Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Stonewood

As the environment for our 13th Age campaign crystalises, one of the key elements is the vast Stonewood itself. The concept is a truly immense woodland of rolling hills with a rocky ground that manifests in tall stones that the giant trees grown on and around.

This is the lightning sketch I did to explore the idea



Next step is a whole raft of reference images like these babies. Most of these are photos of some fascinating real places, but there are some nice concept pieces from Snow White, Brave and such.





Friday, 28 March 2014

The Ninja Turtles & Comic Films

I have hugely fond memories of the original Eastman and Laird Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, the roleplaying game and several of the TV and film adaptations that have come so far. Well we now have the first little trailer for the upcoming movie (produced by Michael Bay as he brings his action signature to the turtles). I am hoping this is a fun ride and look forward to seeing all the fun later in the year...



It would be awesome if there was some nice concept art released by the studio, but looks like we need to be content with the short snippets in the teaser trailer.

While we are here why dont we throw a few more groovy trailers for upcoming films with a comic heritage:






Wednesday, 26 March 2014

A Party of Minis and Pawns

For our new fantasy RPing game (now using the 13th Age ruleset and starting any day now), I have a huge armada of D&D minis loaned to me (thanks Mik) but I also couldnt help myself and grabbed two boxes of the Pathfinder Pawns (Bestiary and NPCs). So I thought a quick post looking at both might be cool.
The party was looking something like (High Elf Wizard, Dwarf Ranger (pet), Halfling Rogue, Human Ranger (bow) and Human Bard). Though our Dwarf might actually be a fighter now to lend a little brawn to the group, the exercise below looked at crafting a party using what I had.


The mini's certainly lend a nice 3D feel to things and do a better job of making the battlefield into a scale version of the action. That said the minis vary greatly in quality with some being much more interesting than others. There is something wonderfully tactile about them still and with the D&D minis they all come painted and ready to dive onto the table. Creating your own custom mini (as I last did with Thrail) is fun and I really enjoy that little side-hobby.


The pawns on the other hand have beautiful illustrations with much more detail than the minis and the quality for what they are is very high. The effect feels more like the pawns are representative, that the battlefield is more of an aid or a guide to what is going on. With a simpler and faster combat system like 13th Age with far less reliance on the tabletop boardgame aspect than D&D 4E perhaps this is more appropriate.

Comparing the two, the pawns are supremely easier to get and afford compared to minis. If Wizards unleash a whole new swath of minis for 5E, maybe that will improve (or get worse). It is also much easier to create custom pawns than minis using found of created art (need to test this actually).
Both sets actually did a pretty good job of representing the party with what I had. You can see the character of the individual heroes comes through differently from both approaches. I think given a vast collection of minis at your disposal - this is still the most engaging solution for bringing a roleplaying game onto the table for the combat representation. Failing that, the pawns are actually superb - full of character and little details that could find their way into the storytelling as well. I was worried I would regret the purchase of the pawns and didnt open the boxes for a while. I couldnt resist the other night though...

These last pics show some more of the choices I was looking at for the heroes - the NPC box has so so many pawns that could have been used to rep people. To be truthful, both options didnt do so well with the halfling rogue. I will grab some more images of both sets showing the various monsters and mock battle scenes later in the week. The last pic shows the two sets together, you can see how much bigger the pawns are...



Maybe in summary I would say the pawns are prettier, easier, cheaper and more characterful - but they arent 3D!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Map complexity and a satellite feel

As our ideas for the world in our 13th Age campaign come together more, I am keen to do more work on the map as that helps ground the world while inspiring adventures at the same time. Below you can see a version of the map where I was playing with the form and coastal details while trying to think about where the rivers might meet the coast and where the mountains might run.

At first I thought a slightly roughed up coast was complex enough, then when I started zooming in it seemed I needed much more detail and then when I started experimenting with mountains in the North I thought it was looking pretty gnarly.



But then, inspired by the Middle Earth map, I went poking around in Google maps/earth and our land is mighty complex. The first image here is a part of the New Zealand coastline in the Northern part of the South Island - just look at all those crazy jaggy bits. The second one is just a bit South of there showing the crazy mountains and their beautiful colours and mandelbrot-like complexity.



Since I will need swamp as well, just look at these areas of Florida and the wonderful detail that Google brings to us so elegantly.



So, I am now thinking I will do an experiment where I take pieces of Google Earth and meld them together in Photoshop to create a fantasy map with this same level of complexity. It may be too hard to join thing together or to slot in features, but I feel like at least giving it a whirl.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Cosplay

With both Supanova and PAX.Aus on it seems I should finally get my act together and have something cool to wear. I always feel guilty that I havent put the effort into having a costume of some sort. I am tripping myself up with the idea that I would like something that didnt feel like it came out of a showbag. Something that felt like it was real 'clothing' to an extent rather than a flimsy pretend version. A fantasy costume would be pretty cool, drawing from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Game of Thrones and such - being able to stride out with in Faramir's lighter gear, or Eomer's Horselord armour would be fantastic. Star Wars is perhaps the other area that could work for me, lots of options there.

I seriously doubt my capability to pull off something at the moment, but I do love seeing the success that some people bring to this craft/hobby. Check out Lightning Cosplay (Laura Jansen) as she creates some pretty nice armour pieces using Worbla (thermoplastic). Below are a few pics from her DeviantArt Gallery that show off the kind of quality that I would be proud to don.



I like the variations in armour in this shot of Renly, we see this in the designs throughout GoT, generally light armour with a few pieces of plate over the top - very cool.


Sunday, 23 March 2014

Quick halfling liquify and a D20 Icon table

Photoshop is a mighty piece of software. In our upcoming 13th Age campaign we have a little halfling. This is the wonderful reference image for Navi using a lovely piece called Duellist by Remton.


So all I did was spend a few mins using Liquify in Photoshop to try and get her some big feet and a more hobbity physique. I am sure if I took my time I would end up with a more accurate change, but liquify is just such a remarkable tool.


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13th Age Icon Rolls

One thing we struggled with in the other 13th Age game I played in was the rolling against our Icon Relationships. We tried a few variations, but they didnt quite gel, I think we were about to push ownership of this to the players even. Anyhow last night I came up with a variation on the theme that might be worth trying. So characters still setup their icon relationships as normal, though the 'points' going into them has less meaning except to show the strength of that relationship in either or both directions.

Then the GM rolls at the start of the session (maybe twice) against this table which shows specifically which icons are bringing their influence into the session beyond what the current plotlines are bringing. In this version 1-5 on the D20 are going to be bad for the PCs as they are the Villainous Icons and their factions exerting their presence directly into the events surrounding the heroes.

So there is a result for each of the 13 Icons, then one for each of the PCs to bring their icons into the game more often and lastly 2 GM choice ones (a scary one and a hugely beneficial one) representing the crits at either end of the scale. I would think the GM may choose Icons that relate more powerfully to the PCs in this instance as well. A roll of 1 or 20 could also mean a shift in the balance of a relationship. a 1 may mean that a positive relationship with an Icon could turn sour or a 20 may mean a nemesis icon's power may wane.

With the PC results you can let them roll against their icons, or just let them pick which relationship they would like to see come into the foreground. Note that this houserule changes the icon roll from one of getting something 'positive' to simply highlighting which icons are going to be more prevalent in the coming session. Hopefully some of these things will be positive and others more complex or negative. So the roll should be a representation of the benefit to the heroes, high rolls will be great, low ones less so or detrimental. So if a PC has a positive relationship with an Icon and the roll is an 18 triggering it, that will be more positive (or less complicated) than if that same Icon is rolled further down the table.

If you have fewer than 5 PCs then just change the bottom (or is that top) of the table to duplicate PCs or give more 'slightly helpful' GM choice options up there. If a PC/player isnt there on the day, just reroll if their number comes up. The immediate variation that would depend on your particular game is whether the GM's choice options are actually brought back to the table as choices for the whole group - I like this idea.

Here is a generic form of the table, which looks more inviting when you have your campaign's actual icons and PCs listed in it.

D20 Icon Influence Roll (13th Age houserule)
1 GM hugely scary choice
2 Villainous Icon 1
3 Villainous Icon 2
4 Villainous Icon 3
5 Villainous Icon 4
6 Ambiguous Icon 1
7 Ambiguous Icon 2
8 Ambiguous Icon 3
9 Ambiguous Icon 4
10 Ambiguous Icon 5
11 Heroic Icon 1
12 Heroic Icon 2
13 Heroic Icon 3
14 Heroic Icon 4
15 PC1 icon (choice/roll)
16 PC2 icon (choice/roll)
17 PC3 icon (choice/roll)
18 PC4 icon (choice/roll)
19 PC5 icon (choice/roll)
20 GM hugely positive choice

Here is what it might look like if you flesh it out with Icons from the book varied to suit 4 players:

Sample D20 Icon Influence Roll (13th Age houserule)
1 GM Perilous choice
2 The Diabolist
3 The Orc Lord
4 The Lich King
5 The Three
6 The Prince of Shadows
7 The Crusader
8 The High Druid
9 The Dwarf King
10 The Elf Queen
11 The Emperor
12 The Priestess
13 The Great Gold Wyrm
14 The Archmage
15 Party Complex choice
16 Yani Darkshadow Icon
17 Ryisha Noir Icon
18 Tallos Silvereyes Icon
19 Korin Ironhand Icon
20 GM Superior choice

Who is responsible??
One of the other ways to use the D20 Icon Influence is when you want to find out which icon might be responsible for something, or is tied to an area or an NPC. So if the party of heroes is travelling through a mountain pass, we could roll against this table to work out which Icon's influence will have a bearing on the journey. A positive roll may mean there are helpful patrols, even if there is still danger, a negative roll may mean the pass is overrun or the defenses are under attack or something is following them...

One of the things this variant does is shift the flow of the game away from the Icons that the players initially chose as having a relationship with. Those icons will still come up (either by rolling the PCs number directly or by rolling the Icon), and so will a few other Icons that nobody has a direct relationship with on their character. Making some sample rolls I got doubled quite a few times and that should mean some serious influence from that icon. Crits seemed insanely rare just then for me - oh well.

Until we get a chance to test this in a game, it is hard to say how many rolls are needed - one per player does seen like alot going on but would match the gamebook. I am tempted to say 2 or 3 rolls might work...

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Plus, by way of a quick addition to this post, here is a slightly fixed up version of the halfling Navi as well...