Monday, December 27, 2010

Keeping my game afloat. Part 2

Ugh, I've been working on this post since Dec 19th, at 9:17am. It is currently December 28th, at 10:15pm. I'm getting this done tonight, dammit!

While I was working on the ship tiles I featured in my previous post, I was looking for an easy way out. Why? Because doing the intricate cut-and-paste job to cover up the room numbers that are all over that particular map was driving me nuts at times. I got myself into a grove to finish the tiles, but before I hit that grove, I started looking into 3D models.

First I started researching scales, so that I could focus my search and waste as little time as possible. If you don't know, maps in D&D are designed with a 1" grid, with each 1" square representing 5 square feet. Thus, the maps and miniature bases are on a 1:60 scale. However, vertically, the miniatures themselves are bigger than that. In general, they more closely match the 1:48 to 1:50 scale. It depends a lot on the individual miniature.

In order to fit the horizontal scale of the maps (and thus miniature bases) without making things look exceptionally tiny compared to the vertical scale, I decided to favor the vertical scale, and adjust accordingly for the horizontal scale. Unfortunately, though, not many scale model companies use a 1:50 scale. This scale corresponds to O-scale in train modeling, and that's a fairly common scale, as I understand it, but looking into these products had my eyes bugging out of my head at the cost! So, after recovering from sticker-shock, I scaled up ever-so-slightly, and went with 1:48 scale, which is a fairly popular one for military models (especially those by Tamiya, a Japanese company that produces very high quality models).

After working out the scale, I ran into another problem, though: there actually aren't many ship models that are produced in 1:48 scale. If they are, they are rather expensive wooden models. Since this whole project is to produce this kind of prop on a budget, that wasn't going to work out very well, so I simply began searching for models of an acceptable length and width. I was dubious about this particular plan of mine, but it actually worked out better than I'd anticipated.

I found a model on eBay and in a few online shops. It was for a pirate ship wooden model, by some unidentified company. (Note: Oh, apparently it is "Toysmith". *shrug*)

The details of it said that it was 16 inches long, which would be a pretty good, given the scale of 1:60 putting that at around 80 feet long. It looked to be about 3 or 4 inches wide, which would be about 15-20 feet by that scale, so I was liking this idea! I was still not entirely comfortable with the price, though, as most of them were between $25-35. Geez. (Oh, or the actual price of the model isn't too bad... around $10, but they attempt to scam you by charging up to $15 for shipping!)

However, on one trip through Michael's, the craft store, I found this!

It was on special for only $5, too!

It took me a few days to get around to building it. I punched out most of the pieces right away when I got it home, but since I had to figure out the order of putting it together (it is a puzzle. heh), my focus waned and it got put aside for awhile. Finally, though, I kicked myself in the ass and put it together!

Now, you'll notice the grid on the decks. Those weren't there to start. To start, the decks looked like this:

Fortunately, though, the decks were blank wood on the other side, and I was easily able to sketch the grid onto the backs and use the flip-sides as the decks of my ship.

I still need to put the sails and rigging on the ship, and I'm still debating on whether I want to glue the puzzle together. If I do, it'll be more stable, but if I don't, it will be more mobile (in case I want to take it with me to a game).

I'm still halfway interested in those first models I found on eBay, but it's really not much of a priority right now, so I can just keep that one on the back burner. Granted, for me, the back burner tends to be a place where ideas go to die, but hey, that's what this blog is for, isn't it? :)

Also... hey! I actually finally finished this blog post! Whoo! :D

Related Posts

Keeping My Game Afloat, Part 1
Keeping My Game Afloat, Part 3
Yo Ho. Yo Ho. It's an Astral Privateer's Life for Me
Keeping My Game Afloat, the Finalé

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Keeping my game afloat. Part 1

In my continuing search for things to add to my game, I ended up on such sites as, and the tutorial there on making your own dungeon tiles. Given how rare and thus expensive some of the tile sets are now, finding this tutorial was quite the boon, as I hadn't even considered that idea before.

However, my first project using his methods was going to be a bit more ambitious. :)

I am currently running a 4th edition D&D version of the U-series modules from 1st edition D&D. I probably should have played around with them a bit more, and actually created them as 4th edition adventures, but I just took the lazy route and changed the populations of the monsters from 1e to 4e stats and left everything else as is. Nothing wrong with that. It just affects pace a bit more.

I'm running the game as an online adventure, on, but as I was running the "Giant Octopus Attack" from the third module, while they're on their way to a lair of Sahuagin, I was thinking that it would be cool to run this with miniatures, rather than doing it with the Photoshop maps I was editing at the time. I had the images of the ship's decks from the original module, and I just altered them so that they had 5' squares instead of 10' squares. Then I put counters on the map, which were perspective shots of various miniatures, keeping each "miniature" as a separate layer in the Photoshop image, and I moved the miniatures about as their players dictated a change in location.

Since there are three decks to the ship that you can fight on, I started thinking about building a 3-D ship, and putting the miniatures on their, and moving them about, taking pictures of the map and uploading those, instead of using the Photoshop images.

Well, I never did get around to doing it that way, but I did create the tiles for the various ship decks and they are all set to be put together into their 3D representation.

I started off with The Newbie DM's tutorial on making your own D&D tiles. I found the Caravel deck plans from WotC's Stormwrack sourcebook, did some editing in Photoshop, to remove the room numbers, and then separate the decks into separate images. I removed as much of the water background from the image as possible, except for around the hold, since that would become the bottom tile, and I extended the grid in the image of the hold, so that it covered the water as well. Once I added in some yards across the masts, just for the option, I figured they were ready and I printed them out on cardstock.

Gluing them to medium weight chipboard, and cutting them out, I had this:

Unfortunately, that's as far as I've gotten with it at the moment, but the plan is to do this, but with wooden dowels in place of the dice:

There's some issues I need to fix with the "Fo'c'sle" and the Quarterdeck. I shouldn't have put the yards actually on those deck pieces, but I should have just had them as separate pieces. Also, the crows nest needs to be wider, to accommodate the base of a mini once the dowel is in place.

Then I plan on passing this beauty on to Craig, for use in his game (at some point), and I'll make another for myself. :)

Related Posts:

Keeping My Game Afloat, Part 2
Keeping My Game Afloat, Part 3
Yo Ho. Yo Ho. It's an Astral Privateer's Life for Me
Keeping My Game Afloat, the Finalé

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Adding Dimension, Part 2

So, with the blocks I cast myself, and the blocks that I'd purchased from Billie, I'd started to put together more walls and floors, and I could at least build a dungeon room and some hallways. I didn't get to use them for a dungeon, as I've been hoping to do, but I did put together some interesting encounters using them. Here's a picture from one, where the PCs fought goblins and orcs in a ruined manor.

I had other aspirations, though. Looking at the Hirst Arts site I had made a list of the other molds that I'd like to get, but it remained a wishlist, due to the expense. Of particular interest to me were the Cavern Floor Mold #281, the Rock Cavern Root Mold #83, and the Rock Cavern Pillar Mold #84. As well, Cracked Floor Tiles Mold #203, Cavern Floor Accessories #282, and Fieldstone Accessories Mold #71 caught my eye. You can see the problem here. Six molds at $35 each. So, yeah, that adds up.

Well, I was fortunate enough to make it to GenCon this year - my first GenCon ever - with the help of my friend Craig, and well, wouldn't you know it, Hirst Arts had a booth in the dealers room! (Go Figure!!) I took a look at their stock and hung around to talk to the people at the booth, but I waited, figuring that they would have some deals on the last day, and of course, they did. It was "Buy 4 molds, get a 5th for free". Not exactly the win-fall I was hoping for, but a 20% discount is nothing to sneeze at. I hadn't made a big convention purchase in awhile, so I went for it, and picked up all the molds above except for the Cracked Floor Tiles Mold #203. I'd still like to get that one, since it gives much cleaner floor tiles than the Flagstone Floor Tile Mold. Just aesthetically better to look at, but not really all that important.

Getting home, I set about casting blocks from these sets, and building more pieces. I had plans to build another bridge, since the Fieldstone Accessories mold had some pieces that would work a lot better for the arches, but I never did get around to that. I did put together sections of walls from the cavern molds, though, and I built a set of stairs. There's a tutorial on the Hirst Arts site about this, and the stairs look very nice, but there's no way that you'd fit a D&D miniature on them. The mini would just topple over. So, I did a little redesign and came up with this:

Here are some pictures of the cavern wall pieces together:

I'm looking forward to using them in an upcoming campaign. :)

ADHD Follow-up

I'm not going to turn this into an ADHD blog, but I want to follow-up on something.

ADHD can be a very difficult condition and a very difficult struggle to live with for a lot of people, especially if you don't know you have it. It causes, as a bi-product, a lot of self-esteem issues. However, as a condition, it is not all negative.

I have no idea what I would be like without ADHD, but by all indications of the trends of the condition, I would not be half as creative as I am. That doesn't always help me in my work, but it has let me come up with some fairly novel solutions to problems I've encountered in my job. It also helps with my gaming too, of course.

Who knows if I'd have stuck with gaming all this time if I didn't have ADHD. I've gotten a lot of enjoyment out of games over the years, and I've met a lot of great people and had great experiences due to gaming. Based on my previous post, it kept me out of a lot of trouble too, contrary to the fears my mother had back in the day, that playing D&D was condemning my soul to eternal hellfire.

So, my previous post on this topic had a lot of negativity in it. I will admit that I have some bitterness about how long it took to get diagnosed and treated. I was 39 when I was diagnosed. I suffered through a lot of crap over the years, and that could have gone a lot better... school... work... relationships...

However, if I had the chance to go back and tell my younger self one thing, it would not be "get diagnosed before college". If I told my younger self that, I'd probably be in a completely different place, and quite frankly, I kinda like where I am right now. Having more money in the bank would certainly be nice, but I have a beautiful, smart, funny wife who keeps me grounded and loves me for who I am. I have a good job, with good benefits. I have good friends. I'm not really close to my family (geographically or socially), and I've always felt a little disconnected from them, but even that has served its purpose, as I'm very independent and can take care of myself (for the most part). If I went back to say something to my younger self, it would probably be "Keep your Star Wars figures", or "in 2004, put in an application to Yale too", or "on Nov 7, 2009, stay on the highway."

So, yeah, ADHD is a pain in the butt to deal with, but I've never given up on something I wanted. I graduated with a degree in physical sciences, specializing in physics, and went on to get a degree in meteorology after that. I've been successful at the three career-path jobs I've worked at. I've stuck with gaming for over 31 years. I've been married to a wonderful woman for almost 10 years. Sure, there have been problems, but I can't complain that much, and I wouldn't really want to change anything (well, except for having more money... or I'd settle for less debt).

That's all. On with the gaming posts! :)