Monday, October 14, 2019

A walk down memory lane... thru a Motte and Bailey Castle.

The Shell Keep
Overview of the keep
Ah, memories.

My dad has been a gamer since he was a child. His collection of books, resources and material is unsurpassed. When I was in high school, I needed to write a report on the Middle Ages. Obviously, he wanted to help. What I didn't expect was, he told me to bring my whole class.

A horde of kids came in to our house for a lesson on the Middle Ages. Hand on, armor, swords, models, books, and history. On whim.
Gate and decking work.

He was always like that. When I was a toddler, I recall a massive Motte and Bailey castle in our living room. And some times part of the dining room and kitchen. It was a huge undertaking.

I have no idea where that castle went, perhaps it was broken in our many moves from the projects in Lockport to the Eastside of Buffalo and finally to Tonawanda.

It wasn't the only castle he had, it was one of dozens.
Side view
These pictures are of a castle in the classic motte and bailey design that I loved so much. I'm not sure when dad started building this, perhaps Dad doesn't know when he started building this, but here it is. Sometime in 2018 or 2019, perhaps.

This one is 4 by 3 feet. It's tiny compared to some of the work he has done.
Inner gate detail. 
This is my favorite view of the Keep. Dad always painted details on his gates, in classic blue, yellow and red. I am not sure of the historical details of those colors, but these remind me of Dad.
Inner ward
This shell keep has 3 inner buildings, with multiple floors. Since this is used for a wargame, the rooves, floors and ceilings come off.
Opposite side view.
This is a work in progress, so the exterior details are missing. There will be trees, stones, grass and perhaps water features in the finished work.
Again, the windows and doors have those colors.
Rooves and floors removed.
The interior is incredible. 
Second floor in place. 
In this view, you can see the doorways leading to the interior spaces. When he builds these things, he scales them 15 or 25 mm. I suspect this one is 25 mm.
Other buildings, rooves removed. 
The scale is important because wargamers use a particular basing for the figures. He needs to be able to fit those bases inside the structures.
Possibly a kitchen area.
Not every part of the keep is for military purposes. This is a cooking area.
Main gate, roof removed. 
I love the way he plans areas to be removed for the game action. This is the main gate.
Walkway of the parapet removed. Latrine area. 
And bathrooms in the walls. Waste would fall into the moat, for an extra deterrent. 
The Bailey. 
The exterior area has a couple of buildings, with thatched and wooden rooves.
Interior with rooves. 
The Keep has stone or tile rooves, not show in this image. The smaller building have blue slate. That is my favorite color. 
The Keep
I love the circular pattern of the keep's ward.
Bailey gate. 
And finally, our journey ends at the outer gate.
If you want to see more like this be sure to check out my dad on Facebook and on the web.

Classical Hack on Facebook

Classical Hack on the web

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Update for Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners!

Send out the criers and the messengers. Have the herald hoist the flag. Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners has been updated with several new classes, some campaign notes from history, and many rewritten sections for clarity.

Ever wonder what the difference was between a papermaker and a parchminer? How about a leather worker, a lorimer and a tanner? What is ostracon? What is the difference between amate and papyrus? All updated to answer your questions.

I was thinking of holding off on this until November, but had the chance to get things done this week.

Everyone who purchased the old product can download the new product from their Library on DriveThruRPG.

If you haven't looked at Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, let me tell you what it is and is not. In B/X and AD&D, characters were permitted professional skills to supplement their backgrounds, with nary a word on what those skills would be or how they would work. After decades of play and having my players want to have useful and memorable NPCs or codified professional skills, I wrote a set of rules to outline many common professions in historical times.

This expands in the information from D&D and AD&D, in a way that is very different than "skills" or "feats". Each commoner class member can advance up to 5 levels, from apprentice to master with hard work. Level determines the ease of success when operating as a professional class. Each class has distinct tools and skills, and where crossover exists, I have explained how these characters would work, while leaving the rules open to interpretation so they can fit into any D&D or AD&D campaign. 

There is commentary on economies, hiring, firing and all other aspects of gaining skilled tradesmen. Make no mistake, these are not alternate adventurer classes, they supplement the player characters, not replace them. It is not a sieve or character filter. In fact, this rule set can rescue hopeless characters and save you time at character generation.

It also answers some age old dilemmas about who can do what and why.

Price at PWYW, this rule set can enhance your campaign. Go ahead, give it a try.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

STA Pigment Liner Pens Review

A set of ten pens for $10.95? Probably not a good buy, but I went for it. I had a coupon code, free shipping, blah-blah-blah. Amazon got them here in 2 days, which was a surprise. I used the slow method of shipping, so that was nice.

On opening the package, you can't help but notice that these pens are cheap. I gave them a try, and it was better than expected. The set comes with 2 brush pens, a 0.8, and 0.6 to 0.1.

I don't general use brush pens and they felt odd to me. Actually very bad. The nib or whatever was very soft. The 0.8 to 0.5 felt pretty good. The 0.4 felt like the nib was bent, but all visual inspections showed it to be straight. The smaller pens felt really good. I could see using these a lot.

I returned to the brush pens and felt that maybe with a little practice, they would be ok.

So how do they rank? I'd say a solid 3 of five stars. If they last a long time, I could see bumping them up one star.

I can't say it'd stop using my Faber Castell pens, but these would do in a pinch. If I had something experimental to work on, I would totally use these pens to save the good ones. Realistically, the F-C pens are $25.00 and these are $11. It isn't a horrible set.

#Inktober2019, Artwork for Timeout.

Inktober is on. I have been binge watching TV while working on my main project for the month. I can't say I am getting a lot done, but I am learning.

My main project is a copy of New Mutant's #50, in stippling. One of the issues with this design is, I need a background which I pictured in black. In stippling. 8.5x11 mostly back composition in stippling.

Mmm. What did I do?

Anyway, my binge watching has been BSG. Being a space show, everything in the background is grey or black. I gave myself a timeout project which includes an all black background. I used BG 5 and 9 plus 120 black for these ships. I am not good with tones and color, so again, I am learning.

It's super rough, you don't even need to enlarge the image. Smaller is better.

#Inktober Update - Day 4

I didn't do an update yesterday, but I have continued to work on my project. Magik's hands and arms are causing me some trepidation, so I been forcing myself to work on them. I've also been working on the hair. For the horns and right hand, I think I need a glare or shadow effect. Not sure how that will work.

After the arms are complete, I will be working on the sword. I wasn't sure how this would go, so I did a quick straight to ink practice run. Not perfect, but a good practice run. 

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 28 - The Retort

Since my campaign seems to have died, it's time to get back to 52 Weeks of Magic. This week 40 and The Retort is item 28. Twelve more to catch up.

The Retort is a magical weapon, which initially appears as a leather wrapped handled, with no blade or guard.

The weapon counts as a +5 weapon, but has no bonuses to strike or damage. When the holder is threatened, The Retort will magically appear in the owners hand and ignite into a magical blade 4 feet long. If the user does not have a free hand, the weapon will appear between them and their opponent, waiting to be grasped. The weapon is usable by all classes.

The blade is a cracking field of energy which follows the form of a blade but writhes and twists towards the opponent or opponents. This amorphous form reduces the wielder's AC by 4, making them harder to hit because the energy causes fear. The blade is obviously dangerous. It's light will illuminate a 30 foot area to full daylight.

On a successful to hit roll, a living target must make a save vs. death. If successful, they take no damage. If failed, the target  hit points are reduced to one hit point and are rendered unconscious for 1d6 turns. No matter how many times struck, the weapon will always leave one hit point. The Retort is not exactly cursed, but holding it will cause the wielder to deal with all threats with The Retort and not switch to another weapon. This obviously prevents the user from issuing a final blow to kill a target. 

If the target cannot be rendered unconscious (such as undead or a golem), they will be encased in a field of energy matching The Retort's blade and take 1d4 points damage for the next 3 rounds. Each hit will increase the duration of the field of energy by one round. While this field has some of the aspects of a flame, it is magical damage, not fire. 

The Retort allows the user to see invisible or astral creatures and will leap to the user's hand when confronted with such threats. Against otherworldly creatures such as demons or creatures summoned, the weapon will leap to the users hand and radiate a circle of protection for 10 feet. The wielder can lash out at these creatures with the blade so long as they are within 6 feet of the circle of protection. It is a one-way barrier to physical attacks, not magic or missiles.

If the wielder strikes themselves on purpose, they will be surrounded by a corona of flame which will will heal them to full hit points immediately. The owner must be under some sort of threat, such as eminent combat to use this power. People who have healed themselves in this fashion will feel numb and cold and the wound will burn with flames like The Retort's blade.

Once the immediate threat is ended, The Retort will try to extinguish itself. If the user wishes, they can force the blade to stay lit. The user will lose half their current hit points and will be unable to sleep, meditate, pray or study spells. The blade will remain lit for 24 hours, during which time, the holder cannot be healed by any means, except a wish. Wishing for healing will also extinguish the blade for a week, rendering it useless for that time.

If the wielder dies or is reduced to 0 hit points while the blade is lit, they cannot be revived, reincarnated or resurrected until they are physically separated from The Retort. If the weapon is taken up by another person, it will refuse to operate for the previous user. If the weapon is thrown away, it may return the prior owner. To prevent this from happening, the former user must save vs. magic.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

#Inktober2019 - First Rule. DHYB - Updated

I'm watching people upload their videos for Inktober. I don't have the equipment but still want in on the game. I made a 20 second video demonstrating my personal technique.

The first rule is, Don't Hold Your Breath. I also tend to draw standing up and really don't care which way the image is orientated. Turn and turn.

Thank you Nathan for the camera work.

Edit - I think I'll combine all of my updates into one post to save time and energy. I really want to work on the sword, but the ring around Magik's legs is more important. However, there is one problematical part - the hands. I am not great a drawing hands and if I botch it, I'm starting over.

It seems ok. I find hands and feet to be the hardest part and in this image, that are is swinging across her front. A mistake here is unfixable. I  think I handled it well.

Before I start with the teleportation ring, let me give some background as to how I did this. I took a pyrex bowl lid and held it over the drawing and traced the outline. This gives the disc a 3 dimensional shape. Sort of cheating, but an interesting cheat.

Since the lid had depth and a rim, I could see the drawing distort through those edges. I actually wanted to do something different with the disc. The first thing that came to mind was water, but then I had a different idea.

What I want to do is combine some of the aspects of water, like refraction. But I also wanted to have a distortion of the disc to perhaps eat up some of the background. I thought that the light lines of an accresion disc would do nicely. I already have the refraction lines drawn, those are the horizontal marks in the disc. This would be her legs shifted left and right in alternating bands.

Next will come the halo. The image below is of a black hole's disc, and you can see the back edge extend "upwards". It's not actually "upwards" of anything. As the light passes around the edge of the black hole, the shortest path kisses the edge of that sphere, revealing more of the disc than could otherwise be seen. I didn't draw it like this, but I am hoping to copy some of the effect to lighten the background.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

#Inktober2019 update - Layout complete

I'm not sure what's going in the background, but I have the foreground complete. I think I will have a shadowy face of Sym worked into the background someplace, bit I am not sure. I like the idea of teleport disc I found and copied from Deviant Art, however, I saw this a few years ago and for the life of me can't find him now that I want to credit the original. The center image with the armor is like the DA artist, but not exact.

I'll be back when my Google Fu kicks in and I get a name.

Edit - Of course after a while of searching giving up, I find the artist on the very first try. His name is olivernome. I really like his work.

#Inktober2019 Day One

I'm warming up today. Just a simple geometric pattern in ink. I won't finish it, it's not the sort of thing to finish. It is just play while my brain and hand warms up. Sometimes work is just play with a purpose. I kind of like the design.

Anyway, this is my first Inktober. I wish I could do a drawing everyday, but I won't. I want to do one or more projects to completion this month. I want to go back to the way I used to draw.

I picked my first subject, Magik from the New Mutants. I particularly love/hate the version of her on the cover of the 50th issue. The style is very nineties, jagged, slashy, primal. It seems to fit with the character. In this particular issue, is not sexed up, but actually reverted to a younger child. There is a sense of disquiet as she battles her way through her demons. I like the fact that they are "her demons".

Anyway, I want to do a copy of this cover but in my own style. It won't be anything like the drawings I have done recently. It will be part experiment and part return to where I started. I'll
be posting updates throughout the month as it proceeds.

If I get to another work, I post that here, too.

Here is to beginnings.

Truth or Tall Tale Tuesday (TOT3) - Who the Hell is Mr. Archer?

Several years ago, I started a new career in education. I made mistakes along the way, but somehow I turned some of them into wonderful memories.

On my first day at work in a special education school, there was a dance. The gym was jam packed with kids dancing their hearts out. As a trainee, the only expectation placed on me was to mingle, to get to know the kids. So I gave it a shot and totally failed. 

The first student I met asked me something over the pounding music. All I herd was "What... all?" I realized that he had some sort of speech issue, and STUPIDLY assumed he asked me what the song was called. 

Well, the song was Cupid Shuffle, which will be important later. 

The next day, I was permanently assigned to classroom with teenagers. Everything was going well until we got to lunch. In the middle of the cafeteria, the student from the day before came up and greeted me. 

"What up? Oopid!" he shouted. 

With dawning horror, I realized exactly what was happening. He had asked me my name, not the name of the song and thought that I was named "Cupid Shuffle", a pair of words he couldn't render correctly. 

"Oh, f---. That kid just called Mr. Phil 'stupid'." chuckled one of my teenage students. Yes, let's not put to fine a point on it. That was exactly what was happening. 

Teachers, aides, speech therapists and OT worked their hearts out to help this kid say "Cupid" correctly. He couldn't. Nor could anyone convince him to called by my real name, "Phil". Add in the fact that every new person who encountered this kid thought he hated me and needed to be corrected. Actually, he liked me so much, he wanted to greet me by name at every encounter. I really liked him. He became my favorite despite the communication glitch. 

As I mentioned, every effort to get him to render "oopid" as "Cupid" failed. The best anyone could do was teach him the sign for "Cupid" in American Sign Langue and then teach all new staff that sign, too. It eliminated much of the shock because at least everyone knew what he meant. The sign looks like firing an arrow followed by a flapping of arms like wings. It is literally "Archer+Wings". 

Fast forward 2 years. A class of new trainee staff toured the building. Near the gym, they met my favorite little guy and he had them bottled up with all his cuteness. He was that kid. He was so charming they took their time talking to him, one by one. 

As I walked past he shouted out, "Hey!" and gave a quick version of my name in sign language, just the arrow part. Months before, he stopped trying to say my "name". 

The kids play football in the gym heard him and they copied him: "Hey!" and the sign.  

"Whoa! You have your own sign?" asked one of the trainees. 

"Well, yeah," I answered. 

"That is so cool," they muttered appreciatively. 

A few days later, there was a bit of an uproar in HR. Apparently, the new training class loved "Mr. Archer" but there was no staff or student by that name. 

Truth or Tall Tale? This one is true! 

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Tek - September 2019 Stats

September 2019 Downloads via DriveThruRPG:
AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana - 5
Compass Rose Inn Minisetting - 5
Kobold Folly Minisetting - 7
Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners - 4
Swashbucklers Character Class - 17

Google Analytics Pageviews - 1,098
Google Analytics Sessions - 740
Pageviews per Session - 1.48

Ok, this month I am no longer reporting Blogger stats as they are provably wrong. All of my Amazon Stats are 0, so I am giving them one more month before dumping the Amazon ads. I will still carry the "Most Favored Products" as that is possibly drumming up activity for other people.

EDIT - One more stat. I hope to get 750 pageviews. I really got 1098, which is a 14% increase over last month. I am really happy with that.

I haven't done any stats for DrivethruRPG ads, but they totally cover my operating costs for a year. At $186 and change for a year's worth of referrals, it doesn't contribute much to my bottom line. Nor does sales on my products, which is about $23 a year. I've had 551 downloads over the same time period, so that works out to 4.1 cents per download. This is pretty great concidering I don't like to host my own stuff.

Now, throwing it back on me. Can I come up with a truly perfect product that I can sell for a specific price? That is my intent by December 2019. If that pans out, I will likely rework many of my prior products, expand on them, and offer them for sale. The originals will still be PWYW, but going forward, I plan to create items of worth (even if lowly worth) and start selling instead of using the tip jar method of PWYW. I will never completely step away from PWYW, but I'd like to have some products with very high production quality in the future. I feel like I am getting there, but still need to refine my work to get there.

Just so the reader is aware, I post on the last day of the month. This means that some stats are low by a few hours. I update them later as the final results are in. For example, in August I said I had 1003 page views. In reality it was 1006. That is too small of a difference to matter, but I did update it. These slight changes are not too offensive to me. The point of this data is so that other bloggers have an idea of where they might be in relation to something or other or me. Sometimes, you aren't as small time as you think, which is awfully good to know.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Latest Book Find - Glyn Davies' A History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day

My latest find for reading is Glyn Davies' A History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day. As near as I can tell, in the United States, this is a textbook. In the UK, it seems to be a casual read. I am taking it as a casual read.

My intent is to take some of Mr. Davies' observations and plug them into my role playing games. I haven't gone far into the 741 page book, but it's great so far. Once I'm done, I'll throw up a review.

I can't wait to get through this. So many games rely on money, gold, credits, but I really have no idea how an economy develops money in lieu of barter. Barter is such a pain in the butt that I can see the drive to cash and coins, but how that happens in the real world is mystery to me.