Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Make-its of Days Past: Maps, Falrhea and Ravenwood

Hey hey, map junkies! I've got a couple more maps to share with you from my very first DM's notebook. The first is a very similar, yet slightly different left-justified regional map akin to the one I posted a couple weeks ago! 

I'm not sure how this map relates to the previous region, but I suspect they are part of the same game world. I haven't found a whole lot of notes pertaining to either of these maps. I think high school me was more fond of the drawing aspect of world-building, and likely kept a lot of the relevant story in my brain rather than putting it on paper. Over the course of time, the contextual details, which informed these maps has long-since faded.

That being said, present me really likes the detail past high school me put into the coastline, and is honestly impressed at the decent place names my younger self came up with.

Despite my decent naming skills, "Falrhea" sounds like vertigo-induced dysentery
The second map is of the city of Raven Wood and its surroundings. I dig the smattering of dots and random shapes used to flesh out the population centers. Though I'm not sure high school me really understood how rivers flow. One seems to dead-end in a corn field.

While losing the contextual details behind these places after 20 years in a musty closet is a little sad, these maps also present a sort of blank slate from which to form new stories! I may see if I can't work some of these into the Westerlands at some point.

If you like these ongoing posts of maps from my gaming past, stay tuned. There are still more in my binder and I plan to keep sharing them here. 

On a separate note, in case you missed it, I updated my final Halloween costume post with a couple of better pics taken by my friend, Dan.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Make-it Monday: Halloween 2013, Forest King and Raven Queen

A back-lit closeup of my final do

We hosted our annual Halloween party this past Saturday. We had probably a good 20-25 people at our house over the course of five hours with a lot of cool costume ideas happening. Among the many wonderful outfits at the party, we had the Swedish Chef, the pin-up Hilda, Jeeves and Wooster, Bob Ross and a happy tree. The costumes the Wife and I have been slaving over for the past month or so turned out spectacularly. 

Here is the Wife and I in our full get-up

and a close-up of the hooves
Unfortunately, our actual camera has been dead for a few weeks now, so we only had my cellphone, which was also serving as an mp3 player with the music for the evening, so our pictures were sparse and not of the greatest quality. Fortunately, some friends of ours also had cameras at the ready. So, here is a sampling of the other guests.

Though this pic wasn't taken at my party, my adorable niece showed up wearing this.

Brunhilda and Bat-Girl talk with Hank Venture -taken by me

Hank Venture meets zombie hiker and zombie frat boy -taken by my friend, Rene

Venture-Archer power combo -taken by my friend, Rene

A good full-length shot of the Wife's cloak -taken by my friend, Rene
 Oh, of course, before the party began, I had to take the obligatory duck-faced selfie.

UPDATE: 10/29/13
Our friend, Dan uploaded a couple new pics!

This is what I wake up to every morning! ; )

A MUCH better pic of the Wife and I
With another successful Halloween party in the bag, we must now consider whether we will ever wear these costumes again. If we get invited to a party next weekend, we might. Unfortunately, we don't get a lot of trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood. I am pondering the practicality of putting the outfit back on for karaoke next Friday... hmmm...

If this is the first Halloween post you've seen, check out how we made our costumes at the following links.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Halloween Pt. 6, Final Assembly

This post is a day late because the Wife and I have been pushing hard to finalize our costumes. After several weeks of work, we finished the assembly of our various pieces just this morning. 

Read on for the details!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Unboxing: Dwarven Forge Kickstarter

It seems like ever since I got back into gaming as an adult, I have coveted Dwarven Forge's tile sets. Like a Geek Chic gaming table, they represented a sort of geek status symbol. A badge of gaming LEETness that, in my mind, could only be attained by nerd corporate collections or celebrities. Why? Well, just like the ol' Geek Chic stuff, Dwarven Forge's tiles are friggin' expensive! At about $120-$150 per set, you end up paying about $3 per 2x2 tile... or, in terms of actual space, $0.75 per square inch. That is actually about on par with the cost of buying an ACTUAL HOUSE in the Seattle area... if you calculate your home prices per square inch of floor space.

So, for a long time, I contented myself with lower cost options. I built up a collection of excellent half-built papercraft sets, dungeon tiles and stand-in set pieces crafted from Lego, cardboard and bits of household junk.

Then Dwarven Forge ran headlong into my Kickstarter addiction. Suddenly, I saw my destiny before me, like a watery tart distributing swords! I could have my own plastic Camelot* I opened my pocket book and let the money flow forth. Of course, because the Kickstarter wound up being so successful --earning nearly $2 million from an initial goal of $50k-- there were lots of stretch goal bonuses thrown in, which stretched the value of my not inconsiderable investment.

Of course, that initial investment happened months ago. I feel like the delay between funding and delivery actually makes Kickstarter MORE dangerous to my financial well being. If I see a cool project that I want to fund, I end up waiting months before receiving my backer rewards. When they finally arrive, the initial investment is but a foggy memory of the past until, suddenly... PACKAGE AT THE DOOR! OMG! CHRISTMAS IN [ROLL RANDOM MONTH ON 1D12]! The high of that almost unexpected package is up there with... other... REALLY awesome stuff.

That is what I came home to after my business trip last week. The unexpected Kickstarter reward. A heavy box on my doorstep. Here's what was inside...

What's in the box?
I sure hope it isn't Gwyneth Paltrow's head!
One thing about this delivery is that everything was packed in super efficiently. Within the outer box were four smaller boxes packed with meticulously aligned dungeon tiles.

There was also a set of paints that I picked up as an add-on since I opted for the cheaper, unpainted tiles. Dwarven Forge threw in a surprise set of brushes and a tote bag for free!

Of course, the first thing I did was to unpack everything and lay it out in rank and file for inspection. This is what my investment got me. The tiles alone represent over 3x what I would expect to get ordering a Dwarven Forge direct from their site. Granted, I have to paint them myself, but the DF folks have made some handy painting tutorials, and it looks like the process is actually pretty quick once you get the hang of it.

The plastic feels solid and sturdy in the hand. Having never encountered a Dwarven Forge tile in person, I wasn't sure what to expect. Overall, I am pleased so far with the quality of the product. The only downsides I can identify so far are:

  1. The labor that will go into painting these (which I enjoy so is it really a negative?)
  2. The small 2x2 size of the standard tiles. While this level of modularity is great for customizing layouts, I'll need to do some testing to see how tough it becomes to set things up during play.
  3. One of the 6 or 8 doors that came with the set is stuck closed. When dealing with this many tiles, is having a single malfunctioning piece such a big issue? Plus, it's not like I can't still place it as a door. My poor players will just have to IMAGINE it opens.
So, yes... I have reached the next tier of geekdom. I have my first Dwarven Forge set. I look forward to getting it spiffed up for play.

Watch out! I'm coming for you next, Geek Chic!

*I wish Camelot referred to an ocelot camel hybrid!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Make-it Monday: Halloween pt. 5, Hooves, Collars, Antlers and Crowns

The wife's raven queen contacts came in!

Lots of crazy, crafty stuff has been happening around the Sporkchop household this week, especially on the Halloween front. I put up a bunch of our Halloween decorations before leaving on my business trip, so the place is starting to look quite festive.

The wife and I also made quite a bit of progress on our costumes! I got rolling on covering my newly formed hooves and painting each of our crowns while the wife worked on her collar piece and my antlers.

Here's what we got done...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Encounter Design: Party Planning

Two weeks ago, I ran the first real session of my second campaign. Because the session picked up just a few months after the climax of the first campaign, my players decided that the wanted to kick things off with a celebratory feast. Makes sense, given that they saved the world, and all.

Celebrations aren't new to this particular group of players. Their characters have thrown several shindigs over the course of their careers. In the past, however, its usually been just a matter of blowing some well-earned loot, bolstering their reputation, and the in-session commitment has involved a bit of flowery description and maybe ten minutes of our time.

This time was different. This time, they wanted something... several somethings, actually.

During a couple pre-campaign get togethers while the players were leveling, upgrading their base of operations and blowing their well earned loots on new shiny things, they hatched a plan for this party. They wanted to use it to advance a couple plot threads left over after the last campaign, and to hopefully kick off a couple more.

Specifically, they hoped to accomplish the following:
  1. Reveal the secret royal identity of the party's rogue
  2. Legitimize their ownership of their base of operations (gained while the land was in conflict)
  3. See if they could find some insight into an ongoing demon-possession problem the party monk is dealing with
  4. Look into purchasing an airship from the gnomes so they could go recover the remains of a dragon hoard they were forced to leave in a far off ruin during an earlier adventure
  5. Look into opening a trade route via an abandoned pass in their territory to a neighboring country
  6. Oh, and of course, endear themselves to the people
That's it, no bigs, right?

Well, of course there was no way I would let them reap the potential rewards to be gained from these various desires with just a bit of description and a few minutes time. There are big ticket items in there, and they would need to work for them! So, I decided to turn the celebration into a session-long encounter, complete with the very real possibility of horrible, embarrassing failure.

Here's how I did it:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Make-it of Days Past: Map, Amak Tor and Surroundings

I am on the road this week, so you are getting the travel edition of ROFL Initiative. I rolled for random encounters during my trip today and got one delayed flight, which lead to several extra hours tacked on to my travel time.

Anyway, mapmaster, Dyson Logos has been encouraging everyone on G+ to post mapping creations from their pasts. So I have. Here is another map from my very first game world, that I created back in high school. This map doesn't have quite the polish of the one I posted last week. My river placement and coloring are much sloppier.

One thing that is interesting about this map is that the place names really show the influence that David Eddings was having on my high school self. The heavy use of "K"s in the place names on this map indicates that this is bad country. 

In other news, if you have ever wondered what it takes to start up a video game company, I recommend you check out my buddy Charles' blog. He's been producing games for the likes of Microsoft and Sony for over a decade, but set out on his own recently to start his own company. His blog is tracking the earliest stirrings of his newly full time company. If you're interested in reading about what it takes to get into games AS IT HAPPENS, I highly recommend you check out his shizzle... and his blog.

I've got more maps, more costume updates and a recap/how-to for running an encounter centered on a feast or celebration all in the works, so stay tuned!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Make-it Monday: Halloween Costume 2013, pt. 4, Assembly Begins

The cat's costume is all ready to go!
She is ready to think outside the poop box.
The Wife and I shifted into Halloween high gear this weekend. With just two weeks left until our party, we needed to get a move on. We finished the rest of our costume purchases and started the assembly process for my costume.

We started with my costume, because the first steps for both costumes involve sewing, which I suck at. So, rather than have me sit around unable to do anything while the Wife knocks out her costume, we started with mine so that once the sewing was done, I could run with it, freeing the Wife to tackle her stuff. Here's how this weekend's activities shook out.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mapping Habits: Cartographic Zoolander

Current Game

High School Game

As I was poring over the recovered maps, notes and drawings from my recently rediscovered high school gaming binder, I noticed something interesting. The map of my current game world bears an uncanny resemblence to the nearly 20 year-old world map from my very first game! Both maps feature:
  • A western ocean 
  • A main coastling running north-south
  • Clusters of islands off the coast 
  • A verdant central landmass  
  • A large mountain range that wraps from the north around along the eastern edge of the map 
  • A desert on the eastern slope of the main mountain range
  • A smaller coastal mountain range
As I thought about this situation further, I started to also notice uncanny similarities in other major fantasy settings. While these settings may not have all of the features mentioned above, they all include a prominent western ocean, and often several of the other features. Take a look at the following maps and tell me there isn't a striking family resemblence!

Tolkien's Middle Earth

The Sword Coast from The Forgotten Realms

The Kingdoms of the West from the Belgariad

Terry Brooks' Shannara

Robert Jordan's world from the Wheel of Time

Brian Jacques' Mossflower


I FEEL LIKE I'M TAKING CRAZY PILLS! Why!? Why do so many of the characteristics in these maps overlap? What compels all of these various authors, myself included to assign similar spatial structures to their worlds? I have a couple possible theories...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Make-its of Days Past: Map and Airship Diagram

I've been going through a bunch of boxes retrieved from my family's storage unit, and recently stumbled on the most amazing thing! My DM binder from THE VERY FIRST D&D CAMPAIGN I RAN BACK IN HIGH SCHOOL!! This is vintage gaming gold from the days of 2e folks! Of course if I recall, the campaign lasted all of two or three sessions, but the world-building was pretty epic.

Here is a map and an airship drawing that I scanned from the binder for just a little taste of the stuff I unearthed. Check 'em out! I'll probably upload other bits I find as I get my old notebook reorganized. Who knows, I may try to incorporate some of this stuff into my current game.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Make-it Monday: Halloween Costume 2013, pt. 3, Hoof Design

I made some good progress on the Halloween costume this weekend. While I have still not yet begun assembly, the Wife and I did manage to pick up most of the remaining ingredients for our outfits. I also took some time to sketch out my plan for turning my feet into hooves. 

I plan to use some of the sculptural mesh the Wife got to build her collar to form a sort of boot topper that will blunt my feet into large hoof shapes. We picked up some fake fur at the fabric store, which will make a nice border to mask the edge of the hoof where it meets my leggings.

In addition to the fur, I also picked up some fabric for my cloak, some craft leather strips to wrap my leggings; some rhinestones, which I plan to use for eyes in my coyote head; and several packs of sculpting clay, which I will use to make lightweight antlers.

So, I am just about done purchasing for the costume. Unless I am forgetting something, I think I only need to get a tunic, and a wig before I have all the raw bits.

In other make-it news, I also got together with my dad this weekend to discuss my mini display case project, which had stalled out a bit over the past month. After hanging out in his wood shop for a bit, we managed to work out some clear next steps. This week I hope to knock out a diagram to calculate the total board-feet I will need to purchase in the wood of my choice.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bones Kickstarter II: Even Bonier

Well, the folks at Reaper have done it again. They just launched the sequel to their very successful Bones Minis Kickstarter with another KS project offering another massive batch of minis. The project launched yesterday, and by the evening was already pushing $1 million raised of a $30,000 goal!

Of course, I was weak and broke my self-imposed KS hiatus. The first batch was so awesome, despite being a major exercise in delayed gratification! I suspect that after this round I'll have enough minis to keep me occupied for a decade.

But... The value! THE VALLYOOOO! After just one day, the unlocked stretch goals mean a $100 pledge gets you a cost-per- mini value below $0.75. If you like painting minis, or have ever thought about starting, I highly doubt you will find more bang for your buck anywhere.

I swear, these Kickstarters are probably just a ploy to sell more paint. ;)

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