A place wherein this Dwarven Cleric can share his love of maps, dice, miniatures, and all things involving gaming and general geekery--not to mention the occasional witty non-gaming observations--whilst escaping from the humdrum existence of his routine Terran existence.

Hail and Well Met, fellow traveler! May my Stronghold provide a place for enlightenment and amusement, and somewhere to keep your dice dry. Enter and rest awhile.

30 March 2015

Fuzzy Tentacle Monster Action!

That title sounded a LOT better in my head.

I consider myself the prop-master of our group. I provide most of the minis for the various DMs; sometimes maps and other materials.

Our new DM, starting a new campaign, enlisted me on Wednesday to provide "some kind of sea monster." Well, of course, that's the ONE type of critter I don't have, mostly because we've never been on the water before. He was getting a little desperate, mostly because he hasn't DM'd in years, but also because he hadn't had much time to prep. He had some general ideas for the campaign, and then decided yesterday that we needed to board an ocean-going ship to get to the starting point.

[Aside: This is where I should point out that I'm playing a 3d-level Dwarven Barbarian. Based on recommendations from the DM, I made him a desert/wasteland barbarian. Completely desert-centric. Our first major encounter? Loading our butts onto a ship for a weeks-long trek across the freakin' ocean. End aside.]

Then I had an epiphany. I told him that I'd put together some tentacles. That way, he'd just need to stat the individual tentacles and could leave the real big baddie (or baddies) completely anonymous. He could even just use a stat block for a giant constrictor. He liked that, so my little grey cells started churning. I've scratch-built a bunch of place-holders and minis in the past, including a ping-pong ball beholder eye-beast.

Here's what I came up with after a trip to the craft store and the hardware store:
  • Loctite GO2 Glue
  • Gorilla Brand Super Glue
  • Fender washers, 1/8" x 3/4", 10 each
  • Fender washers, 1/4" x 1-1/4", 10 each
  • Zinc nuts, 3/4", 10 each
  • 3 Packs of 25 each pipe cleaners: black, green, pink 
[Aside 2: Actually, the pipe cleaners were called, per the packaging, "Fuzzy Sticks." No mention of "pipes" or the cleaning thereof to be found anywhere. End aside 2.]

Step One: 
Assemble the ring base using the two sizes of fender washers, a couple dabs of GO2 glue, then clamp for 30 minutes to set. Repeat 10 times.

Step Two:
Take one black and one green "fuzzy stick," insert them into the end of my power drill, hold the free end tightly, and start the drill spinning. (One interesting note: The drill, when drilling in reverse (counter-clockwise) gear actually made a shorter resulting spun combo fuzzy stick than when moving in forward (clockwise) gear.)
 You can see in the background there a stack of already-spun combo fuzzy sticks, the drying ring bases, and my GO2 glue (not to mention my disgustingly stained painting tray of 15 years). Also in the background is my first attempt, gluing a green, black, and pink fuzzy stick together, straight. This turned out to be messy and incredibly awkward. Hence the power drill and spun combo fuzzy stick idea. Now to attach the pink fuzzy stick as the suckered underside of the tentacle.

Step Three:
So here's where I had to start experimenting. Seeing how awkward and messy it was to try and glue the entire length, I tried to spot-glue and then tie (or wrap) the points together with black embroidery thread. After doing several this way, I resorted to wrapping the pink ends tightly to each end of the spun black/green tentacle, then simply tying together the longer tentacles with thread at different points, and relying on the wrap, pressure, and tension to hold the pink to the spun tentacle.

Step Four: 
The now-three strand tentacles were bent at different points to form a misshaped "U", with the point threaded through the hole in a ring base. Then I'd snip another length of tentacle and worked it down in through the hole and the "U" tentacle. This was the hardest part: you're essentially cramming six layers of "fuzzy stick" through a hole barely big enough for three or four. Then spread the ends out on the underside to keep the tentacles attached to the base.

Step Five:
After realizing how messy, awkward, and time-consuming the GO2 glue was to work with, I switched to good ol' Gorilla brand super glue. Four dots on the cardinal points of each nut, working the bent underside ends into the center of the nut, and holding the ring base against the nut until the glue set. (This was a much faster process than the GO2 glue, further "cementing" my love of Gorilla glue--and super glue as a whole.)

Step Six: 
Pose each tentacle into a sufficiently threatening pose.

Here's what the final product looked like: 

And here are some in-game glamour shots. My dwarf is the little tyke down here on the right hand side, right at the bow of the ship. Somewhere between these two pictures my dwarf was grappled, lifted to the sky, and then sliced himself free, dropping dramatically to the deck, rolling as he landed to minimize any falling damage.

All in all, the guys were impressed with the tentacles. I am too, speaking from the utmost of humility. 
They worked pretty well and looked good at this level, allowing (as you can see) for grappling and positioning of victims. We only lost one crewman from this attack. Fortunately, the DM didn't use the full box of 10 bases (2 or 3 tentacles each) that I'd prepared.

26 March 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine] eine Auswertung aus Deutschland

+SophiaBrandt over at die heart was kind enough to review Issue #1 of The Stronghold. I believe that this is the first review of The Stronghold to come from overseas, certainly aus Deutshcland.

Overall it was a positive review. I appreciate her candidness and honesty about what worked for her and what didn't, and the quirks that may have taken away from the experience for her.
For me, the content of the zine varies in usefulness but overall it’s a nice read. Kudos for using a d30 table. While there is nothing that blew me away there are some things I can see myself using. I’m a bit on the fence about this zine. I would say it compares mostly to Tim Short’s The Manor and I somehow find The Manor more inspiring. However, this is The Stronghold’s first issue so it might lose its rough edges in the future.
As things are now, it’s a solid no-nonsense fantasy zine. While I enjoy those weird and gonzo fanzines much, I’m glad to see that the ordinary fantasy still gets some love.
I'm certainly honored to be compared to +Tim Shorts and The Manor. I'm also working on those rough edges for Issue #2. Yes, work on #2 is already underway. Hopefully it will be a another nice mix for all my readers; heck, even back in the heyday of Dragon and Dungeon Magazine I never found everything therein useful at the moment. Most of all, layout and post-production are getting a second look. I'm trying to figure out if there's a better way--or more consistent way--to trim pages than what I'm currently doing. Wish me luck.

Now, back to work on #2.

17 March 2015

Reorganization and Reassembly

Just a quick thought for this morning. I know last night I said I was all keyed up and couldn't sleep. Then I promptly found something that helped relax me.

Something semi-mindless, routine, and mechanical. Something time-consuming.

After all, re-sorting a horde of used minis back into their appropriate (and cataloged) places after a multi-month gaming campaign takes a while.

This was about 1/4 of the complete ... MASS ... that we used at one time or another, and that I couldn't re-sort as we went along because, well, we might need them next session too. So, truly, the picture doesn't do the full pile full justice.

The best part was seeing my kids as they walked by the open door to my study (from the POV of the camera). Each one of them gasped, groaned, and said, "That's not for our game, is it?!?"

And that wasn't even when I had the GIANTS out either.

[cue evil laugh]

Or the dragons.

Once I was done, I was well and truly relaxed. Dropped right off. I think it was even better than my tranquilizers.

16 March 2015

[From the Mailbag] A Monstrous Postcard!

On a personal note, I spent all night at the Emergency Room and hospital as my mom was rushed there late Sunday afternoon and eventually admitted. She suffered one of the classic "I've fallen and I can't get up!" scenarios. Unlike the commercials, she actually had an alert pendant available to her. Unfortunately, it was trapped underneath her when she fell, tangled in her heavy walker, and she couldn't reach it to activate it, and was trapped there for several hours.

She's recovering, however, and under observation for the time being. We're being told that she should fully recover.

So, I had a lot of time to sit and do some thinking, as well as some additional cursory work on The Stronghold Issue #2. It also means that I had very little sleep and have had, consequently, a pretty grumpy day. Until I got home.

You see, I had this waiting for me in my mailbox: A special treat from Sweden. Of course, ANYTHING I can get from Sweden is a special treat--[Aside: In all honesty, just about ANYTHING from Sweden is a treat. My father spent three years in Sweden as a young man serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints back in the day, and was still capable of speaking it some 60+ years later when he passed away. He didn't tell a lot of stories, but enough to give me a soft spot for the country. Getting something from there makes him feel a little closer for a while. End aside.]--getting something from Sweden AND from +Jim Magnusson? Extra special.

What we have here is the latest in Jim's Patreon postcard series: Pages from "The Lost Monster Manual." Specifically, a representative of the Coot People. The reverse side is filled with fluff and crunch--background and stats about the critters. Unfortunately, I had a rage-fit about the United States Postal Service when I got it, because they gave it "a personality mark." A nice purple spot nearly dead center, with a streak all the way up to the top of the card. Not enough to really detract, but enough that it annoys my anal-retentive nature. [Aside 2: I've got it; I have it figured out. I was just about to hit "Publish" when I realized...it's nearly the color of lingonberry, which my father loved. So, I figure a postal worker on one or the other side of the Pond, was intrigued by the artwork while he was eating his lunch and dropped a glop of lingonberry onto the card, then tried to wipe it off. That works. End aside 2.] But I'm going to curl up with a bit, let it spark the creative grey cells, and then tuck it safely with its brothers in a place of honor. [Aside 3: I'd like nothing more than to collapse; I really want to, but I've reached that over-tired point. My brain is racing, but not productively. End aside 3.]

11 March 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine} The Frugal DM Reviews Issue #1

Many thanks to Christopher over at The Frugal GM for his tremendous review of Issue #1. I'm really humbled and thrilled that he would give me such a great review. I apologize to him that it's taken me nearly a week to recognize his generous words; getting mom home from the hospital and dealing with sick kids for a week have been a little distracting. Please forgive me.

I had a long blog post all prepared explaining my anal-retentiveness and the justification for the quirks and flaws in the 'zine, but mercifully Blogger seems to have eaten it. Suffice it to say the following:
  1. I'm extremely anal-retentive and have high production standards. Just ask +Tim Shorts, +Dylan Hartwell, or the guys over at Pathways Magazine. In short, anyone for whom I've ever proofread/edited.
  2. To some extent, the quirks and flaws were intentional; they were an homage to old-school, Eighties-style 'zines painstakingly crafted on a Selectrix in mom's basement and mimeographed. It took some self-control to overlook these quirks adn let them pass in the name of "homage." There are a stack of "seconds" whose flaws were just too much to overlook; these will never see the light of day.
  3. Some of the flaws were NOT intentional, however. The odd "photocopy" mark on the artwork frustrates me; it was not in the original and whatever error I caused in my software may detract from the awesomely gruesome piece donated to the 'zine. I really regret this error and am doing everything possible to figure out where it happened and make sure it doesn't happen in future issues. It's a lot like the missing apostrophe that jumped out at me as soon as I sent out the first batch of orders.
  4. The article that Christopher called a "WTF Article": I knew this article would give some people pause. It was a re-print of a random generator that I first posted on this blog, a celebration of the purchase of my first "official" d2 determiner. This would be the "Nose Picking Tables" article. I realized when I included this that it wasn't going to be everybody's cup of tea. It wasn't intended to be that. It's simply a little bit of humor that may, somehow, find some usefulness at a table. Consider this to be the printed version of the ubiquitous Monty Python joke or Princess Bride reference at the gaming table. I know those aren't for everybody either, but they're almost inevitable and I, for one, welcome a bit of levity in my games. Wait until you see the next humorous generator/table. THAT one is all Tim Shorts' fault.
"The Stronghold is a bit of an ugly duckling . . . but you know what? I fricken loved it!" "The Stronghold had just enough rough-edges to remind me of those Zines [from back in the day] and clean & modern enough that I'll actually read it." "The contents of #1 vary a bit in usefulness, to me, but I really did enjoy reading it. I've been paring back on my physical collection of RPG 'stuff', preferring the digital, but I have just the spot for this Zine."
High praise indeed. Thank you, Christopher, from the bottom of my heart.

Let me reverse the recommendation: Christopher has some awesome stuff on his blog, not just links to inexpensive gaming stuff, but also his own great maps and gaming material. (My personal favorites are his underground river maps, taken from real-life rivers and transformed into useable gaming resources. These are truly brilliant!)

07 March 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Issue #1: A Review by Tim Shorts

The infamous Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor was kind enough to review Issue #1 of the Stronghold this past Friday. Click here to read his words.

Or you can click here to pick up your own copy. Or two.

On a side note, a stack of Issue #1 is currently winging its way to San Diego, CA for sale at CondorCon this coming weekend, March 13-14th. If you're there, you can drop by and pick one up at the table.

06 March 2015

[Found Items Friday] PC Inspiration

I'm just gonna leave this here for now. Story to follow.

Comments welcome.

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