Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Another Character Class Idea - The Monomachos

(This is a bonus post, one I wrote back in September of 2022. I found it unposted while cleaning up.) 

Stephen Donaldson is known for using 10-dollar words when a single simple word would suffice. In his Mordant's Need series, the villain's right-hand man is The Monomach. He is one part warrior, one part assassin. 

Now I thought I knew what "monomach" meant, but it turns out I was totally wrong. I had thought it was related to nobility or being a monarch, making this guy "The Assassin King".  


It's Greek. "Monomachos" or "he who fights alone". A gladiator. That is not as cool as "The Assassin King" but makes so much more sense in context. I'd like to introduce one to a campaign. I posted as much a few years ago when I last read the series. I had a couple of ideas that I have refined over time. 

A Monomachos is like a fighter, but nothing like a regular Fighter, Elf, Dwarf, Cleric, Paladin, or Knight. They live for the fight, not for sustained warfare. 

In Donaldson's books, the Monomach is clearly evil because he assassinates people for the joy of it. When I first wrote about the character, I had a limited view of that type of character. If you didn't read that story, think of Darth Maul from The Phantom Menace without all the chattiness. Maul showed lust for fighting, maybe killing, but not for general mayhem.  

As a villain, a Monomachos only has one purpose... to cause death and terror before dying. But do they have to be the villain? 

Well, it certainly makes things easy if they are all villains. But they are not all villains.  

It was relatively easy to come up with superhero examples. Black Widow, Hawkeye, Daredevil, The Hulk, and so on come across as heroes who live for the thrill of the fight. To a lesser extent, you could add Tony Stark and Spider-Man to the list, but then also remove the MCU Black Widow because she was starting to believe the fight was too much of a bother. Hawkeye was also heading that way, only to be replaced by Kate Bishop which allowed him to leave the hero act behind. Baymax would be an interesting and scary addition to that list because he follows his programming as if it were a joy. 

Oddly, the Punisher is not a Monomachos as he has a different purpose for what he is doing. Fighting and aggression are not really his "thing". He is sorting criminal corpses into their proper circle of hell. It's a completely different purpose. He doesn't have to fight, just kill. 

So what about non-superheroes? 

Well, the list is short. Peter Pan, The Three Musketeers, Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, Legolas, and Glimly. And my brain screeches to a halt there. I guess I could name more, but that is good enough. 

The surprising people from those two lists are Spider-Man and Peter Pan because they are characters who are loved by children. It doesn't mean their drives are kid-friendly. Parker is driven to take risks and engage in violence at great personal cost. Peter Pan is slightly more disturbing. He switches sides if the fight is too easy. He kills Hook and then forgets there was a Captain Hook to kill. Both do it for the same reasons, the drive to excel with their given skill set, that are in parallel with their personal goals. 

So what commonality do these people have if we take away alignment? 

Each person is an improviser. They may use traditional weapons but are fully capable of using a brick, a candlestick, and a doorknob if necessary. They are not subject to outside influences, such as social norms and certain types of magic. Being a bit of a sociopath helps. Oddly, this deviated personality may cause them to be in more control of their feelings and desires, leading them away from wasteful fights. If the fight isn't a challenge, why do it? 

Poor or malformed social skills are a hallmark of every character listed. 

None of these characters are especially good at ordinary, everyday skills. Peter Pan and Kate Bishop can't cook. Hawkeye tends to zone out at key moments and Bruce Banner retreats from the world. Stark is made of neuroses, everything from germaphobia to being a dick even when he means to help. 

In-game, what sort of traits would these characters have? 

They should be able to use any sort of weapon and armor, even if they don't personally like specific armor and weapon types. They can also use improvised weapons. It's not their first, best option but if there is a lot of rubble around, it's better than bruising your knuckles. 

Next, they should have some unique combat skills. 

The Monomachos should rarely be surprised in combat. Perhaps only a 1 in 6 chance and this is separate from the rest of the party's roll. They are itching for a fight in every situation. If the party is surprised and The Monomachos is not surprised, they move with the enemy. This could spoil their surprise round as there is one opposing person moving as they do. The enemy had to waste their surprise round to address the Monomachos. 

Their third combat ability is to refuse contact. If the Monomachos has the initiative and makes a successful attack roll, they may either proceed to the damage roll OR spoil their attacker's next roll. This also allows them to turn and face another opponent. This prevents them from being flanked, it does not permit them an extra attack. 

Fourth, they defy outside influences. They have trait that they can't utilize magic weapons to full effect. No bonuses, but the weapon still counts as magic to inflict damage. This is because they only rely on their own skills, not the assistance of a magic weapon. Of course, if the magic weapon has a secondary power or effect that is magical, like detecting evil or light, they can use that to the fullest. It's the assistive nature that they won't do. 

Armor is different, they do receive bonuses as they can't undo or refuse its basic nature to protect.  

Cursed weapons should fear the Monomachos character. These types of people aren't subject to outside influences, therefore a cursed weapon should be just as ineffective as a positive magic weapon. A cursed weapon should try to escape their clutches because the Momomachos may choose to sacrifice a weapon to win. Intelligent things fear destruction. 

I wanted something like this when I created my Swashbuckler character class but in play testing it was impractical. Based on this new character type, I will rewrite that document. 

To recap the character: 

Surprised only on a 1 in 6. They move and attack during their opponent's surprise round if not surprised themselves. 
Can use all weapons and armor, but receive no magical bonuses for weapons.
They are immune to cursed weapons.
They can also use improvised weapons if only to save their knuckles.  
Foil attacks on a hit and turn to face other opponents instead of dealing damage. 

Let me know what you think in the comments, especially if you have already purchased my Swashbuckler class. 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Taking a Break - 100+ Days

I love to brainstorm ideas and run with it all willy-nilly. In my last few posts, I have mentioned a few projects that are "almost done". And I have at least a dozen other ideas that need to be done. It is time to step back and reflect on my goals and priorities without the distractions of blogging. I think I will take a break for 105 days.

A few months ago, my ancient Power Mac bit the dust. This was my main machine for writing, with my clamshell iBook being the backup. Now I am operating with no backup at all. That is not good. 

I have been gifted two 2010 Mac Pros to get my writing and blog back on track. Yet they sit next to the broken Power Mac unused. What is holding me back is data recovery from the old Mac and recycling equipment that is no longer used.

Second, next to the computers is my gardening shelf, which is covered with crafting supplies. As May 7th is the last frost date in Western New York, I am going to need this space for my gardening supplies in April. It needs to be emptied and supplies bought for gardening. 

This also ties into the Giant Frickin' Bunny that inhabits our home. He needs a nice place to play, both inside and outside. His name is Fiver and maybe he will get his own blog. He certainly is cute and photogenic. 

Anyway, the garden and rabbit are linked topics because one needs the other. He is a cross between a Flemish Giant and a Continental Giant, so we can expect him to grow to be at least 30 pounds and maybe 3 feet long. We'll be using the garden to supplement his store-bought foods. We give him plenty of fresh food and it would be nice to not shop specifically for him.  

Third, my blog, in some form or another has been rolling since January 2010. It has developed a lot of cruft in 14 years. Formatting has gone weird, some posts link to places that no longer exist, and half a dozen things that bother me are begging to be fixed. That doesn't even cover the fact that I have a high-quality camera and microphone that sit unused on my desk. I need to clean up to keep this place nice. I also need to integrate it better into my social media accounts. 

In no particular order: I would like to scrub ads off the blog, fix formatting that is broken, and provide better images for existing posts while creating a standard for future posts. 

All of this takes time. Maybe 105 days.

When it comes to the content, I have a bag of holding worth of books and games waiting to be read, and played, and reviewed. 

I don't expect to go radio silent for the next couple of months. You can expect to see a few posts, probably less than what I have done in the past year. As I tick items off my list, I will definitely post updates. However, I don't plan on spending a lot of time on social media promoting things. While I am working on all this, I want to think about how I present on those other channels and gear my posts to work better in those places. 

Again, I would like to thank all of you for supporting this blog. 

Monday, February 12, 2024

Maker Monday - Project 1 - The Tall House

My wife and I have been dressing up our newly rebuilt house with furniture. That stuff comes in flat-pack boxes with tons of odd bits and foam pieces to protect the item inside. I noticed some great upcycle bits that I will be using for the first couple of projects. 

There is a ton of styrofoam in this packaging and I saved it all. The type I am upcycling is called EPS or expanded polystyrene which doesn't break down over time making it very hard to tip in the trash or recycling bin. 

I noticed that some of these companies are using small cardboard L's to get around using a lot of styrofoam and these bits are going to be the tip-top of these projects. 


Other handy bits found in packing are pieces of wood or particle board cast off the from manufacturing process. While heavy, it does fill space in a shipping box nicely. I have my cutting mat sitting on one, just so you don't think my table is a strange two-grained surface. 

Let's take a look at some of those pieces. 

I have my styrofoam and a couple of cardboard Ls on the cutting mat, plus Sarafina the Cat for scale. 

You will need your tool kit, styrofoam pieces, cardboard, heavyweight paper, and maybe some other items particular for your build, like popsicle sticks or stir sticks. 

What scale am I using? I call it "handy scale". Pieces are bigger than an inch and beyond that, I don't care much. I have both 15mm and 25 mm figures. I want the display pieces to be big enough to look nice but small enough to move around and store easily. I want to be able to use them for both 15 and 25 mm figures. 

I can set these parts to a scale like 1" equals 6 feet. In this case, the cardboard L is two inches wide (12 feet) and one inch high (6 feet). 

As I mentioned, the cardboard Ls are going to be the cherry on top of this project. They will be both the roof and a ready-made item I don't have to cut. 


I do need to make some measurements. The styrofoam (foam from here on out) is about 1 and 1/4 inches wide and much longer. When I match it up to the cardboard L, there is a 3/4 overhang. I can smoosh the cardboard to make this more or less by changing the pitch. This has the nice effect of making two different buildings appear to have completely different rooves with the exact same material. 

Each small L is about 4 to 5 inches long. The foam needs to be cut just a smidgen smaller than that, say 1/2 inch smaller so the overhang is close to the same all the way around. 

In the image, there is a very long piece of cardboard, about 12 inches. I haven't tried to cut it but I already know that I will use it for a different project as it is so tough cutting will be difficult. 

Speaking of size, let me apologize now. It's been a few years since I have posted on modeling. Mistakes have been made. What I need to get in the habit of is using GIMP to make sure every image is the same size. I didn't do that here, simply snapping a picture on my phone and cropping to whatever seemed ok. In retrospect, every crop is very not ok. It's annoying for me and probably distracting for you. 

I have sized up the foam I had in easy reach. The Ls match both, so I picked the skinnier, taller pieces for this model. This will be a Tall House after all. This particular piece is 4 inches tall making it about 30 feet tall plus an extra 1/2 inch under the eaves. This would represent a 3-story building. 

For D&D games, this would translate to a four-story building because there would likely be a dug-out root cellar or a crawlspace between the structure and the solid ground. This is highly variable as this building could be wood, stone, or block construction with the stone or blocks sitting on a rock base while a wooden structure simply resting on the dirt. 

I am not going deep into the weeds on this because how the building interacts with this ground is not only dependent on the material used but also the climate. If it freezes, you either need to be deep in the ground or right on top and no deeper. Both present construction problems in real life.

This reminds me, if you goof anywhere within this project, you can turn the building into a ruined structure. Ground heave, earthquakes, and fires have destroyed many, many ancient buildings. 

In my last post, I told you 3 lies. In this post, I will apologize 3 times. The second apology is about my 12-item list. I forgot sandpaper. We're almost there. You'll need sandpaper. 



In this picture, I line up the roof on the edge of the foam and push it over about 1/2 inch. This will give me a 1/4 overhang on all four sides. This is a very rude measurement and not entirely true for reasons I will explain later. 

This is a roughly built structure, so I just eyeballed the cutline. I want consistent lines, but not necessarily straight and square. I am shocked that the pencil is visible in the photograph. 

If your line isn't visible, use a ballpoint pen, not a marker. The ink can melt the foam and this is less noticeable with a ballpoint pen. 

This next part requires a bit of care. I'm working with a knife or wire foam cutter or maybe one other item, a hot knife. I forgot about the hot knife method until I opened my wire foam cutter and found one. The idea is that you put the knife in a flame and try not to stab yourself with a flaming hot knife. I am not a fan of this method. 

I used the wire foam cutter, but let me fill you in on a secret to using a foam cutter. 

Make a cardboard or tagboard jig or template. In the photo, you can see I simply aligned 2 cardboard Ls with the line. This was a mistake. The Ls are slightly smaller than the foam and it is only on 3 sides. This leaves a lot of wiggle room for the cutter. 

Well, that will be a problem. 

I selected the half-hoop cutter for this. I have a choice of two different probe-like wires and the half-hoop. I have poked myself with the probe-like wires so I wanted the one that can't poke me. 

These things get raging hot very quickly. They also cool just as quick. DO NOT touch, a couple of seconds can mean the difference between a cool wire and a 3rd-degree burn. Don't play that game. 

The wire is barely under Fahrenheit 451. It shouldn't burn paper, but could brown it. If you don't like burning smells in the house, open a window, go outside, or use your garage or basement.  

The trick is to move swiftly and smoothly as the wire radiates heat which melts the foam some distance from the contact point. This takes practice and the jig or template can help. Assuming you make it correctly, unlike me. 

The cut takes about 2 seconds to complete, maybe faster. Do not force the wire through the foam. Let the heat work for you. 

As you can see from the picture, I didn't move smoothly and my makeshift jig let the wire slide all over. I do have plenty of experience doing this and simply overestimated my skill. I am two or three years out of practice and boy did it show. 

I grabbed a piece of sandpaper, something I always have to run out and buy because I didn't have any around when I made my post about the 12 items you need in your tool kit. It took far longer to buy the stuff than it did to sand the block down. 

When sanding styrofoam, use steady, flat strokes. Resist the urge to go in circles or roll onto the edges, unless you actually want rounded edges. If you do round your edges, do all four vertical corners and leave the top and bottom natural. Rounding the bottom where it touches the ground looks weird unless you are making a sci-fi-themed building where there is the possibility that the "building" is actually a shipping container-like structure. 

As you can see, I quickly sanded this down. I could have covered this side with a skim of plaster, or a sheet of paper or made details that covered the roughness. You could, in theory, skip the sandpaper but I already did it. 

Now for the final apology. I had expected to have the whole building done in a single post. Rooves are fiddly things with a zillion options. Having the Ls shaped piece simplifies the build but doesn't make the roof less time intensive. Whatever you save using the L-pieces, you can burn with other details.   

This will be my very next post. Again, I apologize. 

Through the magic of making several buildings off-camera, we can look at several different styles and methods for the roof. In later posts, I will either link to the roof post or create a series of roofing posts that you can reference.  

This post appears on These Old Games, but please do me a favor and follow me on FacebookMeWeDice.Camp and/or Ko-Fi

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Lights, Camera, Prep - The 65 Dollar Tool Kit

I have so much going on. I need my shelves back to do some gardening, which means cleaning and organizing my D&D and modeling supplies. 

For the past couple of months, I've had some crafting projects on my mind that never went anywhere. I want finished products, not another tote or bin full of unfinished crap. I have supplies on top of tools and that drives me nuts. 

We could do this together. 

Let's pull together a 65.00 dollar tool kit for DIY models. This toolbox is meant more for crafting as opposed to plastic models. You probably have many of these things already and my suggestion is to buy as little as possible.  

The inspiration for this series is this custom Star Smuggler Print and Playbox, which remains at 90% complete. 

This list does not include supplies for projects. Each part of this series will have a separate supply list for each model or project. These projects will range from upcycling junk to throwing together scraps from other projects. You shouldn't have to buy too much for these crafts. 

These are the 12 items you will need to follow along at home. I have included basic prices and only a few lies: 

  • Cutting mat - $9.00 
  • Paper cutter - $10.00
  • 3 in 1 foam cutter - $20.00 to $30.00
  • Razor knives - $5.00
  • Glue - $5.00
  • Paint - $1-2.00 each*
  • Tape - $1.00
  • Rule/Straight Edge - $1.00
  • Pencil - $1.00
  • Pen - $1.00
  • Marker - $1.00*
  • Brushes - $1.00*
  • (I forgot this one until I started working on a project. Sandpaper). 
Items marked with a * are lies. 

This collection of tools is pretty standard. You probably already have markers, pens, pencils, and tape, so we can shave off 4 bucks. 

Cutting mats are wonderful and highly variable in price. The green one above is 17" by 12" and I found a two-pack for $9.00. You can also find one at the Dollar Store, for a surprising $1.25. Of course, I can't find it for a picture, but the black and orange one I did find was $25 with some tools. If you want to save some money, go find a scrap of wood or a piece of cardboard. Tagboard or poster board is a little too thin. If you go with the board, shave off another $9.00. 

The cutting mat serves three functions: a scale or ruler, a nice surface, and safety. The ruled lines allow for nice straight and/or square cuts without resorting to a second tool. It has a soft surface that protects your workspace. Most importantly, the soft, self-healing surface can protect your body and hands as blades have a tendency to lodge into the surface on slips, saving you from a nasty cut or scare. 

I prefer cardboard over wood for catching cutting accidents. If you go with a piece of wood, pick a soft board. 

I will be using a foam cutter for many of these projects. I consider it necessary, but you can get by just fine with a very, very sharp knife or razor. Just be careful. The foam cutter eliminates a lot of messes, but it's a hot tool that takes some practice to use. My first couple of projects only involve straight cuts, so you can get that practice by following along. 

Foam cutters are wonderful, but the pricing is outrageous for no good reason. The item pictured was $20.00. However, I have seen the EXACT SAME ITEM for $200. Don't do that to yourself, shop around. You don't need it that badly. 

The paper cutter is an optional "nice to have, but not necessary" item. I like it but you can do just fine the mat and a razor or use a pair of scissors. This one I found at Target on clearance, otherwise, I would not have one at all. It's a product with a single purpose which may or may not come up that often. 

The paper cutter is nice but...

I feel like I can skip over many items on this list as you probably have them. 

Let's go to the LIES section. There are 3 of them: brushes, paints, and markers. The list claims you can have all three for about $12 assuming you want only 10 paints, a brush, and a marker. That is actually a tiny lie due to the projects we will be doing. 

DO NOT USE your wife's Copic markers on these projects. The same goes for her wonderful Citadel paints or her sable-hair paintbrushes. Murder will result. There is no "may" in that statement. It will happen. 

The projects we will be working on are rather rude. You can glitz them up to your level of comfort, but don't waste nice markers, paints, or brushes on this. Dollar store items will be fine.   

The same can be said of glue. I have three different items from the Dollar Store. We aren't building furniture, so don't waste your money on "nice things". There is one item in this picture that is a "must have", the Tacky Glue. It's a Dollar Store item which is shocking. It has the consistency of Mod Podge and can be used for both gluing and a surface cover. I love it. 

I can't wait for us to get started.

Before I finish up, I wanted to talk about the writing implements: pen, pencil, and markers. Certain materials do not like certain marking implements. Styrofoam melts with some markers, damaging both the craft and the marker itself. Pens are good for dark, soft materials as you can see the color. Pencils are pretty much universal to all products, but sometimes not for foam or dark surfaces. If I notice this happening in this series of projects, I will warn you in advance. 

That is it, here are the 12 items you will need for this project series, complete with three lies. 

(And one omission, sandpaper.) 

This post appears on These Old Games, but please do me a favor and follow me on Facebook, MeWe, Dice.Camp and/or Ko-Fi