Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Castles & Crusades and the SIEGE engine™

Recently I’ve had a few friends ask me some questions about the SIEGE engine™ so I figured it’s time to write a short description of Castles & Crusades. It’s been a while since I ran a campaign in C&C so I had to delve back into my 6th printing of the Players Handbook to re-familiarize myself with some of the nuances. For those that have never heard of it before, C&C is a d20 fantasy RPG from Troll Lord Games. It is published under the Open Game License (OGL) derived from the 3.0 System Reference Document, copyright 2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

The first question I usually get is what is C&C and that is quickly followed up with what is this SIEGE engine™? My first response is that C&C is a great fantasy game based off of D&D 3.0 system but it has an AD&D feel. I tend to say it’s a fixed version of D&D with an old school feeling. They use a different mechanic to resolve attribute checks called the SIEGE engine™. You start out with your six standard attributes of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. During character creation, the player gets to choose which ones are considered primary and the rest are secondary. When the Castle Keeper (CK) asks a player for a Dexterity check, the player rolls a d20 adds his Dexterity modifier and his level to the roll and then tells the CK whether it is a primary or secondary attribute. The SIEGE engine™ uses Challenge Class (CC) to determine the success or failure and it consists of a Challenge Base (CB) and a Challenge Level (CL). The CB is 12 for primary attributes and 18 for secondary attributes. Then the CK will determines if there are any other CL’s to add to the base number.

Let’s use a 3rd level gnome assassin as an example. The assassin class requires Dexterity as a primary attribute. This assassin is attempting to disable a trapped lock on a treasure chest. He rolls a 9 on the d20 then adds his +2 Dexterity modifier for his ability score of 16. Now he adds his level to the roll giving him a total of 14 and tells the CK he rolled a 14 primary. The CK will then figure out the CC of the trapped lock. The CB is 12 for primary abilities and since the lock was prepared by a 2nd level rogue the CL is 2 for a total CC of 14. Success! The gnome has unlocked the treasure chest without setting off the poisoned dart trap. We can use this same example but substitute the gnome assassin for a 3rd level human fighter to try to pick the same lock. The fighter rolls a 16 on the d20 then adds his 0 Dexterity modifier and his level of 3 for a total of 19. Since Dexterity is not a primary attribute for the fighter he tells the CK that he rolled a 19 secondary. The CB is now 18 for secondary attributes plus 2 for the level of the rogue who set the trap. So now the CC changes to 20 for this same lock. The fighter fails and now needs to make a Constitution save for the poison.

Each character class tells you one attribute that must be primary then the player chooses which of the rest will be primary. Humans get a total of 3 primary attributes and the rest of the races only get 2. This is most likely to offset the fact that other races get special abilities and attribute modifiers. Also of note is the table for modifiers which is different from D&D. In C&C an attribute score of 9-12 has a 0 modifier whereas D&D ability scores of 10-11 have a 0 modifier.

Ever since I played in Tyler Morrison’s C&C game at Gary Con VII, I’ve been hooked. When I got back my local group started playing and I was able to CK for close to a year. One of the complaints I heard from people online was about the illusionist’s ability to heal others. I never had a problem with this because I think it makes sense. Let’s think about this for a minute. The character is casting an illusion. Some people argue that an illusion can’t heal a person and they can’t grasp the concept that if a person truly believes that they’ve been healed, then they have been healed. If you truly believe with all of your conviction that something has happened then to you it actually did happen. When a person tells a tall tale to a group and continually tells the same story time and time again. Eventually that person will truly believe the story they tell was a factual event. The illusionist’s ability to heal is similar to this. If you still can’t come to grips with this concept, then just think of it as FM. This is a Fantasy Role Playing Game get over it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Foam Board Tabletop Terrain Part 2 of 2

Tabletop Terrain (a.k.a. Battleboard) Part 2

This project isn't quite finished yet but in the interest of time and by request of some friends, here is how I painted my Batlleboard. I'm copywriting Battleboard, just in case you cared. Also, I'm not an expert so if I did something wrong or if you mess up your own Battleboard then tough shit. It's your problem not mine.

First off, let's go over the paint and supplies I used.

  • Cerulean Blue Acrylic paint from Michaels.
  • Aqua Sea Glass by Krylon from Lowes.
  • Frost Blue Metallic Acrylic paint from Michaels.
  • Icy Blue Metallic Acrylic paint from Michaels.
  • Sky Mist Acrylic paint from Hobby Lobby.
  • White Acrylic paint from Hobby Lobby.
  • Clear Gloss Minwax Polycrylic from Lowes.
  • Paper Towels (lots of them).
  • A 1 inch synthetic paint brush.
  • An artist's palette (or you could just use a piece of cardboard).
  • A cardboard box.

Since the foam insulation I used is green, the first step in the painting process is to basecoat the entire 2ft. x 2ft. Battleboard blue. I wanted to make sure I got the cerulean blue in the cracks of the grid.

Then I wanted to get the rest of the Battleboard quickly covered in blue paint. At this stage it doesn't really matter if you get complete coverage. All you're looking for is to get it started off in the right direction.

Don't forget the sides of the Battleboard. For some reason unknown to me, this took me about an hour and a half. I thought this would have been much faster than that.

Once the first layer of basecoat is dry, we can move on to the final basecoat. While shopping at Lowes I found a semi translucent spray paint and thought it would be interesting to try out. Spray paint can be tricky to apply properly sometimes. You should test your spray pattern on a scrap piece of paper or cardboard before using on the foam. From my experience there are 3 possible spray patterns you can get from cans of spray paint. The first is too much paint on the surface. It looks like a puddle of paint and will drip or start running on you. This is an indication of either holding the can too close to the project or moving the can too slowly as you spray. You could also have a combination of the two with the same spray pattern. The second one is the one we're looking for. There will be a wide area that looks wet and a dry area surrounding the wet area. This dry area that surrounds the wet section is called overspray. The third spray pattern you can get is not really a pattern at all. When you look at the painted surface it will look like little particles or dust is covering the surface. This is caused by holding the can too far away from the project. The paint carrier is flashing off before it has a chance to reach the surface of the project. This also brings up a good point on what is in paint. The three basic parts of paint are pigment, carrier, and binder. The carrier is what is used to carry the pigment and binder to the surface of the project. In the case of acrylic paint, most carriers are water. The binder is what's used to make the pigment adhere to the surface of your project, think of it as glue, and the pigment is the color. People usually ask how far away to hold the can of paint from the surface. The general rule is 6 to 8 inches but this is highly dependent on other factors such as time of day, ambient temperature, humidity, location, phase of the moon, alignment of the stars, and Darken Rahl's approval.

On to the first coat of spray paint. I sprayed the sides of the board first and then painted the top. The overspray from the sides would get covered up by the subsequent spraying of the top. Start spraying off to the side of the surface and steadily move across the surface and then off of the other side.

Here's the first coat of aqua.

Allow adequate drying time in between coats. It was above 90 degrees out when I did mine, so it dried rather quickly but I allowed 30 minutes just to be safe.
The second coat.

With this size project I used the entire can of paint for 3 coats. Another tip is to paint the Battleboard in a shady area. If you allow the paint to dry in full sun then you run the risk of the paint drying too fast. Yes, drying too fast is a problem. If it dries too fast then the binder won't adhere properly to the surface and will flake off and look chalky. Each coat of spray paint took me about 5 minutes to apply for a total of 15 minutes for all three.
The third and final coat.

Great! Now I can move this blue beast back inside. I let the Battleboard sit overnight to allow the layers of paint to completely dry before moving on to the next step. As you can see from the previous photo the aqua paint has dried much darker than I anticipated. I'm a little disappointed about this. Oh well, let's see where this goes. My next layer consisted of drybrushing with the frost blue. The technique here is to put some paint on the brush and then brush onto a paper towel until it looks like no more paint is coming off. Then go to the Battleboard and use the dry brush to brush the surface. After an hour and a half of drybrushing this layer is complete.

The next layer is icy blue. Both the previous layer and this one use a metallic paint which will give the Battleboard a shiny surface. Here I'm using the drybrushing technique again. This layer took me an hour and a half. I'm starting to see a pattern here.

Now that we have a shiny blue monstrosity, I need to tone it down a bit. Here I drybrushed a light blue called sky mist. The goal of this layer is not to cover the metallic but to dull the sheen. Again, another hour and a half of drybrushing. My arm is starting to get tired.

The last layer of drybrushing is mad with white. Here I'm just trying to highlight the very edges of everything. White is a little tricky to drybrush. The best way I've found is to brush the paint off on the paper towel and when you think the paint is all off the brush. Brush the paper towel some more. You want very little paint on the brush. An hour and a half later it should look something like this.

The final stage is to protect the painted surfaces with a lacquer or urethane. I used to do quite a bit of woodworking and learned a lot about finishes. First of all, if you don't want the clear coat to yellow over time then you need to avoid oil based products. Oil based lacquers and urethanes can take forever to dry and cure. I know a guy who used Deft lacquer on a guitar and after a month it still wasn't cured. So my advice is to just avoid oil based clear coats all together. What you're looking for is an acrylic or water based clear. It's not always easy to identify which ones are oil and which ones are water based. The best way I've found is to look at the methods of clean up on the back of the can. If it says clean up with mineral spirits, white spirits, lacquer thinner, or paint thinner then its oil based. Acrylic and water based clears will always clean up with warm water.

I haven't yet completed the final clear coat layers. I chose to go with the glossy version because I can always buff out the clear coat if it's too shiny. The only difference between glossy clears and satin or semi-gloss are the flatteners. Satin is nothing more than a gloss with flatteners added. I always buy gloss and after it cures completely, use 0000 steel wool to reduce the sheen to my liking.

Curing of the final coat is another important discussion. How do you know if the clear is cured? The best method I know of is to depress your fingernail into the surface. If it leaves an impression then it's not cured yet. One advantage to water based clears is that they cure much more quickly than oils. The Minwax Polycrylic that I bought says it will cure in 72 hours. This is again dependent on environmental factors in your area. If you're going to use lacquer then make sure the humidity level isn't too high, otherwise you'll end up with a cloudy look to the finish. This cloudy look is referred to as blushing. If it rained recently then wait a couple of days to let the humidity drop.

I hope you enjoyed this short tutorial and thanks for following along with me. This was an interesting experiment and I still haven't decided if I like the final appearance. This weekend project is the perfect way to work on spray painting and drybrushing techniques. If you're new to painting miniatures and are afraid to mess up then grab some foam board and make something.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Foam Board Tabletop Terrain Part 1 of 2

Tabletop Terrain Part 1

Today at work I found some 2 inch thick green foam board. What can I use that for? Of course! Tabletop terrain with a grid. Now it won't be as useful as the Paizo fold up flip mats or the Chessex wet erase battlemat but it should look cool. So how do I make one? First we'll need some tools.

Razor Knife (the kind with a really long blade)
Drywall square (or any square thats at least 2ft. long)
Finetip Sharpie Marker
Cigarrette Lighter
Hot Knife (I got one at Michaels for $16)
Unfaced Foamboard (usually found near the building insulation at your local hardware store)
Paint & Paint Brushes

Lets get started. First use the square to cut the foamboard into a 2ft. x 2ft. square. It doesn't have to be perfect. You're not going to win any awards for making a perfect square. Make multiple passes with the knife and keep the blade at a low angle. This took me 10 minutes

Next we need to make some lines for the 1 inch grid. Use the Sharpie to draw lines.

Use the square to mark and draw lines every inch and after 14 minutes you should have a grid that looks like this.

Now we can move on to the Hot Knife. I probably shouldn't have to mention this but don't touch the blade while its turned on. The Hot Knife is essentially a soldering iron with an X-acto knife blade attachment. The blade is very hot. Also, don't touch metal objects with the blade while its turned on. I found out that when starting the cut, you should pull the blade somewhat fast and as you get about 6 inches across you can start to slow down. The blade is really hot at first but as it contacts the foam it will lose some heat requiring you to move slower. So go ahead and follow the lines you drew with the Hot Knife. Agian, don't worry about staying perfectly on the lines. In fact, I think it looks better when it's not perfect. This took me another 15 minutes.

We can move on to treating the edges of the board now. I saw this video on Youtube and decided to give it a try. Thanks to the dude over at Drunkens & Dragons we can just use a cigarette lighter on the edges to make it look icy. At 3 minutes per side this process should take 12 to 15 minutes, maybe longer to let the lighter cool down a little.

After roughly an hour's worth of work you should have a good start to a home made gridded board.

One last thing. Dont get this shit unless you have a hot wire cutter. It flakes apart and makes an unberable mess of everything.

Next time I'll go through how I paint my new battle board.