutral philosophies have found work aligning themselves with one giant faction.

Such open employment is looked down on very harshly from the neighboring dwarven clans. However the dwarves have been known to also recruit outsiders to play the part of mercenaries for the giants. Adopting this facade some have done greater acts of subterfuge within the giant holds, most secretly pass information to the Karagan-Shale clan on the activities of their giant enemies. This work is a dangerous game, not only risking the perilous wildlife within the mountains, but also the wrath of the giants if such a betrayal is discovered.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Review: Broken Earth - a Savage Worlds adventure setting

I sort of lean away from a lot of official Savage World adventure settings and stick with the companion books instead. While having material for a particular setting is great, usually the official settings are a bit much. I completely dig the idea that they take your typical genre and give it a hearty turn. So a setting like Necessary Evil isn’t just with superheros, but has the PCs playing villains which are trying to fight against an alien invasion of Earth. The official campaign settings are fun twists of your typical genre, but I lean a little more vanilla for my world settings.

A favorite post-apocalypse setting out there for Savage Worlds is, 'The Day After Ragnarok', however it’s got some odd bits dealing with an aftermath closer to the end of WWII. It’s almost a bizarre alternate history setting rather than a futuristic post-apocalyptic one. Likewise, I could always mine Gamma World for stuff, but at times it’s a little too gonzo.

Enter Broken Earth from Sneak Attack Press.
This SW campaign setting is a tad more muted with content compared to your typical Gamma World-type game. While it deals with trying to survive in a world altered after a nuclear war, it’s more aligned with the classic, Aftermath! RPG.

Think more along the lines of the Road Warrior and Book of Eli as a setting vibe. That’s not to go without saying mutations aren't options in the game. They are there, along with more fantastic mutated creatures, but it’s toned down some. The campaign setting is within the northern midwest spilling a little into former Canada. However the major factions and locations could easily be plopped into any other location with little alteration.

Players have a few options for races aside from your typical human. They range from tough irradiated freaks, to non-tech but intelligent ape-beings. Androids and psychic mutants are also an option. Overall the races have small edges balanced with a few hindrances, but nothing is too extensive making me more inclined to include them in a game even if they are a little out there.

As for special backgrounds, mutants, super science, a variety of psychic disciplines, as well as a special alchemist type which make super drugs (akin to the stuff you’d find in a Fallout video game) are all possibilities. It’s a way of giving the game trappings of a stranger theme but not too over-the-top and you’ll find many of the mutation edges conferring small bonuses. A nice turnaround with this are hindrances that can also be related to mutations, so not everything has to give you superpowers.

There are not a lot of additional rules for the setting which is something I like. There’s some details on races and a handful of edges and hindrances. The arcane background types have a few options, but nothing overbearing. Gear and loot have an additional characteristic based on rarity. While lasers and futuristic weapons are given stats, they are exceedingly rare, as are conventional firearms. So by default rules players will likely be pressed to ever get their hands on one (and as such ‘mundane’ items would make for great rewards).

There are some interesting rules regarding communities. They are given basic characteristics along with edges. It’s a concept continually reinforced that players should have strong ties to certain communities, and that these communities can change over time. It’s a simple set of rules that really give life to the world and allow for each location to stand out more than being just a list of characteristics.

On the GM side of things you have a detailed location with several different communities and various NPC wild-cards. The players have an option of aligning themselves with 3 main political groups. One is a nomadic tribe of hunters and gatherers, another is a tech-loving survival group that has been locked away in an underground complex for decades, and the last is a free-wheeling merchant group that maintains its status by being the main trader for various communities.

The factions are interesting. Each one has room for PCs to grow, and include options for forcing them out into the world. Best of all, every faction has faults. The Iron Shelter group are tech-driven survivalists, but they could also be seen a xenophobic community fearing change and perfectly willing to stay hunkered down in their rigid, controlled society. The Wright family head up an immensely successful group of people that thrive on mutual trade, but only those in the extended Wright family really benefit while others in their community live in squalor. It’s these flaws that help inject some gray into what might be considered a black and white world.

There are other factions for the GM to play around with. Most notable is the Green Empire, being formally a small community of ecological protectors, that have slowly morphed into a slavery driven empire powered by biodiesel-fueled vehicles. The initial plot point adventure has the players facing off against representatives from this group. There is an additional plot point campaign more epic in scale, where players initially aid and fight against various sentient AI supercomputers. This plot point campaign involves PCs traveling and exploring lost technical complexes and facing off against robotic sentries. It very much has a Gamma World vibe.

These aren't the only seeds for adventures, with plenty of smaller adventure plots also included in the book. Along with an extensive list of important NPCs for particular locales, a slim bestiary, and oodles of random encounter charts, there are a lot of tools here for your game. It’s a well put together setting with enough parts for a GM to take a kitchen sink approach, taking everything between the covers, to trimming some options and still having enough to make the setting stand out.

The Good - It’s a great post-apocalypse setting. There are enough rules and detail to give the world some flavor, but not be burdened down by a slog of new material. The setting itself takes an idea of a world about 20-30 years in the future that suddenly ends due to a cataclysmic nuclear war, and then adds another 80 years of recovery to the current day. So it allows some wiggle room for the fantastic with high-tech gadgets, but at the same time have many backdrop trappings of the world now. There are a lot of tables, NPCs, and information on locales and the various factions within them to give the GM plenty of material to easily run a game.

The hardback book is good thick stock with most of the art evocative of the theme. There is an index along with a table of contents which is always a plus. The pages are simple black and white with a comfortable font for reading.

The Bad - One big gripe I have are the maps. The hex scale is nice and the labels are clear, however it still requires a legend. I really wish a more general map with named locations was provided. The book clearly designed to go hand in hand with the SW core rules, yet having some more tables and details on environmental hazards would have been nice. The page stock is a tad thin, and some of the text is rather close to the binding. I wish they were a little more generous with the margin spacing.

The Verdict -Broken Earth is very much a niche campaign book. It isn’t quite a wild-weird setting that something like Gamma World would cover. It doesn’t have room for you to make up tons of bizarre mutants and lots of wild sci-fi tech. It does however provide a little more grounded post-apocalypse world. There is certainly some freedom in the setting to incorporate weird stuff. While the setting has androids, mutants, and psychics, all being a little fantastical, it’s still much closer to a world like a Canticle for Leibowitz, Aftermath!, or Twilight 2000. I think the Fallout video game series captures it the best. It’s a post-apocalyptic setting that is a little off-kilter from a ‘realistic’ world like the Road Warrior.

There are a couple of things I really like about the book. There are some new rules, edges, hindrances, but not so much so that it becomes an entirely different game. It really embraces the adventure setting philosophy of supplementing the Savage Worlds rulebook, not replacing it. The game has a lot of tools to help a GM run the game. There are lots of random encounter charts, random loot, and a ton of typical extras and wildcard NPC personalities.

Finally, does Broken Earth provide enough material to easily run a post-apocalypse game? That is a resounding yes. There are enough NPCs, critters, and detailed locations to seed a lot of adventures. Even better is that there are plenty of campaign plot points to tell a grander adventure (with plenty of opportunities to run a smaller games too). This is very much a pick up and play campaign setting and it’s all enclosed in a single book. If you wanted to take a stab at running a post-apocalyptic game using Savage Worlds, where players carefully explore dangerous ruins with a pitted, rusty metal spear in one hand and a prized, weathered, laser pistol in the other, this book will fit the bill.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Digby’s Wondrous Arcane Wares: Thief's Paw

[A shriveled gnome travels the lands in a ledge wagon drawn by an old donkey. The cart itself appears as a simple shack of knot-ridden boards with tarnished brass fittings precariously perched on four solid wooden wheels. The gnome claims to be none other than the famed mad alchemist and mystic, Digby. Such a fanciful tale is likely just a ploy to sell enchanted trinkets as it would make the gnome well over 500 years old. However one cannot deny the gnarled form is surprisingly deft and almost spritely in step as he moves about his shop. Nearly every village or city within the lands will have Digby come for a visit during the year. When doing so he always makes a simple camp out at the town border, opening his stock of arcane goods to whomever passes, and eagerly offering tales of the magical items of Dungeon World].

Thief's Paw

Weight 0, Far, Grotesque

This shriveled hand is rumored to have been severed from a thieving ‘adventurer’ and cursed by a powerful lich. The gnarled, blackened hand is stiff and smells of pungent oils and sickly sweet herbs. When held and a brief sentence given as a command, the hand can be dropped and it will slowly scuttle off attempting to complete its task.

The hand is clumsy with a paltry strength. It can carry small items that might fit within its leathery palm of a weight no more than a pound. It cannot offer any deft manipulation of objects, as the joints stiffly creak and fumble with anything but the most basic of mechanical devices. One interesting characteristic is that the hand is a fair climber, able to dig its chipped nails into stonework and even slowly climb up walls.

While it will steadfastly attempt to complete its task and slowly scramble back to its owner, the paw operates as an automaton. It possesses no stealth and some find using the paw can be maddeningly frustrating at times. If ordered to unlatch a window, the paw will open the nearest and dutifully return to its owner, whether the targeted window was the desired one by its master or not.

Nonetheless, the Thief's Paw is highly sought by burglars. Such rogues have found it able to steal small trinkets and sneak back keys to locked doors. Although having this ghastly trophy could bring more trouble on the owner, as it usually will pique the interest of town guards and other holy followers for possessing a such a necromatic fetish.