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I stumbled across the link to iheartprintandplay tonight while surfing Twitter. Its owner, Derek Weller, creates charming printable standees in the style of the Order of the Stick for your D&D games. He’s got a whole host of mini beasties and PCs for D&D, and he’s also got plans for printable origami dice! He’s also created adorable character condition cards, too. Definitely worth a quick trip over, especially if you run a light-hearted game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I may just print these little guys out to put on my desk at work because they’re so awesome.

There’s also a great section of the blog dedicated to other free print and play games. There are only a couple of games listed now, but if you’ve got one of your own, you might want to contact Weller and tell him about it!

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I know many of you have been out at GenCon, playing your fill of games and seeing more stuff to buy than you could possibly purchase in a lifetime. I just thought I’d mention a neat Kickstarter project that has some really great potential: Brass Monkey’s Dragons Gameboard.

This nifty little package would let you display a battle map on a TV or large computer monitor for your players to see during tabletop gaming. Each of them could, in turn, manipulate their own tokens on the map via smartphones or tablets.

I absolutely, positively LOVE this idea. Using individual handheld devices at the table would keep my players engaged (and would keep their phones on something game-centered instead of on Twitter or Facebook.) A system like this cuts down on prep time, too; I wouldn’t have to set up a table full of cardstock buildings and minis, spend the morning keeping the kitten off the table, and then switch out a million tiles and buildings mid-session when the PCs moved to a new area. On the other hand, I personally dislike the art style here–I’d like to see something that looks more like an actual hand-drawn map, something less griddy/pixelly. The games I tend to favor don’t focus on strategic battles, so I use maps flavor more than for tactical clarity, and a bunch of colored blocks don’t really add much flavor to a game. The project promises to remain open source, though, so DMs would have the opportunity to implement their own tilesets and could undoubtedly figure out how to make use of the system for other sorts of RPGs.

This project is definitely one to keep your eye on; Brass Monkey has a solid idea, and for those with limited table space, it might mean the difference between making your home a viable place to play and always having to tote your minis and chips to someone else’s house.

I was in a not-so-local but still friendly gaming store the other day where they had a table dedicated to Wyrd Miniatures/Worldworks Games Terraclips for Malifaux. These sets feature lovely, full-color building pieces in modular sheets on hefty punchboard (1.7mm thick, to be exact.) You can clip the sections of wall, flooring, and roof together with the little terraclips made of transparent plastic so that they don’t mar the overall look of the terrain. I only got a quick look, but they seem high-quality and versatile enough to fit multiple scenarios. Best of all, a disassembled and boxed set takes up about the same space as a couple of RPG rulebooks. The Malifaux set would work well for any dark-ish city setting, (general WFRP and Mordheim both leap to mind,) and Worldworks has several dungeon sets coming soon that includes lava pits, rooms full of gold, and sarcophagi. These strike me as a nice compromise between easy-to-damage cardstock buildings and difficult-to-store plastic or resin models. I hope they plan to keep expanding the line! In fact, if this product line keeps growing and the space in my apartment keeps shrinking, I might end up replacing my own shelves of cardstock scenery with these.

I have a love-hate relationship with RPG maps. I love the beautiful, professionally-created ones that FFG makes, and I hate my own when they fall short. During campaign prep, I often regret not having a degree in graphic design (a field in which I have absolutely no interest other than this.) On the other hand, I find in my own group, maps tend to decrease the bickering about what’s going on and increase the suspense. My party tends to think that if something’s in the picture, it needs explorin’, which can lead to some hilarious moments when they sidle up cautiously to an innocuous (but mysteriously on-the-map) table.

I generally use Campaign Cartographer in spite of its steep learning curve–which I have to learn again each time I use it because I use it so seldom. I had high hopes for Ortelius, but as I said here, it doesn’t yet seem to fit the bill, so I find myself returning to CC over and over again. Yet I do hesitate to pull out CC when I only need a quick little image; it can take me an incredibly long time to remember how to use it, and I hate having to move from my Mac to my PC to work.

I was excited, then, when the link to Pyromancers’ online mapping software floated across my Facebook feed the other day. (Thanks, Rob!) This free, web-based mapping program doesn’t have the extensive graphics library of CC, but it does have quite enough to make a very nice sketch of a generic dungeon, tavern, or ruin, and you can import your own existing graphics if you’re feeling up to a bit of clicking around. I easily figured out the commands in about two minutes. You can save the maps you’ve made onto your hard drive; export them as PNGs, JPGs, or PDFs; or share them via an online gallery. The program supports both hex and grid maps, and will mark coordinates for you for ease of tactical use.

Here’s the simple tavern map I made start-to-export in about three minutes:

The website offers a way to include a map in a forum post and have players manipulate tokens on the map directly from the forum itself. I’m not playing in any forum-based games, but for those wanting to do online play, this solution might be just the ticket.

Overall, Pyromancers offers a great set of tools on their website. It strikes me that contributors to fan supplements and e-zines might make great use of this tool, and it’s certainly useful for any GM looking for uniquemaps. Do check it out!

I have a soft spot for squigs. Squigs represent everything that is awesome about Warhammer, at least as far as I’m concerned: they’re nonsensically made out of fungus, they look silly, they hang out with other humorous monster-types, but they have huge, pointy teeth and can totally kick your ass. That’s why I was excited to see Warhammer Forge’s new Colossal Squig miniature while surfing the web…although I’m not sure you can rightly call that thing a ‘miniature.’

My internal monologue: “A gigantic squig miniature that I will never use in game?! SIGN ME UP! Ooh, plus, it’s big enough that my paint job might look fairly competent. Fifty-five pounds, though. Plus shipping. Steep. Hmm…well, I’d probably have to write an adventure around it.”

I haven’t ordered it yet, because I’m telling myself that I’ll wait until I at least have an adventure idea for it. Of course, what that really means is that I’ll wait until I’ve opened up a Pages document and typed “COLOSSAL SQUIG ADVENTURE” across the top.

I haven’t even gotten that far, though, because I’m getting ready to run a half marathon tomorrow–gotta go pack my special running socks and energy gels and such. Whenever I feel like slacking in my pace, I’m just going to imagine that squig right on my heels…or maybe I’ll imagine that I am that squig. He seems to have a good stride. Rawarr!

I posted about the Pathfinder Minis the other day here. Since we preordered, we also got the promo dragon. It came in a separate mailing, which means it got to us…well, it got to us when it got to us. The mailroom in our building happens to be run by a disciple of Tzeentch, the Changer of Days. Of delivery.

ANYWAY, since I picked up a tabletop photo studio today, I thought I’d try it out by taking a few shots of the promo mini. It’s really a lovely little dragon; as with the rest of the set, they’ve done a great job with the painting. The sculpt has a lot of detail, and there’s a nice feeling of movement evoked by the tail and the wings. My husband tells me that these aren’t terribly expensive on eBay just yet, so if you want one, you may want to grab one before the prices go up. Here are the pics!

So, my husband is a Pathfinder junkie. Also, he loves his miniatures. In fact, he loves them so much that we have a whole bookshelf filled with those plastic D&D minis. So when he heard that there were going to be Paizo minis up for grabs, well, you’d better believe that we immediately pre-ordered a case of them.

They arrived today. I won’t go into too much detail here, but I’ll let you see for yourselves. These really are lovely. (I mean, they’re not Warhammer, which is a mark against them, but for a non-Warhammer product, they’re pretty keen.) The painting is much more precise and detailed than the old D&D minis; even the commons have lots of contrast colors and have been painted precisely. We ordered a case, and he was lucky enough to get a full set–every mini. Here are some pics of the whole shebang.

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If you’re dithering, definitely pick some up. They seem much sturdier to me than the old D&D minis, and they really do look quite nice!

Whew! It’s been a busy week, but I managed to squeeze in a quick trip to the gaming store tonight. Although it’s been available for awhile, I was pleased to see Gale Force 9’s outstanding Dungeon Master’s Mat set on the shelf. I’ve already discussed how impressed I was by the map of the Welcome Wench. Made of high quality materials with great graphics, the GF9 mats are sturdy, attractive, and easy to write on/wipe off.

That being said, some of the previous mats had strange graphic details that made made me leery of using them. The King’s Road map seemed, at first glance, to be infinitely useful; how many times a game does a GM need a plain path with a few rocks strewn here and there? Yet the handful of graves alongside the road had me cringing. I could get away with ignoring them once, but by the second time the mat came out, my players would be harping on the repetition like an insidious Internet meme: “My God, these roads are deadly! Is it a pothole epidemic? Should we stop drinking the water? And why do the people always die in sets of three?” If you have a group like mine, minor details in the art can lead to the players asking a major NPC in the next town about “all those graves,” and then you have to make a GM call about whether or not to roll with it and bring their metagaming into the fiction by having the NPC respond–and God help you if they decide to ditch the quest you had planned and instead go after the metaquest, which you’ll now suddenly need to create on the fly. Ugh!

That’s why I was glad to see the plain DM’s mat set available. One mat has a plain grassy background; the other has stone tiles. They’re perfect for placing under cardboard scenery, and since you can write on them, it’s easy to set up the buildings ahead of time, mark where they should go on the map, and wipe the outlines off after your session ends. Further, these mats would be great to throw in a GM’s convention gaming kit, as they have a bit more flair than plain brown grid maps.

I generally prefer detailed and evocative art, but sometimes, simple is best, especially if simplicity serves to focus your players on the details you want them to see.

Oh, look. Dreadfleet is here. It’s a bad thing that I know that Dreadfleet is here, and an even worse one that I went to the Games Workshop site and watched the video about it. Now I really want it, mostly because I think the fanciful ship minis are amazing.

I often think the detailed minis in big battle games are amazing, and I end up wanting to buy them. Then I take one look at the long rulebooks that come with that sort of game, and I never end up wanting to play them. Even if I get through the rulebook and still want to play the game, I get to the part where you have to set up some lovingly detailed intricate battle map created from a billion movable parts, and after putting three of those parts on the table, I wander off to the kitchen to look for a snack to bolster my stamina, end up getting distracted by my iPad, and then forget all about the game, coming back into the living room aeons later only to discover a half-completed battle game map taking up the majority of the table, crucial pieces of which have been knocked to the floor by the kitten and must be recovered from behind bookshelves and underneath tables.

Granted, Dreadfleet seems to have a fairly simple kittenproof battle map, but I’d need to cut out the billionty ships and glue them together and paint them, which isn’t making me terribly excited, either.

So, I’d decided not to buy it.

Then someone on a forum I’m on pointed out that the minis would be great for a Warhammer pirate RPG campaign. I’m not running a Warhammer pirate RPG campaign, mind you. I’m not planning on running a Warhammer pirate RPG campaign anytime soon. Besides, I certainly wasn’t panning a campaign with a skeleton ship or a ship that’s got a castle on a rock smack in the center of the deck. Those sort of things take serious special mechanics, and while I love to think up special mechanics during my morning run, I dislike balancing the special mechanics I’ve created with the mechanics of rest of the game. Obviously, then, there’s no conceivable reason for me to purchase this game.

So, you see, I’m going to be very firm with myself about not buying Dreadfleet. Right up until the moment I buy it.

I’ve talked some about making paper models before. I like to do it, and I’m okay at doing it, but I’m by no means a master craftsman. I’m particularly messy with glue. I have a heavy hand, and glue tends to end up everywhere–on my shirt, on the table, on the cat, and sometimes even in my lunch.

I’m also not incredibly precise. I tend to need a bit of time to get the flaps in place, and if the glue dries too quickly, I find myself having glued the roof to the bottom of the building or some such nonsense. Then there’s a resulting three hours of bad mood in which I swear that I hate making paper models, or, if the mistake was particularly bad and I had to reprint part of the model, in which I might swear that I will never play any RPG again. (Just kidding! I’ve never done that.)

I was excited to find that Scotch Scrapbooker’s Glue helps quite a bit. It’s strong, so you don’t have to sit forever holding a joint waiting for it to dry. Even though the glue bonds quickly, it leaves the paper repositionable for quite awhile, so you can fix it if you glued the tiny paper hay bale together inside out. (Not that I’ve ever done that, either.) Best of all, it has a tiny tip applicator that positions glue precisely on even the narrowest strips and tabs, and the bottle is thin so it’s easily maneuverable as you work on a project. On the other end, you’ll find a sponge applicator, which helps if you need to put a thin layer of glue over a wide area while avoiding saturation that can lead to warping.

I suppose it’s rather silly to celebrate glue. It’s not really central to the gaming process. Still, if part of your fun is putting the buildings and scenery together, it’s always nice to be able to focus on the parts of the process that are most fun while avoiding the parts of the process that are frustrating–like gluing your hand to the bottle. (Not, of course, that I’ve ever done that.)

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