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Showing posts from 2018

The Last Pyramid

Today saw the publication of the final issue of Steve Jackson Games's Pyramid magazine, as was announced several months ago. Broadly speaking, it was the victim of generally rough times within the gaming industry.

I'm one of what is surely a small number of people who have been published in all three iterations of Pyramid. I'd had some previous contact with SJ Games--some stuff I helped with ended up in GURPS Cyberpunk, which in turn has doubtless gotten my name on the Federal Register of Dangerous Hoodlums--but it wasn't until the later days of the paper version of Pyramid that I finally got up the nerve to try my hand at writing an article. The result was a short piece on low-tech (mostly Medieval) economies, which became my first professionally published work.

This, apparently, was enough encouragement. Having seen how painless the process actually was, I started thinking in terms of writing for publication. It didn't hurt that around this time I went to work fo…

Still More GURPS Terrain

I've been playing with a few more hex floor pieces.

One thing I've been seeing in a lot of printable floors is a sort of natural stone texture. It's a little irregular and uneven, though not so much so to make it unusable as terrain. It crossed my mind that rather than build a "natural stone floor" set of pieces, I could print flat floor pieces, shear some "rock" designs in half, scale appropriately, and print with a very, very small Z height. Those get glued to the flat floor and painted. That way, I'm not dealing with huge files (those rock forms use a lot of triangles). Seems to work pretty well.

What I'm not quite so happy with is a wooden plank texture. I swiped some very detailed wood plank hexes from a design on Thingiverse and scaled it down to my 1-inch hexes. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it works well at that scale. That said, I recently switched down from a .4 to a .3mm nozzle, so I'll try it again and see if that helps…

More GURPS Terrain

One of the things about printable terrain for D&D and other square grid based games is that their floors are really nifty. Stone tile textures, brick floors, curved sewer floors, and lots of other textures which I don't have the chops to reproduce at the moment.

But I'm working on it. The easiest thing for me to start on has been tile-like textures. That's basically just imposing a rectangular grid--a slightly irregular one for character in this case--on the raised hex surfaces.

These took to painting pretty well, I think. The design is, of course, over on Thingiverse.

Then I was thinking about floors with a wooden texture. And I remembered I own a CNC machine.

These are a bit rough. I recently replaced some old belts and pulleys, and I think one of the pulleys isn't tight enough, so I'm losing the occasional y-axis step. Still, they're good enough to be functional. In my copious spare time, I'll probably stain and shellac these.

Painting Terrain

So far, I fail utterly at painting miniatures. I don't have the steadiest hand or best feel for the texture of paint, so when I see people's fully painted minis, I naturally assume they're wizards and will in due course be burned at the stake. But I've come up with some approaches to painting terrain and architecture which appear to work for me. And if like me, you can't paint details, here's a guide to how I do it.

The materials I use include:
Cheap acrylic paint, the thicker the better.Kitchen sponges.Maybe some paint brushes. The first process I figured out working for me involves layers of stippling. Putting down multiple layers of what's essentially paint spatter gives this sort of natural stone look. To begin, cut the sponges into strips and pick at least three colors. For example, I often use dark, medium, and light brown or off-white or charcoal, medium gray, and white.

Dip the end of a strip of sponge into one of the colors and use it to stamp splot…

USB-Powered Infinite Dungeon Portal

Inspired by this portal by the Crafting Muse, I started thinking about portals to somewhere <woo-woo>else</woo-woo>. Naturally, my implementation ended up being over-complicated, but it lights up, so that's OK.

The idea was to create an "infinite mirror" embedded in a 3d printed doorway. The idea behind the infinite mirror is that you have a box with a mirror in the back, a half-mirrored surface in the front (like the "one-way mirrors" you get in police interrogation rooms on TV), and a light source somewhere in between. The light source reflects off of the mirrors, the reflections create reflections of their own, and so on until you create the illusion of enormous depth. Appropriate for a magic portal in a dungeon. It's rather more demanding on materials than what I normally do, but I had most of the components kicking around anyway.

For a light source, I settled on a couple of LEDs. I experimented with a bit of electroluminescent wire, which i…

GURPS-compatible Printable Gaming Floors

I do love me some 3d-printable gaming terrain. It's the next step after using attractive miniatures or at least good-looking stand-up cardboard figures.

The problem, alas, is that I play GURPS. GURPS uses a hex grid, while all the really good printable gaming terrain (or, indeed, basically all of the gaming terrain) like the lovely OpenForge is based on a square grid. So I had to create my own.

What I've put together is a series of hex-gridded floor sections available over on Thingiverse.

They're sorta-kinda semi-compatible with other gaming terrain so long as it doesn't have integral floors. For example, I'm using my floors with some OpenForge walls.

They're scaled for 1" = one hex, as is only right and proper for GURPS.

I've also created a few "area of effect" overlays to indicate things like an area of hexes which are on fire or protected by Dome spells.

I'm not using them much so far, but I incorporated a feature for better links a…

Writing Historical RPGs, Doing Diversity

For a few years now, I've been seeing things like this and reading pieces elsewhere about apparent conflicts between historical accuracy in historical or pseudo-historical fantasy games and issues of deep interest to some parts (and some potential parts) of the modern gaming audience. I tend to write things which are both connected to history and are written to enable the fantasies of modern people, some of whom have a specific interest in not reproducing problematic parts of the past and present in their recreations, so it's something which touches on stuff that I do. And I think I tend to move and write in circles where this tends not to get much thought or attention even though I write for a game which makes accuracy a priority, so while none of this is new to people who grapple with these issues regularly, I'm thinking maybe I should say something about it to get it into spaces where I work.

So, how do I approach the demands of both accuracy and diversity in the stuff …

Selling Priceless Items

As part of something I'm working on, I've run into the question of "how much can you sell a priceless item for?" If you come across, say, Excalibur or the Ark of the Covenant in the course of an adventure and you want to sell it, the question becomes less how much people are willing to pay for it and more how much people are capable of paying for it. This is different from selling a large hoard of loot. If you come back to town with a wagon full of potions and magic swords and the like, merchants can split it all up into smaller lots broker multiple small transactions. Here, you have to find one person or entity with a large sum of money. So here's something I'm toying with for DF:

Any item designated as "priceless" has a base value of $1m for purposes of figuring resale value. All modifiers for the seller's Wealth and that sort of thing still apply. That's the maximum value one can get in a typical Town. If the seller chooses to do so, howe…

Writing GURPS Adventures

Someone over on the forum asked for advice on writing adventures for GURPS. Or more specifically, in context, writing GURPS adventures with an eye towards publication by SJ Games, which is a very different animal. Whatever method and structure you have for writing up adventures for your own use is, of course, the best and you should use it for your own purposes. But we're talking about commerce here, not just art, so this should be thought of as advice on how to do business with a particular publisher, not generally useful advice on how to write adventures.

I need to start by defining a term. SJ Games means something specific by "adventure." As the wish list uses the word, an adventure has a plot, or at least something plot-like in it. It presents a specific problem to solve through a progression of encounters. They are not sandboxes. Sandbox-style adventures, with their multiplicity of possible PC objectives, are, in the terminology of the wish list, locations. There ar…