Thursday, July 23, 2020

GM Ian's Review and Suggestions for DDAL 09-02: Stopped at the Gate

Spoiler Warning: Before you continue reading; if you are player, there will be spoilers so continue to read at your own prerogative. However, if you are Dungeon Master, you don't care so read on.

Much like in the Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus Adventure, the party needs to look into the various activities of the Cult of Zariel which includes murder and that's what happened but the party would probably know what to expect if they did the previous module, DDAL 09-01: Escape from Eltugard. Also, for obvious reasons, these modules won't have exciting and labyrinthine dungeons for them to explore. This may be a good thing if you want to be light on the dungeons and props.

I still think having lots of minis and terrain is the best.

Stopped at the gates of Baldur's Gate (Did you see the cleverness of the title?) and seeing the gates closed (again if you've played the Baldur's Gate CRPG), the characters are directed to the head honcho of the specific gate that they're trying to get through. Basically, you are going to do some paperwork and negotiate with people. Not as exciting as combat but it does teach the player that goals can be achieved through non-combat i.e. talking.

Prepare your butts for some non-combat encounters.

Don't spend too much time on this part of the adventure as per the module's suggestion since it's just narrative busywork and somewhat resolves itself in the end. Registration of the Eltugardian refugees can be handled by any of the named NPCs and you can trust the refugees to look for work on their own as well as sell off the carts and animals they brought with them. The two main tasks that would require the party's skill and "being the characters" is getting a cleric from within Baldur's Gate to clear and certify the refugees to be free of disease, and acquiring housing for the refugees.

Do take advantage of the few combat encounters this module has available.

Please do note that Baldur's Gate is technically under lockdown during this period as per the Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus Campaign. So, no one is allowed in without explicit permission. However, the Flaming Fist at the Basilisk Gate will allow only the characters in for an appointment with Flame Daryn Falburn. Flame Falburn will provide permission to freely to enter Baldur's Gate once they've met for the first time. So any unauthorized entrance, e.g. climbing over the wall, into Baldur's Gate will be met with Flaming Fist Lawful Aggression. One of my players did this and got spotted thus Flaming Fists is now on the lookout for him.

"I AM THE LAW!" - Flaming Fist Guard.

If you're not too sure about what temples are available, choosing any of the "socially acceptable" gods and goddesses such as Helm and Lathander should be fine. The Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus Campaign and Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide don't seem to specify any of the temples that are actually in Baldur's Gate. However, if you want to know what are temples are available as per the Baldur's Gate CRPG (It may not be canon so take it as a suggestion), see the below:
1) Temple of Helm (Northwest part of Baldur's Gate in the Upper City)
2) Shrine of Ilmater (Northeast part of Baldur's Gate in the Lower City)
3) Temple of Tymora (West part of Baldur's Gate in the Upper City)
4) Temple of Gond (West part of Baldur's Gate in the Upper City)
5) Temple of Umberlee (South part of Baldur's Gate in the Lower City)

Suggested locations of temples in Baldur's Gate. Note that Temple of Umberlee should be somewhere on the docks. Map is from the Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus Hardcover Adventure Book. Notice that most of the temples are located in the Upper City portion of Baldur's Gate.

Again, don't be too hard on the players when acquiring the cleric. I suggest a donation from the party of whatever amount they are able to donate. They don't have to give everything but they shouldn't be stingy. When I did my play through, the characters (or rather one of the characters that can heal or have medicine) opted to switched places with the priest of Ilmater. The reasoning for this was they were willing to do it for free but since they would do it for free, most would flock to them instead of the temples in the Upper City thus they're overcrowded and don't have a free hand. The priesthood of Ilmater in Baldur's Gate however, actually reside in Baldur's Gate thus they are able to check and clear the refugees of disease whereas the characters don't line in Baldur's Gate (Supposedly).

The module mentioned at the end that a warehouse is made available for the refugees as temporary housing. However, the players may not know this and go on to find said housing. If they ignore or delay finding housing for some reason, it's fine but if they make an effort and for the sake of continuity, make it very obvious that there is an old wool warehouse on Stormshore Street, near the docks that a merchant is not using. The merchant is willing to rent it out to the refugees on a temporary basis until the refugees can find proper housing.

Around this point; if the party managed to capture Vollis Foote and hand her over to the Flaming Fist, Bonus Objective A would be available and happens in the Outer City. Highly recommended for variety and if your players want to have some combat.

The next day when the characters got everything in order, either they would come of their own volition or summoned by Flame Falburn. It's another detective scenario! Just so we get to the point, the murderer is Harwin, a tailor who also owns a shop, Harwin’s Garments & Knits. In my opinion, the trail of clues is thin and circumstantial, and "meta-ing" since of all the things you've mentioned, one of it is a dress made by Harwin and worn by the victim's (Markus Hallgate) wife, Bolnata. Additionally, Harwin's shop is "close by" to Markus’s leather goods workshop. Again, in my opinion, circumstantial. In addition, the murder weapon apparently was "slender, pointed instrument" which can be mistaken for a rapier. Harwin murdered Markus using a brass needle i.e. one of those longer and thicker needles for knitting. Furthermore, the other supposed "lead", Dovis Tobergate, does not give useful information for Markus's murder and could throw off the party in their investigation. The other murders mentioned by Dovis are done by others but still under the influence of Gharizol.

Below are what I recommend to improve the scenario and provide more clues so that the characters would be more likely to investigate Harwin:
1) Point out that the wound is too thin to be a rapier when examining Markus's body.
2) Add in a scarf that Bolnata has that was knitted by Harwin as a gift.
3) Bolnata should mentioned that Markus has issues/grudges/fights with Harwin regularly.
4) Bolnata should also mentioned that Harwin was very nice towards her to the point of creepiness.

With the mentioned additional clues, the party should be able to focus on Harwin and the rest of the investigation can go on smoothly. The rest of the scenario plays out quite alright i.e. catching up to Harwin and some combat with mercenaries and hired guards.

Last scenario of the module, i.e. Bonus Objective B, which again I recommend doing if you have the time, is about the party defending themselves in a court of law. It should be mentioned that you can only do this if the character have met with Dovis Tobergate otherwise the case against the party has no grounds as opposed to shaky ground. Another fun and interesting scenario and seemed better thought out than the main quest of the module. Feel free to use any law court tropes for this. As long as the characters make reasonable arguments or roll 20s, they should be judged not guilty.

Another criticism I have for this module and later modules is the logical misstep, poor editing and continuity issues. The first of which is that you should be approaching from the east and entering through Basilisk Gate. Second, Dara is indeed 10 years old so may be a bit too young to be a young woman. Third and lastly, Zook mentioned something happening "a couple of days ago". The sequence is confusing so I recommend having Zook  only mentions Harwin is leaving Baldur's Gate to check on shearing operations and he should be exiting through the Black Gate. Do not mention the "couple of days ago at the shearing operation" bit.

The idea for this module has a lot of merit and nice balance of combat and non-combat encounters. However, the murder mystery element is a bit too thin on the clues initially especially trying to get players to investigate Harwin aggressively. Also, first part of the module, i.e. the process to get Baldur's Gate to accept the refugees, doesn't seem to contribute to anything especially in the end, the module just resolves the issue so it's just a distraction and needless paperwork. Again, as said before, there's some editing and continuity issues in the module that should really be not there after some proofreading. TL;DR: Too much pointless tasks, too few clues, and not enough proofreading and editing. 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

GM Ian's Review and Suggestions for DDAL 09-01: Escape from Elturgard

Before you continue reading, if you are player, there will be spoilers so continue to read at your own prerogative. However, if you are Dungeon Master, you don't care so read on.

The first of the Avernus Rising Adventure modules that's available online on DM's Guild. The adventure runs parallel to Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus (BG:DiA) but the characters were in Eltugard (but not in Elturel) when Elturel was pulled into Avernus thus setting the stage for what I think is a better series of adventures than BG:DiA.

Dara will give you all the side quests you need.

Luckily for the adventurers, Dara (accompanied and watched over by Ghorin, who's secretly an Angel, and Clyde who is a Celestial as well), Chosen of Ilmater (Note: Dara is 10 years old. I didn't know this until I painted a model of her.), is there to guide and give quests to the characters. She's also the main character of the Avernus Rising Adventure but of course, the characters would need to do all the heavy lifting. Dara gives you three tasks for this adventure and you, unquestionably but begrudgingly, set off to do whatever she asked you to do.

Pretty much Dara.

One of the first task is to gather weapons at a nearby smithy so that the survivors of Eltugard can protect themselves during the journey to Baldur's Gate. A very mini dungeon run exposing new players to traps as well as using perception and investigation rolls. After talking to the smiths and a woman named Vollis (Spoiler: She is of the Cult of Zariel) who say the bandits (who are in league with cultists but not of the Cult of Zariel) stole the weapons, the adventurers made their way to an old abandoned temple. The adventurers will need to figure out that there's a hidden door behind the water font. For any failed rolls to perceive and/or investigate, I would suggest that you add more traps on top of the trap on the double doors. If the adventurers set off any traps, the cultist are sure to notice and set up an ambush. If the players are not cautious, they would spring an ambush (Add some cover and hiding places in the ritual chamber to accommodate this) giving a surprise round to the cultist. Short and sweet, and a nice introduction to typical D&D dungeon encounters for new players.

The old abandoned temple!

Unfortunately, mine didn't have the water font or double doors so I had to improvise.

Sneaking up on those good-for-nothing cultists. 

Another task is to gather supplies for the trip to Baldur's Gate Land. This part of the adventure is a simple non-combat skill-base fetch quest with some complications. You will meet the initial NPC contact who lead you to another NPC who will actually give you some tasks. I highly recommend ensuring Billiam agrees to follow the caravan to Baldur's Gate as his presence is required for the plot. The module would ask the players to try to persuade but ignore that. However, the tasks given by Billiam are alright i.e. fetch some ink, feather quills and paper. Simple non-combat skill-base encounters unless they weren't being sneaky about it when they acquire the feathers. I would suggest making the clues for the Pegasus presence obvious as earliest as possible or perhaps, Billiam may give a hint. Again, very simple skill-base scenarios that's nothing too hard for new players and low-level characters.

My Pegasus has yet to arrive from Reaper Miniatures.

Last task given is rescue to find more survivors and for this scenario, the party comes across a burning inn attacked by devils. One of the more serious combat encounters but just enough of a challenge for level 1 or 2 characters. However, there's another complication; another survivor is unconscious in a burning barn. Nothing particularly wrong with this encounter. The party needs to lift the siege of the inn by attacking the devils and send one person to rescue the unconscious man in the barn. The best of the scenarios within the module.

Attacking "Lemures". Again, still waiting for that Reaper Miniature order to arrive.  

More "Lemures".

Burning Barn Rescue Operation.

However, the module does not end yet. You have a detective scenario in the last past of this module. After travelling for days, Billiam (Again, important for the plot so you must get the party to bring him along) was murdered and it's up to the party to investigate (Again, under Dara's request). It was Vollis, by the way. The party just needs to speak to all named NPCs in the caravan that they would previously encountered. There's enough information and leads to come to the correct conclusion. Vollis is exposed and there's a fight. Thus the module ends on a high note.

The caravan rests while Billiam gets murdered off scene a little off to the left.

If you asked me, this is one of the better written modules and makes a great introductory to Dungeons & Dragons. It has every type of scenario that a player would encounter later on in later modules. This also provides the typical set up for these modules i.e. Dara gives you a quest and you go do it. It would also clue the players in that most if not all combat encounters is going involve cultists, devils and the occasional, demons and yugoloths. TL;DR: Good introductory module with a variety of encounters and also sets the campaign theme of fighting Hell itself.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

GM Ian's 28mm Malay Warrior Miniatures Project - Chapter 1 - Malay Civilization has terrible record keeping.

I’m going to preface this article by saying that Malays as a civilization has terrible record keeping. While researching for this project (Yes, I did went to an actual library and not only a library but THE National Library of Malaysia), I observed that most of our history comes from foreign records namely the British (because coincidentally, the British like to write about exotic stuff i.e. us and taught us English, the language the British use to write about us), and sometimes, the Portuguese (for the rare few Malays that bothered to learn Portuguese) which is very sparse. Anyway...

I also visited the National Museum. Look at this cool Malay Sword and Shield. 

Cool-looking Malay Armor.

For those wanting to play a Malay Warrior with a two-handed Kris.

Yes, GM Ian has been researching the clothes, armor and weapons used by Malay warriors, fighters and soldiers during the 15th century until the 17th century. Main goal of this research is to have an idea of how to model a 28mm scale model of a Malay Warrior so I can play with tabletop miniature wargames with them. Malay as civilization has been a very young civilization relative to everyone else and also our wars were either very short or too small to be no more than a footnote in history books. Also, very few Malays actual wargame. So as a Malay, I wanna play Malay warriors in a tabletop miniature wargame but unfortunately, no miniature company actually makes Malay miniatures (except Eureka Miniatures’ 15mm Malays) just because Malays weren’t involved in any big or long wars.

Fortunately, I have enough information and data to build up a confirmed historical-correct list of the arsenal and equipment that would be available to Malay soldiers. Namely, metal armor, swords (of every variety), bows, blowpipes, gunpowder weapons (hand cannons and matchlock guns), shields and spears. The Kris, a prominent Malay weapon, of course, takes center stage and apparently, the more kris you have, the cooler you are. Another issue is the style of clothing during the 15th century. What is considered the stereotypical ancient Malay look is more towards the 18th century. As researched, Malays were more into knee-length pants, sarong, vest and the headgear, Tengkolok. As time moved on, Malay fashion covered more and more of the body.

Malay Fashion over the centuries. Clearly, we have become less cool and manly, and more dorky.

Someone was doing this for a certain game but I can't remember right now... 

Same as above but earlier time period.

Cool-looking Malay Warrior armed to the teeth.

Now, the issue is that nobody manufactures Malay miniatures at 28mm scale. Solution? Converting i.e. using existing plastic kits or even metal miniatures to build something else with it. After having a look around, I’ve determined that Perry Miniatures’ Mahdist Ansar - Sudanese Tribesmen 1881-1885. That said, only a couple of the bodies are appropriate i.e. “sarong”-wearing bodies. Though an issue with this specific plastic kit are the bead necklace which I need to remove and models being bald but it should be fine as I can use green stuff to sculpt the hair and tengkolok. The spears, swords and shields available in the kit are okay enough to use. However, the breech-loading rifle is too advance for the time period we’re going to play so I need to find matchlock guns somewhere else. These and also Perry Miniatures’ Azerbaijani swordsmen would be okay for the more lightly-armed and armored Malay Warriors which should compromise the majority of Malay Warriors.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

GM Ian's Mini Miniature Review: Reviewing TTCombat's Dropzone Commander & Dropfleet Commander's UCM Starter Fleet.

As far as Sci-Fi space design goes, the UCM Navy or rather the United Colonies of Mankind Fleet, UCMF (I would honestly go for United Colonial Navy but I wasn't the designer...) has the coolest ship designs among Sci-Fi naval wargames. The ships for the UCMF remind me a lot of those ships from Halo's UNSC.

Okay, maybe not exactly but the aesthetic is similar(?).

Even among the fleets available for Dropfleet Commander, the UCMF are still the coolest.

Very the coolest.

The UCMF is pretty much the standard tough ships with powerful guns archetypes. Railguns, more railguns and the occasional missiles, lasers and starfighters.

The Standard-Class USS Standard of the Standard Human Faction Navy.

As in the pictures, I've assembled my fleet with the railgun variants although the cruiser kit does not provide enough railguns to assemble the heavy cruiser variant with more railguns without leaving the other ship hulls without their own railguns thus would force me to assemble other types of cruisers that I don't prefer or like.

Mmmmmm.... More dakka <drools>.

About the same issue with the frigate kit, not enough to assemble the 4 frigates with the railgun-ship variant. So I assembled 2 as the railgun frigate and the other 2 as missile frigates. However, I did feel I should have assembled the 2 missile frigates as anti-starfighter frigates instead.

However, the kits provide all the parts you need, you may just need to buy a few more kits or have more variety in your fleet composition. Not a bad thing since real world navies and doctrine does show you need ships of various roles. Also it makes for a boring game if your ships are "Do-Everything" ships. Everything should have a weakness and drawback, and fleet should have various ships doing specific roles to support each other.

As this comic illustrates, you need variety to be a strong all-rounded naval power. 

The ship models are made of this hard plastic and I like it. Not brittle but very crisp. No mold lines can be seen. Details can be seen very clearly and again, crisp. I say TTCombat did good maintaining and improving Hawk Wargames manufacturing processes. Kits are also easy to assemble and probably easy to magnetize.

Price-wise; playing 40 Quids (That's what the British called their British Pound currency, right?) for a skirmish-size game is quite alright. But the box content will only save you 2.50 Pounds. If you already know what you want, I think getting the individual box sets is feasible (and hopefully, their emphasis on cruisers and frigates being the common and tried-and-true workhorse is true). Other alternative is that you find a friend to share the DFC 2-Player Starter Set.

GM Ian's Verdict: They're cool-looking ships and you should get them if you want to play DFC or some other Sci-Fi naval wargame.

My own Rio-Class Cruiser, Hang Tuah and the Toulon-Class Frigate, Naga.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

GM Ian's Guide to Purchasing Tabletop Miniature Models for RPGs

I noticed there were a lot of inquiries of where to purchase miniature models recently in my local groups so I thought I would type this up for ease of reference and just so I can link it instead of typing up the same thing again and again. Just take note, these suggestions may be skewed towards Malaysian (or maybe any non US and EU areas for that matter) audience because for us, Malaysians, we don’t have local manufacturers for tabletop miniatures (Well, except one but for reasons not clear to me, they can’t sell it here which is kinda stupid BUT ANYWAY...). For those living in the US or EU, they would normally get free shipping if the order is over a certain amount. So those everywhere else, we need to pay for the shipping. Please take note that this is based on my experience, research and preference so there’s gonna be some gaps but hopefully, it points people to a direction they desire. Also, I will be focusing on the manufacturers or even distributors instead of 3rd party online retailers. Those you can find yourself. I’m just advising on which range is good.

Mmmm.... free shipping.... <drools>

Reaper Miniatures! It’s like the Big Super Store for all the RPG miniatures you need. You need miniatures for your heroes? Yes, they do have them in various races and classes but races such as Tiefling and Dragonborn may be limited in terms of classes. But for everything else, there’s Reaper Miniatures. You need models for the bad guys and monsters? They have it too! Skeletons, demons, ghosts, bandits, cultists, giants, trolls, and so on and so forth. You need NPCs for your village, blacksmith or tavern? Yes, they have it too! Reaper has the widest possible Fantasy range you will need to run RPG sessions with miniatures you may need.

You will probably recognize this. Reaper Miniatures released a range of affordable miniatures for RPG use.

However, the issue is for us non-US or EU residents when ordering from Reaper Miniatures is that the shipping is expensive (For us 3rd World citizens who earn currencies which are weaker than the US Dollar or EU Euro or UK Pound or AU Dollar). My advise (at least for the moment) compare your shopping list in different currency. At the moment when I checked, the AU Dollar gives the best price so I pay in AU Dollar.

For some of us, we have it better than the Australians.

So, what about the official stuff from D&D or even Pathfinder? Well, you can’t exactly order straight from Wizards of the Coast but one of their retailers which is a good thing since you don’t have the main manufacturer competing with their retailers (Unlike a certain games company whose name I won’t mention here.). However, if you are a Malaysian like me, you noticed our local retailers don’t stock D&D products even though there’s a demand and would have been a good synergy and another channel to sell their other product lines. But no, for some reason, Malaysian retailers can’t seem to get a hold of D&D products DESPITE Wizards of the Coast’s effort to merge D&D with MTG ala Ravnica. So you would need to purchase such products from 3rd party online retailers which, as I said before, I will not go into.

This is what you're looking for. However, I wish Wizards of the Coast sell them as singles.

Gale Force Nine does some of the more iconic or vital D&D characters but more for your foes in the RPG rather than miniatures for your heroes. Well, some but not a wide a range as I like it to be but if you want to be a bit special with introducing the main baddie of the setting then you get them there.

No lie. After I saw that I can order from Gale Force Nine, I ordered this.

For the Pathfinder stuff (which is D&D stuff but generalized and renamed so they don't get sued by Wizards of the Coast), Paizo actually do sell their stuff online plus other stuff including some of the D&D Heroclix stuff which is reasonable for tabletop use (though I would personally remove those weird bases with the dials and numbers). They also offer some relief and would reduce shipping cost for first few orders but only you buy at least 100 USD and again, I recommend people do group orders.

Probable Reason for Pathfinder's Existence.

Looking at another well-known IP and breaking into the mainstream, Games Workshop’s Warhammer range also does Fantasy miniatures albeit currently, a bit overpriced and going for a whole unique aesthetic. If you managed to get your hands on what people would refer to as Warhammer Fantasy, Oldhammer, Middlehammer and now as GW is going to introduce, Warhammer: The Old World, then you will get miniatures that would be familiar with Tolkien-esque albeit based on Europe (As many Fantasy worlds are e.g. Lord of the Rings). Warhammer Fantasy offers a world much like ours but with magic and the very real existence of demons. You will have Renaissance-era Holy Roman Empire forces, English/French Kingdoms, 3 Kinds of Elves, Ratmen and so on. A very diverse albeit maybe cliche world but one that’s very interesting in my opinion. Honestly, you just need to get one box of each type and you would have enough to challenge a group of adventurers with human city guards, elven archers, ogre raiders, etc.. As it is mainstream, Games Workshop has their own retail outlets and independent retailers so you can just drop by your nearest local game shop and most likely you can find their products.

Tell me you ain't inspired by the Warhammer Fantasy setting. I dare ya!

However, Games Workshop has a few contenders since it has abandon the Old World and created a New Plane so that it can IP what it created because Warhammer Fantasy is pretty much based on existing IP i.e. Lord of the Rings, existing folklore and actual historical figures and factions. Anyway, Mantic was the first to try to challenge Games Workshop dominance for a massed army wargame in 28mm even during the height of Games Workshop’s Fantasy rule with Kings of War. It has garnered a sizeable following and created a good range of miniatures which can be either good or bad depending on your preference. For example, the Undead looks great but the Elves look....too skinny. One of their main selling points is that they were cheap in comparison with Games Workshop.

WAY too skinny...

Another contender though going for a more skirmish kind of game is Frostgrave. For the book itself is published by Osprey Games but the miniatures are manufactured in partnership with North Star Military Figures. They too are coming out with a line of miniatures but more towards the people of the cold north aesthetic but they look great nonetheless. Their kits are much more diverse with various weapons. They even have kits for an all female warband and they are not sexualized. These may be good for the Icewind Dale setting since you know, snow, north and cold. But they are still good for more southern areas but probably not in the more Mediteranean and Equatorial areas. Weirdly enough, North Star Military Figures also started their own Fantasy line, Oathmark.

Look at them options!

The new kid on the block to take a step onto the Fantasy ring is Warlord Games’ Erehwon. Because I believe a few of their developers were from Games Workshop, Erehwon has taken on the Tolkien-esque look for their miniatures. You may also noticed that they mixed in a few products from other ranges such as Frostgrave and Oathmark.

Not the most memorable name for a wargame.

Oh, I almost forgot about Avatars of War. It’s basically Warhammer Fantasy but looks sexier. They also got behind the 9th Age since Games Workshop abandon and destroy Warhammer Fantasy to create “original” stuff to IP which again led developer after developer into filling in the void.

That said and if you've noticed, some of the developers I've pointed out also do historical and humans in Fantasy settings does reflect real historical people and so I'm gonna suggest a few more manufacturers that does historical miniatures as well. For example, Warlord Games do have their own line of historical medieval miniatures but they also would absorb or distribute for smaller manufacturers and add their product line to their online shop. However, I think North Star Military Figures have the widest selection of various manufacturers historical and Fantasy. That said, Warlord Games provide free shipping for orders over 50 USD so you choose either free shipping or widest possible selection.

Something something... Gary Gygax was a historical wargamer...

Starting with the Dark Ages (since it seems most Fantasy settings take on a Medieval look rather than a Classical look), we have Gripping Beast, they are the guys behind SAGA so you have Vikings, Saxons, Normans and recently, Arabs. They have a lot more so I suggest you have a look. Gripping Beast do have a few villager models as well if you need those. Going up the ages, we have Fireforge Games who came out first with their Teutonic Knights and slowly added more to their Medieval range including the usual Western European stuff, Rus, Byzantines and their own Fantasy line. Perry Miniatures, headed by the Perry Brothers who used to sculpt for Games Workshop, made their own line of miniatures specifically historicals. Again, more Medieval humans but they seem to focus on the English side of things as they have ranges for the 100-Year War and War of the Roses.

For us, local Malaysians, there's a few stores that stock such items. Wolf Game Shop stocks some Reaper Miniatures, Warlord Games and other manufacturers. Comics Mart also sell miniatures that you can find on Warlord Games and a few Reaper Miniatures.

One last place I would like to recommend is that's actually based in Malaysia. They have a range of Halflings, Dwarfs and other esoteric stuff.

So, that's everything from the top of my head. There's more I assure you and a lot of these manufacturers are very old school people but they got some good stuff as well. If you need further information or something specific, let me know. I also do orders every month or so to one or more miniature and/or terrain manufacturer so if you want to piggyback on my order, let me know.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

RPG Visual Aids: Paper

Paper, thinnest and lightest material known to hobbyists. It’s also cheap and widely available to many. I imagine that many of you would have at least have access to a computer, the Internet and a printer (either your own or there’s printing shop/facility nearby). Maybe even drawing instruments, digital e.g. MS Paint or physical e.g. colored pencils. Paper-crafted characters and terrain features can be just as good-looking as plastic and metal visual aids.

As Spongebob demonstrated, paper is a versatile medium.

DRAWING YOUR OWN STUFF! The most basic thing you can do yourself (Hence, DIY) is to draw your own character. If you are a good artist and already have confidence in drawing your own character, that’s great. However, if you aren’t, don’t get discouraged. Plenty of games, even video games, would have what some people may describe as bad graphics and art. However, I would argue it’s just stylized art. Take “Kingdom of Loathing” for example. It’s a pretty simple browser-based RPG with stick figure drawings but it uses that stick drawing style and just ran with it. The style reinforces the theme of the RPG and it works great. This can work for you as well. At whatever level of drawing you are, just go with it and use it to reinforce the theme of the RPG.

Stunning designs indeed!

DOWNLOADING STUFF FROM THE INTERNET! Okay, so maybe you are still not confident in your ability to draw and you want better-looking stuff. Of course! There are free pictures on the Internet! Why not, right?

Well, as long as you don’t sell them and use it only for your personal use. Also, make sure to give credit to the actual artist. That said, there are actual people selling drawings online specifically for making paper standee RPG characters. For example, this fellow here on Patreon. Bigger players such as Fat Dragon Games sells paper terrain and models via their website. If you go to DriveThruRPG, you will find a platform for almost anything RPG and downloadable which includes products from Fat Dragon Games and other manufacturers. Take a look at their “Maps & Play Aids” section for maps, terrain, and character models both in 2D and 3D.

A sample from Map Pack 1 by 8radgames.
Looks great and all you have to do is just print it out.

Okay, so you drew or printed your character. Yay! So how do I make it stand? Because you know, paper is not known to be able to stand. Professional manufacturers for game peripherals such as Litko make bases with paper slots so you can just slot in your drawing onto it and your drawn paper character shall stand! Additionally, Fantasy Flight Games also sells plastic stands for the same purpose. However, easier to access and cheaper alternative are those foldback clips you can purchase from your local stationary store. Yeah, it would obstruct most of the art but again, it stands! Alternatively, you can fold the paper to make a stand from the paper itself. Basically, you are making a paper stand; one third will be a picture of your character while the other parts of the paper will be folded to form the stand.

Basically, this. Trust me; there's a terrifying pictures of Later Sarmatian army units in front of those paper standees. If you're wondering, we were playing De Bellis Antiquitatis.

What about the map you say? Terrain feature, buildings, rooms, dungeons, and all that. Same thing as characters. You draw them or you download stuff from the Internet. However, the issue is a little bit different as you would need to decide what medium to draw or print on as well as whether you prefer 2D or 3D. Generally, 2D is much simpler and easier to make, especially when you are dealing with just the X and Y axis. As long as everybody is on the same level, it’s fine. Some clarification and declaration would be needed sometimes if you are on top of a tree or box or even under the table, for example. Using 3D map and terrain, everything is clear instantly because you can see it visually. Drawback for 3D? Maybe it’s more expensive.

That said, I'm biased towards 3D.

Hopefully, this would get you, especially if you are a newbie, into getting some nifty visual aids for your RPG. It just takes a bit of time, effort and resources to get it all ready. Trust me; it’s worth it.