Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Random Dungeon Generator!

I got my Random Dungeon Generator in the mail yesterday.  It looks gorgeous. I can't wait to frame the thing and put it on the wall at work.  This might become the basis of a lunchtime game with my SKLD house rules.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Army Painter

Another miniatures update.  When I pulled out all of my old painting supplies and miniatures out of storage, most of the old paints had dried up.  After looking at several different options for new paint, I decided to go with the Army Painter mega paint set, and a can of their Wolf Grey primer to use on my new Space Wolves.  Everything was fairly inexpensive so I figured that if I wasn't happy with the results it wouldn't be a big loss and I could check out the new Citadel range or the Vallejo paints.

So far I am very happy with my purchases.  The set has a good range of colors, and I really like the dropper bottles.  The paint itself seems to be very nice.  It's thinner than the old Ral Partha stuff I used, but has more pigment than the old Citadel.  Not sure how it compares to the new Citadel or Vallejo as I haven't tried those yet.  I'm really impressed with the primer though.  It went on very smoothly and evenly, and as Army Painter claims the spray cans do match the regular colors exactly.  I was able to prime/basecoat some marines with the spray can, then give them a fairly sloppy ink wash, and then touch up any areas where the ink was unwanted with the regular Wolf Grey paint.  I can't tell where the spray stops and the regular paint starts.  I'll post some pics when I get some stuff finished.

The one thing that Army Painter suggests that I will not be doing is dipping my miniatures in their Quickshade/varnish concoction.  Their results seem ok, but there is no way I am going to hold my miniatures with a pair of pliers and then violently shake them to get the excess varnish off of them.  I'm getting very good results with regular inks, thank you very much.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Out of Print? Really?

I haven;t been posting much recently because my other hobby, playing and recording music, has been taking up most of my free time in the past few weeks.  I've also been spending some time getting back into Warhammer 40k.  In the short time I've been getting reacquainted with Games Workshop and Warhammer, I've noted a problem that GW has in common with WotC; Out of print products that have no business being out of print.

Many other blogs have pointed out that old  out of print D&D products are selling for extremely high prices on ebay, and we aren't just talking about older products from the 70's and 80's.  Even 3.5 core books are selling for face value or above, which would seem to indicate that WotC could make a decent amount of money selling products from their back catalog.  Their reprints of the original AD&D core books should serve as good test case.

Games Workshop also has a problem with out of print products, but it isn't their books.  There are some people playing old editions of Warhammer, but it isn't as pronounced as the OSR.  GW did a reprint of the original Rogue Trader book for the 25th anniversary of the 40k game, but that seemed to be more out of nostalgia than actual demand for the rules. GW's problem is with their miniatures.  While perfectly usable in modern games (a 25 year old Space Marine or Ork is perfectly ok to use in GW sanctioned events), most miniatures from the 80's and 90's are no longer available.

Just 10 years ago, I was able to go to the store at the GW headquarters in Glen Burnie Maryland and place an order for any miniature that was in the catalogs that they had.  These catalogs contained minis dating back to the mid 80s when I first got into the hobby, and included the original metal Space Marines, Orks, and Eldar that appeared in the Rogue Trader book.

Word is you can't do this sort of thing anymore.  If it isn't listed on their website, it isn't available.  I've heard some stories from people in the UK getting some older stuff by calling the mail order department, but those are just rumors.  The fact is that older, out of print miniatures are going for extraordinary prices on ebay, and the current selection of minis from GW is fairly limited.  On the one hand it isn't such a big deal, as the newer miniatures are much nicer than the older ones, so in general you are getting a better quality product for your money.  The problem for me however is that some of the discontinued models have no replacement!  Take my Space Wolves army as an example.  I would love to have some Long Fangs and Wolf Scouts.  A quick look at the 95-96 catalog shows all sorts of Space Wolf characters and basic troops available in metal.  Some of these characters, like Ragnar Blackmane and Ulrik the Slayer are still available.  But the generic Runepriest? gone. Bloodclaw and Longfang Sergeants? gone.  Regular Longfangs and Wolf Scouts?  Gone! Their are no direct replacements for these miniatures, and GW admits it.  The manager at my local store suggested that I just use generic models and spruce them up with some bits.  I'd be all for that if it wasn't for the fact that the models actually existed at one time.

There are a few reasons that GW may be doing this.  I have heard from some people that the older molds from the 80's era may no longer be usable because they are so old.  Some of those older molds may now be the property of the original artists.  Sounds far fetched but you never know how GW was run back in the early days. This doesn't address the issues with the Space Wolves I noted as they are all from the same year, but some models are available and others are not.  Some models may not be available because they are slowly being replaced with "Citadel Finecast" or plastic kits, and GW is trying to create demand by taking the old models out of print well before they are replaced.  Seems like a possibility, but if a person wants a particular model for their army NOW, they are going to go to ebay and get it, not wait for years until GW gets around to replacing it.

In all, it's a sad state of affairs.  GW has every right to control the supply of their product however it would like.  I'm not really blaming them.  It may just be too costly for them to keep all of these miniatures available. As a collector and player it is just sad to think that GW spent all of these years building a large catalog of miniatures, and rules for using them, only to have so many of them go out of print for whatever reason, while players and collectors are still willing to pay good money for those minis.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

More Moria please!

Last week I sat down and watched all 3 Lord of the Rings movies over again.  For the record I like them, but don't love them.  Good movies, but not good interpretations of the books, though they are probably the best anyone could ever do.  Nothing against Peter Jackson; his version of King Kong is one of my favorite movies ever.

The scenes in Moria reminded me how much I loved that chapter in the book.  It struck me as funny that with so much of the OSR's attention focused on megadungeons and literary influences there hasn't been more discussion on Moria.  From what I can gather, there have been a few RPG products focused on Moria, but the ones I have seen have done marginal jobs.  I.C.E. did an ok job with their Moria sourcebook for MERP and Rolemaster (I'll do a full review on it later). I haven't seen decipher's sourcebook for their LotR RPG, but from what I have heard it has received mixed reviews. GW's Kazad-dum sourcebook for the LotR miniatures game has a nice side-view map, which is much different from I.C.E.'s, but other than that it doesn't offer much other than lovely pictures.

I never thought of Middle Earth as a good RPG setting, mostly because I feel that there is no good way to simulate the way magic works that world.  I also felt that adventurers seemed out of place in Tolkien's world. But when I think of Moria as a megadundgeon, I think it serves as a great model for creating others.  First it provides a real, sensible reason for the existence of  the original structure.  In this case, we have a valuable mine and an attached underground city, all created by Dwarves. Secondly, we a good reason why the structure was abandoned, namely the release of the Balrog. This also serves to explain why the goblins and other creatures have come to live in Moria.  Third, there is built in treasure. The Mithril and other precious metals would be reason enough to venture into Moria, but there could also be many other valuable items left there by the Dwarves. Lastly Moria is Huge. Like the size of Manhattan huge.  According to I.C.E.'s sourcebook, it is almost 28 miles from east to west, and in places the mines are several hundred if not several thousand feet deep.  As far as any RPG campaign would be concerned, it's endless.

Beyond my reservations about the Middle-Earth setting, Moria has some other issues.  First, it is extremely dangerous.  The inhabitants are fairly well organized, and led by an extremely powerful demon that seems to like to make appearances at the front gate if someone so much as drops a pin in the foyer.  This is not the sort of place where characters would start their adventuring careers.  Also there does not seem to be good location nearby to establish a base camp.  Setting the adventure in the 4th age after the Balrog has been defeat solves part of the first problem, but Moria would still remain an intimidating dungeon.

I'd like to see some other people's takes on Moria.  For me it remains THE iconic fantasy dungeon, and one we can still learn from.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Miniatures update

I started working on some miniatures this week.  I got a starter box of Space Wolves, and I have them partially assembled. I opened up my box of painting supplies that has been in storage for the better part of a decade to discover that most of the paints have dried up.  That wasn't much of surprise since most of them are pushing 20 years old! The ones that had dried up were a mix of old Ral Partha paints from the late 80s early 90s era, and some screw top Citadels from the early 2000s.  The only ones to survive?  Flip top Citadels from the late 80s!

At any rate, this necessitates a lot new paints.  I've been looking around at the new Citadel stuff, the Vallejo range, and Army Painter.  I haven't made up my mind yet, but I'm leaning towards Army Painter because they offer a fairly low priced set, and their spray primers seem to be exactly what I need. I'm guessing that any of these will do nicely as I'm one of those cheap bastards that has used the cheap paints from the craft store in the past.

Update: I took the plunge and went for the Army Painter Mega Paint set, and a can of the Wolf Grey primer.  I'm not buying into their Quickshade process though.  I remember talking to old grognards in the 80's that swore by dipping their miniatures in minwax, and everyone one they showed me looked like crap. I'm going to stick to traditional inks and washes (most of my old ones have survived storage), and matte sealer.