I did absolutely nothing last night.

I did not do any of the following:

1. Did not cast any Hirst mold blocks.
2. Did not build any structures using said blocks.
3. Did not create any new molds, either for blocks or for miniatures.
4. Did not paint any miniatures or structures.
5. Did not mod any miniatures.
6. Did not build any terrain.
7. Did not sculpt anything.
8. Did not make anything out of craft wood sticks.
9. Did not draw any maps.
10. Did not update any characters.

I watched some TV, did some light internet surfing and went to bed.

I must be ill…

Seriously, I can’t remember the last evening I had without doing SOMETHING with miniatures or terrain…

Unexpected windfall…

So in my 4e game today, the GM unexpectedly surprised me with several miniatures that he doesn’t have time to paint, and some nice Citadel paintbrushes. Thanks Raevhen!

Too late to take any photos, but I’ll try to get some posted tomorrow. One is a Ral Partha dragon that has a distinctively old-school D&D look to it. I like it. I’m trying to decide whether to make a mold and cast copies. There was also a pegasus with awesome wings.

The GM of one of my Pathfinder campaigns and I talked about some custom terrain so I’ve been working on creating some ruins by partially casting blocks so they can be placed on a flat surface and appear to be sunken into the ground, or broken. I did a dry-fit of a ruined section of tower and it looks pretty nice so far.

I’ve been casting a bunch of cavern terrain and some accessories. Pics of those tomorrow too, if I can. time for bed now.

Status report…

I have been slow in posting updates lately. Several reasons for that, top of the list being lots of stuff going on at work and in real life. Trying to get our house on the market for one thing…

Still, I’ve been steadily working on casting blocks for building yet more buildings, towers, bridges, etc… I’ve got four plastic bins filling up with blocks of various types. I also went on a buying binge and purchased five more Hirst molds. They’re like an addiction of some sort… Probably should be on the governments addictive substances list…

Four of the molds are for underground caverns, including one which is just the cavern floor tiles. One mold is an accessories mold which includes things like crates, barrels and various items that can be placed around in a cavern, dungeon or even just a building.

I am strongly considering purchasing an additional set of molds with the “gothic” theme. If I did I would end up with four different style of blocks I could cast to represent different cultures in my campaign world.

Although I have cast all the pieces required to make the standard six inch radius fieldstone tower. I’ve dry fit the first five or six rows a couple of times to play with some options for doorways and arrow slits, but I haven’t yet actually begun construction of the tower. That’s mostly because I don’t have a campaign need for that tower right now, and there are some other things I need sooner.

So, one of those things is a ruined temple. This is something that I discussed with one of my GMs as a piece that would be nice for his campaign. Since I’m not actually running a campaign of my own right now, I am more than happy to try to help another GM with terrain they can use. The temple is just a prototype to see if the basic concept works in his campaign. If it does there may be more bits to add later.

I did make my first custom mold this week. No big deal, I just wanted some three-inch segments of cut stone to make building things faster. So I glued five sets of three one inch blocks and then used my silicon RTV mold material that’s been sitting around for months and made a mold. Last night I cast my first blocks and they came out fine. So that will greatly increase the speed of creating cut stone blocks for making walls and stuff.

Next I’m going to complete some more custom sculpted doors and windows and make another mold using the last bit of silicon mold material I have.

I should post some pics… pics are always better than a wall of words…

Casting madness…

Well, another day of casting madness… I probably cast fifteen or so sets of blocks from my new molds, and I still don’t have enough to build the 6″ fieldstone tower. I’m getting close, I have 20 sets now, and the tower, as designed by Hirst anyway, takes 24 mold castings of the 6″ fieldstone tower mold.

I’ve used up all my Artplaster and am now using Hydrostone exclusively. I am hanging onto my Excalibur, although I probably won’t hang on that long since plaster products don’t store well. Still I want to save the Excalibur for special projects since it is tougher and more expensive than the Hydrostone.

I think I can do four more casts tonight, meaning that giving them 48 hours to dry I could potentially be building the 6″ tower by Wednesday night.

Since I’m casting all the straight cut stone blocks at the same time, which is ten 1″ blocks and four 1/2″ blocks, I’ll have 24 sets of those as well, along with a random number of 4″ cut stone tower blocks so I can start making some stuff with the straight stones too.

I am seriously considering making some large block molds of my own so I can build larger objects more quickly than individually assembling 1″ blocks. I’m thinking of making some 3″ long segments that interlock so that I can cast large wall segments which could make it much, much easier to build a large building.

The other thing I’m thinking about casting are some large “Roman architecture” style blocks that I can use to combine with my significant collection of ionic pillars to create some temples or ruins with a classic look to them.

For my own world I eventually will need something that looks “elvish”. I may have to design that myself… Which would be just another project to suck up my time. 🙂

Yleris, as PF druid

OK, so I have pretty much settled on the Pathfinder conversion of my 3.5 druid, Yleris, the half-elf/half-dryad who was a ranged blaster druid in 3.5.

Since we are using pretty much only core Paizo content (Pathfinder Rule Book, Advanced Player Guide, Ultimate Magic…) there is very little “blasting” that druids do. So I had briefly considered developing a custom archetype but finally decided that takes too much toll on player/GM time, especially since we are near the end of our current campaign, and I frankly don’t know when I’ll get a chance to play Yleris again. Which is a shame since she’s such an awesome character to role play…

So instead I just went with a “lion shaman” with a tiger flavor instead of lion.

Other than that I did a straight conversion of attributes, feats, skill ranks, etc. only modifying what was different in PF from 3.5 (e.g. things like favored class bonuses to hit points or skill ranks). So she has retained her Point Blank feat tree feats (PB, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Many Shot), meaning she is mostly going to be summoning cats and then shooting her bow as her animal companion and summoned cats engage in melee.

Because she is a tiger shaman, she can summon cats as a standard action instead of a full round action, that helps a lot. Using her lesser rod of metamagic “extend” her cats have a duration of 16 rounds, which is more than the vast majority of fights.

She probably won’t wild shape much, and that’s probably good since her stats (e.g. strength of 10) are not really conducive to wild shape melee battle. But I think she’ll do OK. Although it may be a long time before she does anything but hike back to town after our last big boss fight.

New Hirst mold casts

I got the new Hirst molds in and did my first casts tonight. One is just rectangular blocks that match the 4″ tower, so there’s not much to see there until I build something interesting. But the other is a 6″ fieldstone tower and I cast enough to show how big around the new tower will be. Here is the first 4″ tower inside the first row of 6″ tower blocks:

Oh yeah, you can also see a door I sculpted for the old tower that hasn’t been glued in or painted yet. It’s just a test fit for now.

And here are some shutters I sculpted for the tower windows. I made four pairs of these.

And finally, here are the molds themselves:

Now it’s just a matter of the drudgery of casting and then building…

Incidentally, the first casts I used the old Artplaster stuff, which is basically just plaster of paris. I had forgotten how poorly that stuff mixed, poured and set compared to the Excalibur or Hydrostone. I just wanted to use it up since I probably will never use regular plaster of paris again. Especially since I could not get all the bubbles out and in de-molding them more than a couple broke. I’ve been spoiled by the good stuff…

In a re-organizing phase again…

So, the reason there has been a lull in posting is that I have entered another cleaning/re-organizing phase of my obsessive behavior pattern…. After turning my room into a veritable plaster cave in the casting of and building with the Hirst blocks, I finally decided that I couldn’t continue to dance and dodge around the floor just to get to the other side of the room…

So… went out and bought some plastic containers, brought in a big table, picked up, cleaned up and organized (and am still not complete)… so not much creativity lately.

I wonder sometimes what a time-lapse photo of a year of my life would look like… It would be a series of long continuous buildup of tools, materials and debris, followed by a sudden explosion of cleanliness, almost immediately returning to the buildup again…

I suppose I should do something about that, but in reality there are more important things I should fix about myself than that…

More Hirst molds…

OK, so I have enjoyed using the molds my wife got me for Christmas so much that I ordered two more. The two molds I have are not designed to work together, one is “field stone” the other is “cut stone.” Although they would work together in terms of sizing, putting them together results in a bizarre combination of rustic roughness with architectural precision. The field stone mold is mostly straight pieces and arches, with no curved pieces. The cut stone mold is all curved pieces, not a single straight piece in the mix.

So I purchased a straight block cut stone mold and a tower field stone mold. That means I will be able to make walls and towers in both formats.

I don’t have any of the Hirst molds for doors, tables, barrels, etc. so I will continue to use my existing home made items for those.

I also still don’t have any floor pieces. I’m contemplating making some of my own. I’ve learned that it is actually quite difficult to make pieces with the precision necessary for this sort of building process though. Even a tiny bit of alignment or size problem is magnified with each row you put down until your “nearly perfect” tile ends up with an eigth of an inch alignment problem in your room… Which is more than enough to be noticeable.

So I may end up purchasing their floor tiles too. We’ll see.

Nerd Rage Alert!!

Wizards of the Coast (TM) a division of Hasbro (TM) announced a few days ago that they have been working on a new version of D&D which they intend to release in the near future, meaning probably in about a year.

Within minutes of the announcement nerd rage erupted across the digital gaming world. Comment threads on the announcements have exploded like Tim Tebow threads on ESPN.com.

As of this moment it appears the gaming world has already divided itself into three main camps:

1. The Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition (aka: “D&D 4e” or simply “4e”) fan camp. This camp is mostly at least mildly optimistic about the release. It is pretty widely acknowledged even among fans of 4e that the system was published with several significant flaws and was accompanied soon after by a veritable flood of errata as WotC reacted to the howls of players about “broken” parts of the game. The general feeling of this group seems to be that this is our chance to get 4e “right.”

2. The Pathfinder/D&D 3.5 grognard camp. These are generally older players who did not find D&D 4e to their liking. Their reaction to the announcement is generally one of naked schadenfreude. “See! Even the evil minions of WotC are finally admitting that 4e has been a failure! This is the first sign of the end of WotC’s reign of RPG terror!”

3. The pure RPG gamer camp. This group is not quite sure what to make of the announcement. There is already a profusion of RPG game systems and with the schism that 4e created in the gamer community, there is a reasonable amount of concern that a “5e” version of D&D could further splinter the fan base to the point that none of the major vendors who provide material to keep the hobby fresh will be able to survive. But, at the same time they are intrigued by WotC’s promise to listen to the RPG community (something they are accused of not doing with 4e) and their promise for 5e to be a uniter, not a divider.

I would like to claim to be in group 3, which is probably by far the more rational group compared to groups 1 or 2. However I have to be honest enough to admit that I am probably in a group that might be called group “2.25” meaning that I’m not really a PF/3.5 grognard, but that I do prefer the PF flavor over 4e and I have not been complimentary of WotC’s stewardship of a brand that I consider to have been a pretty significant part of my entertainment for decades.

My personal opinion is that the announcement is an external manifestation of internal demands within Hasbro for the D&D brand to be profitable enough to meet their corporate goals. Although it is probably impossible to know exactly what the comparable market shares of 4e and Pathfinder are today, even 4e’s biggest fans have to admit that Pathfinder has at least a comparable market share of the RPG pie. And there is very easily available circumstantial evidence that Pathfinder has overtaken 4e in some critical areas of the RPG market. Since that market has not shown any significant growth in the past decade (but it hasn’t shrunk either, so it appears to have a sustainable fan base anyway) then since the two companies are competing for the same market that used to be totally dominated by the D&D brand, D&D itself has obviously lost a tremendous amount of market share which has been gained by Pathfinder. I do know that in my own gaming group roughly 1/2 of the gamers I play with are not interested in D&D 4e materials but are actively purchasing Pathfinder materials. These are people who were spending that money on D&D products three years ago.

So to me the obvious conclusion is that Hasbro has given their WotC division a mandate to regain that market share and profit margin “or else.” And the “or else” is likely the shelving of the D&D brand. Hasbro doesn’t typically sell off a game or toy product line, they simply shelve it. I suppose they feel that shelving is a better long term strategy in case a market ever materializes again, but I dunno. Maybe they just don’t like seeing other companies make a profit on what used to be their intellectual property. Whatever the reason, if 5e does not show immediate reversal of the D&D brand erosion, I strongly expect to see D&D branded products essentially disappear.

Which would be a shame, but it’s never been the brand I’ve cared about, except in a nostalgic sense. It’s been the game system. And right now the reality is that while WotC may have kept the D&D brand, it is Paizo, the publisher of Pathfinder, who has carried the D&D game system torch after it was dropped unceremoniously on the floor by WotC.

It will be an interesting year for RPGamers. I expect to see lots of leaks from the game designers to maintain interest in the community. I signed up to be part of 5e playtesting, so I hope to get an early look at what their plans are. No doubt that will include a non-disclosure agreement, so if I get into the play test group I won’t be able to say much about it here.

Wish me luck. I have to admit that I’d like to at least participate in what could either be the final death spiral of the D&D brand, or (preferably) the rejuvenation and restoration of the brand. I’m voting for the second because the only way D&D is going to win back the PF folks who have mostly abandoned 4e will be to return to the roots of the RPG concept and develop a gaming system that is so undeniably superior to Pathfinder that it will overcome the deeply embedded anti WotC attitudes of many PF fans.

Where to go with Hydrostone…

Well, I did my first paint job on my Hydrostone casts last night. It painted very much like any other plaster, including standard plaster of paris and Excalibur. Which means it soaked up a ton of paint like a sponge. but it holds the paint well and after the base coat or primer it’s just like painting anything else. So my final evaluation of Hydrostone is that it is an excellent product to use for casting small items such as the Hirst molds.

In retrospect I sort of wish my wife had purchased two molds of the same stone pattern instead of one fieldstone (the bridge) and one cut stone (the tower). I can’t really mix the two so my options for creating varied terrain elements or buildings is very limited.

However, last night I was able to make a small fountain out of my leftover cast pieces from the tower. I’ll post a photo tonight. It’s pretty nice, actually.

But my whole approach to making stuff for gaming is now shifting from the mostly theoretical and experimental to the practical and needed, meaning I am moving towards working only on terrain elements that I need to complete my own campaign world.

That means finishing the following items:

1. The palace (still haven’t worked on this in over two months now)
2. Ft. Pringles (probably 2/3 done now, but the remaining 1/3 is the detailed part)
3. Random ruins (I’ve got several bits of this now, but just need to polish it off)
4. Random graveyard (I have all the elements, but haven’t put it together yet)
5. Random tavern (havent’ even started, and this will be a bear!)
6. Random huts, hovels and other dwellings (I’ve got about half a dozen huts/houses of various shape and size)
7. Temples (I have all the columns I need, I just need to decide if I’m going to cast more parts or just use foam core poster board).
8. Market square (I’ve got wagons, walls, etc… but nothing really put together yet)

Those will give me a pretty good set of reusable terrain elements that would fit into most campaigns. I still need to create the scene for the final boss confrontation, which will be a very involved bit of terrain building, including lots of elevated landscape, bridges, caverns, molten lava, etc…

Nobody ever accused me of thinking small….