Saturday, August 30, 2008

Politics and Gaming

I don't intend to discuss my political views on this blog; however, every once in a while something happens in politics that directly relates to the hobbies I do discuss in this blog. I never expected anything to come up during this Presidential campaign, but it did.

Michael Goldfarb, Deputy Communications Director of the McCain campaign, apparently doesn't really know that much about communications. In a blog post made back on the 18th (which was apparently a repeat of comments he made to the New York Times earlier) he talks about some alleged smears coming from far left bloggers, in doing so he makes the comment "It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman's memory of war from the comfort of mom's basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others."

His naivete concerning the extent and composition of the RPG community was merely compounded by his "apology": "If my comments caused any harm or hurt to the hard working Americans who play Dungeons & Dragons, I apologize. This campaign is committed to increasing the strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma scores of every American." This either indicates that Goldfarb has knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons, and chose to use it disparagingly anyways, or asked around the campaign headquarters for someone who knew enough about it to frame a cutesy reply. Either case shows absolutely no remorse for the initial insult, and no respect for gamers.

With increasing awareness of the slight in the gamer community, Hasbro decided a couple of days ago to weigh in on the situation by writing Mr. Goldfarb a letter which they released publicly:

Michael Goldfarb
1235 S. Clark St, Suite M
Arlington, VA 22202

Dear Mr. Goldfarb,

I was disappointed to read the disparaging intent of your comments regarding Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fans, both in your response to New York Times editors, and on the John McCain campaign website.

Dungeons & Dragons is a global game with millions of consumers in the U.S. and abroad. The brand is owned by Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc.

For fans, the game is essentially about heroism and therefore it is not surprising to us that thousands of military personnel play and enjoy the game. Hasbro, in turn, supports the U.S. Armed Forces by sending multiple crates of game products, including Dungeons & Dragons, to our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Recently a soldier who saw your comments online said, “Wizards of the Coast (the makers of D&D) has sent care packages to the troops on many occasions, providing free gaming supplies in support of our men and women serving the country overseas to help them decompress after hours. McCain's people should really check their facts before they spout off. Does John McCain have no idea how many GIs play D&D?”

We would very much appreciate you not making any more condescending comments about D&D -- as it is a great game enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Thank you.

Wayne Charness
Senior Vice President
Hasbro, Inc.

I thought that this was a particularly good response to the issue on the part of Hasbro. As far as I know there has been no response from Mr. Goldfarb or the McCain campaign.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I don't intend to discuss my political views on this blog, but in the interest of saving the effort of anyone trolling blog sites for anti-McCain posts, I'd just like to point out that I don't support either of the two main candidates for President. If I become aware of similar anti-gaming comments from the Obama camp I will discuss them here as well.

I would also like to point out that despite the overall tone of this post, I recognize that in the grand scheme of things this is a pretty minor issue for most people; however, I think that the McCain campaign's refusal to either retract or offer a sincere apology for the statement really is a slap in the face to gamers.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Fire Dragons

I got impatient waiting for the rest of my first 1000 points of Eldar to arrive after finishing my first Wave Serpent, so I went out and bought a box of Fire Dragons to work on. While my final 2500 point list calls for three minimum size squads of Fire Dragons, my intermediate lists will probably feature larger squads to use up any extra points, so having a few extra at the beginning won't be a waste.

I've been struggling over how I was going to paint my Fire Dragons. I went with a list that used mostly Guardians for infantry because, as I've mentioned before, I don't like painting aspect warriors in their official colors. I prefer a more unified scheme featuring craftworld colors. For some reason I have had a mental block that has prevented me from seriously considering painting aspect warriors in non-traditional colors. Possibly because seeing aspect warriors painted differently is so incredibly rare.

Fortunately, while browsing the web for more ideas I stumbled across an Eldar project where the painter had decided to do his entire army in a unified color scheme, including his aspect warriors. Actually seeing someone else doing it managed to free me from the silly mental block that I had and I'm now in the process of painting a squad of Fire Dragons in the standard orange and gray colors of Yme-Loc. The only nod to the fact that they are aspect warriors is a few red details, including the facemask of the helmet, which will instead be a light gray on my guardians.

The result seems fairly easy to paint, and should let me paint up my Fire Dragons quickly.

Paint list for Fire Dragons:
Base coat/primer: Krylon Gray Primer
Touch up color for base coat / layer over wash: Model Color 869 Basalt Grey
Helmet, chest and sash base color: Citadel Foundation Mecharius Solar Orange
Facemask and ribbon base color: Citadel Foundation Mechrite Red
Gun /equipment: Model Color 995 German Grey
Gun barrel tip: Game Color 51 Chaos Black
Gun barrel tip drybrush: Game Color 60 Tinny Tin
Wash: Citadel Wash Bedab Black
Eye basecoat: Citadel Foundation Orkhide Shade
Eye highlight: Game Color 29 Sick Green
Gray highlight drybrush: Game Color 49 Stonewall Grey
Orange highlight drybrush: Game Color 6 Sunblast Yellow
Red overcoat: Game Color 10 Bloody Red

The procedure is basically to block out the orange, red and dark gray colors then cover everything in black wash. Then go back and paint the orange, red and light gray areas again, leaving the wash in the crevices and around details. After that comes the drybrushing of the gray and orange areas and application of a brighter red coat over the red areas. Then the final details, the eyes and the tip of the gun barrels.

I haven't yet decided how I'm going to do the bases.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Post 70 Blues

As I more or less expected, my play time in World of Warcraft has gone down significantly since I hit level 70 (it's no coincidence that my posts here have gone up since then). There's basically three things you can do after 70: you can PvP, you can run high level instances, or you can grind faction and gold. I can't PvP on my current computer for technical reasons that I haven't been able to track down (getting a new NIC improved the situation, but not enough to make it playable), instance groups frustrate me, and grinding bores me.

I thought I'd spend a little time explaining why I have a problem with instances. I was recently reminded why they frustrate me when I helped out a friend in a level 60 instance. It was just three of us, me at 70, a 69 and a 61. We had a bit of trouble at first and my friend started offering me "advice" about playing my character more effectively. Now, my friend has a lot more experience than I do playing a priest. His main on another server is a priest and he's been playing it for a lot longer than I have, doing instances and raids. He knows how to play one optimally, and that's just the problem. If you want to play in a high level instance you have to have an optimum build, and you have to play in an optimum manner. I hate that.

I totally understand that when the party has a wipe because the priest drew too much agro, or makes some other mistake, that the other players have a reason to be upset, but when my role in an instance is to spam the same set of spells in the same order all the time, then I have to wonder why I'm even needed. A macro could do my job, and probably do it better. Because that's what it feels like at that point: a job. If I enjoy playing my character a certain way, but that way isn't the optimum way to run an instance, well, I'm just SoL.

Mind you, if I became good at playing my role in instances, then I might come to like it better, but that brings up another set of problems. When I'm learning how to solo more effectively, no one else gets pissed if I die a few times getting used to things, or trying out something new. If trying to do the same thing in a group causes a few party wipes as I learn from my mistakes, then the rest of the group is likely to get a bit pissy. Even if I'm in a group of people put together specifically to help me learn how to run my character, I will still feel bad about getting things wrong, and will get frustrated as a result.

Of course one of the goals we had in starting characters on the server I'm on is to eventually get enough of us to level 70 that we can run instances with just a bunch of friends and have a more friendly atmosphere doing it. Now I just have to wait for the rest of the guys to catch up and see if that actually works.

In the meantime I'll probably be spending less time playing WoW, and more of the time that I do play leveling up another character. I've already started playing around with my level 60 druid, spending all the points he had freed up back when they reset the abilities (I think when the expansion came out), and learning how to play him again.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Wave Serpent

Wave Serpent
I'm satisfied with the way my Wave Serpent has turned out, so I'm going ahead with my plans to do 1000 points worth of Eldar. If I manage to finish that then I'll keep adding 500 point chunks until I'm at the 2500 point army I have planned.

As I mentioned before, I'm doing a Yme-Loc army (I've decided it's either pronounced eye-meh-lock or im-eh-lock, leaning towards the former). If you look at the photo that inspired me, you'll see that my scheme is quite a bit simpler, but it's still the same basic gray and orange overall. The exact paints I've chosen are as follows:

Interior base coat/primer: Krylon White Primer (for the inside of the transport compartment)
Exeterior base coat/primer: Krylon Gray Primer
Touch up color for base coat: Model Color 869 Basalt Grey (not an exact match, but close enough to do the job)
Light gray panel color: Game Color 50 Cold Grey
Orange panel color: Citadel Foundation Mecharius Solar Orange
Gun barrels/control panel: Model Color 995 German Grey
Engines/intakes: Game Color 51 Chaos Black
Engines/intakes drybrush: Game Color 60 Tinny Tin
Eldar skin: Game Color 4 Elf Skintone
Driver wash: Citadel Wash Bedab Black
Sensors basecoat: Citadel Foundation Orkhide Shade
Sensors highlight: Game Color 29 Sick Green
Sensors midcoat: Game Color 28 Dark Green (only used first time, probably not necessary)
Highlight drybrush: Game Color 49 Stonewall Grey
Blacklining of panels: micron pens
Sealer: Testors Gloss Cote

Using the primer as my base coat cuts down the time on this model a great deal. The only drawback to such a method is finding a good touch up paint, fortunately I had a Model Color that is almost, but not quite, an exact match. It's close enough that I can use it to fix mistakes if I'm careful. This made the whole project possible.

I experimented a bit with the blacklining, trying to use a wash first before breaking down and buying some micron pens which did the job wonderfully. It's one of those things that once I used them I couldn't believe I hadn't been using them all along.

Building the model, about the only way I deviated from the GW instructions was that I glued the bottom half to the top half before painting, leaving the canopy off. This means that my canopy doesn't open up, instead I glued it on after applying the gloss cote, using Testors clear parts cement. This solves two problems for me. First, it allows me to prime the interior, assemble the model, and then prime the exterior without worrying about bleed through to the interior. Second, it allows me to not have to worry about damaging my paint job while assembling the model; a process that involves strapping it together with rubber bands until the glue dries. The drawbacks are that the engines and intakes are a bit trickier to paint, and the canopy won't open and close. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to try the official method with the next one, but probably not.

The plan is to keep the paint scheme the same for all five wave serpents transporting my storm guardians, varying only the placement of orange on the force shield vanes to differentiate them from each other. The three vehicles carrying my fire dragons will be the same as well, but slightly changing the arrangement of light gray and orange panels to differentiate them from the guardian wave serpents. Probably changing the pattern only on the panels around the rear intake, changing the orange panels to light grey and making the top panel orange instead of the base color.

I don't plan on applying any decals or Yme-Loc symbols. The latter would require freehanding, and while I think I could do an ok job, it would add too much time to the project. The same goes for adding any generic eldar decals to the vehicles. The only models I plan to put that kind of effort into will be my autarchs.

One of the biggest experiments for me is leaving the models with a gloss finish. I feel it suits the nature of the eldar vehicles. It also saves a step, but one that's pretty insignificant in terms of time and effort. If I do decide to add a matte finish later I'll have to put some putty on the canopy first.

Eventually I'll try to take some better photos. The one above I took with my phone.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Thunderspire Labyrinth

A sequel to 4th Edition D&D's first published adventure, Keep on the Shadowfell, Thunderspire Labyrinth also takes place in the Nentir Vale setting described in the DMG. While it's technically the second in a series, there are very few real connections between the two modules, and could easily be run without having played the first module. In fact, there are "hooks" for both situations.

The adventure shares the same basic layout as the Keep on the Shadowfell: cardstock folder with two books and a map (only one map this time). Instead of being a player's book with starter rules, the first of the two books in this module includes the hooks, adventure summary, first encounter, visual aids, and entries for new monsters that appear in the adventure. This last bit is probably the best part of the module, and includes entries for Duergar, Bronze Warders, Enigmas of Vecna, Norkers, and Phalagars.

The visual aids take the form of color paintings showing some of the locations in the adventure. A nice idea, but at least one of them is completely inaccurate and could cause potential game issues if the players take it too literally: a picture showing a multi-story construction that actually only consists of one level. Having a picture that doesn't accurately show the described object defeats the whole purpose of having a picture.

The only other real issue I have with the adventure is the included game mat. It's not that there's anything particularly wrong with it, it's just that I have to wonder why they even bothered with it. Over 90% of the locations in the game will have to be set up by the DM. The locations portrayed on the mat aren't that complicated that they need the mat, and aren't generic enough that the DM will want to use them again. It ends up coming across as just a bit of filler so they can say that all their adventures come with a poster map.

So, that's the bad. The good is that the adventure seems fairly solid. You get an interesting new base of operations that isn't exactly a "point of light" more like a point of twilight where otherwise antagonistic races can meet to do business. The people that run it aren't exactly good, but they aren't exactly bad either. It appears that each major section of the adventure leads naturally to the next section without railroading the players. That is, as long as you use the Slave Rescue adventure hook. Out of the four starting hooks provided, this is the only one which the players have to complete the entire adventure to achieve. I could easily see a group that didn't have this hook decide to go off and do something else before completing the adventure as written. The adventure should emphasize that hook over the others, but it doesn't, so I'm doing it here.

As long as the DM uses the main hook, things look like they should go smoothly. There's a good mix of encounters, and adequate clues to show the players where to go next. Without a playtest I can't say if there are any unbalanced encounters, but there aren't any obviously unbalanced encounters that I can see.

I particularly like the way traps are being used so far in 4th edition. There always seem to be multiple ways of dealing with traps, from solving a puzzle, to using thief skills to disable it, to smashing it to bits, to simply ignoring it and hoping you can survive the damage. I don't know about 3rd edition, but I know that in 1st and 2nd many traps tended to be "save or die" type traps that you either detected and disabled or else triggered and died (or were otherwise incapacitated). Traps seem to me to be more interesting now. They can still kill you if you're stupid, but they won't kill you just because you can't read the mind of the person who created the adventure.

I supposed this is more a comment on 4th edition in general, but I make it here because more than one encounter in Thunderspire Labyrinth features traps.

In summary, this isn't a stellar effort, but it provides a reasonable framework in which the players can kill things and take their stuff.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I finally got my first character to level 70 in World of Warcraft at around 2 am this morning. Of course, then I had to go buy my flying mount and mess around for another couple of hours before actually going to bed.

The last time I hit the level cap with a character was back when it was at 60. Back then a lot of the end game wasn't even really there yet. There were few high level instances and PvP was still in the process of being implemented. The end result was that I pretty much just stopped playing, and while I came back to the game a few times, I never really came back to that character.

Now there's a number of high level instances and a fairly extensive PvP system in place, so I'm curious to see if it will hold my interest. Of course, I can't actually do PvP on my desktop for some reason. The game runs fine normally, but when I enter a PvP instance it slows to a crawl as soon as I encounter an enemy player and usually kicks me out within a few seconds. It runs fine on my wife's laptop, so I can only PvP when she's not using her computer.

I just realized I haven't tried doing PvP since replacing my NIC about a week ago, so I'll have to log on later and see if it works now. In the meantime, I think I'll go back to bed...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mayday... Mayday... This is Free Trader Beowulf...

We're finally getting my online Traveller game underway. We've been working on it for a few weeks now, but character generation has taken longer than I expected. We've still got a bit of work to do on some of the characters, but we can finish that up as we play. I've been playing in my friend Griffin's play-by-post Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game for a while now, but this is my first attempt to run one. If I do this again I will probably either use pre-gens or set a deadline for character submission, after which players get assigned a pre-gen.

I'm really excited about this game as I'm going to run it based on The Traveller Adventure, one of my favorite old Classic Traveller (CT) products. Like most CT adventures, it needs a lot of tweaks to actually make work, but it has some interesting situations for the players to deal with. Of course, I suspect the players will derail things almost immediately, but I won't be too disappointed if that happens. Traveller can be a great game to wing things with, and I'm just really happy to be playing it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My New 40K Project (Maybe)

I've been wanting to finish up my Imperial Guard army, but have really been lacking in the motivation department. I really keep hoping that the rumored plastic Imperial Guard figures in great coats will materialize because I'm tired of messing with the Steel Legion metal miniatures. I've also come up with a new idea for both a list and paint scheme that wouldn't use any of my existing models. If I went back and worked on my old scheme I'd just be disappointed I wasn't using my new one. The end result is that I've decided to just keep the entire project on hold for now.

Instead I've started looking at armies that use fewer miniatures than Imperial Guard. Space Marines are an obvious choice, and I already have a ton of models, but I wouldn't want to start a new Space Marines army until the new codes is out. Instead I'm now looking at Eldar.

I've always liked the Eldar, but I've always hated the paint schemes, especially for the aspect warriors. You always see them painted exactly the same, just with different levels of skill. I've always wanted to do a list without a lot of aspect warriors, and instead filled with plain old Eldar guardians, but that's always seemed like a good way to build a crappy Eldar list in game terms. Now, with the 5th edition rules, an army with a lot of guardians doesn't look so bad.

Two things I found on the net have got me seriously looking at an Eldar army, the first was finding a list on dakka dakka for an eldar mechanized army that looked effective and was absolutely full of storm guardians. The second thing was finding a picture of an eldar vehicle painted up in Yme-Loc colors.

I like the paint scheme because it features a lot of fairly easy to paint gray with some really bright orange highlights. Too many of my painting projects feature dull colors because they're easy to paint. I want this one to have some bright colors, but I don't want to deal with the pain of painting the entire scheme in bright colors.

What clinches it is that what little fluff there is for the Yme-Loc says that they are a craftworld full of artisans that use a lot of vehicles in their army. A great match for the force that I'm planning!

I'm now working on a test model of a wave serpent to see if I really want to paint an army in these colors. If that goes well then the next step will be to buy the first 1000pt chunk of models and go from there.