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ggreig: (Dark Wizard)

I’ve just spent a week and a half off work on holiday (back to work tomorrow). I didn’t get as much figure-painting or modelling done as I’d usually like to over such a period. My house is a bit tidier though!

I did complete one model that I was looking forward to assembling – an imaginative street-vending tea machine, by Infamy Miniatures. Unfortunately, I can’t direct you to a product page, as their store is temporarily closed while they move to a new location.

As Infamy make 32mm figures, it’s a little bit oversize for 28mm, but frankly, not so much you’d really care. It’s a very crisp and detailed moulding, in a number of parts, all of which fit together nicely. As all of Infamy’s Models seem to be, it’s a bit on the pricy side, but… STEAMPUNK TEA MACHINE!

The first face of the tea machine

I still need to stick some posters in that advertising space.

The second face of the tea machine

Sadly this is a bit out of focus but, moving clockwise around the tea machine, it gives you a look at how it’s powered, and you see some counter-top detail that’s only visible from this angle.

The third face of the tea machine

Moving round clockwise again, a look at the boilers and some of the internal workings (because it’s not steampunk without sticking some gears on it).

The fourth face of the tea machine

There’s a stack each of cups and saucers at this end; the pictures I took to give a good look at them were too poor to use, but you can catch a glimpse of them here and in the previous picture.

The pigeon perching on the chimney is an integral part of the model, and I enjoyed painting it. Animals are fun to paint, and there’s a huge amount of excellent reference material only a Google away.

The chap in a pith helmet enjoying his cup of tea, and the other models appearing in these shots, are ones that I’ve had for a long time and not related to the tea machine.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

It suddenly occurred to me that a Cavorite Sphere – as developed by Mr. Cavor in H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon – is something that I did not have, and I searched for such a thing.

I discovered that there are two on the market suitable for 28mm. One is relatively easy to find mention of, but is sold in the US and doesn’t seem particularly easy to order even there.

The other I discovered via eBay, and it’s made in the UK by Richard Helliwell’s company Infinity-Engine. This is the one I bought.

I first heard of it under a fortnight ago, ordered it less than a week ago and completed it today – this may be a record! And at this point I wish I’d included a 28mm figure for reference in the picture, as I had to ask the seller for the size and I’ve made it no better for anyone finding this – but you’ll just have to take Richard’s word and mine that it’s the right size. The sphere is about 9cm across, from bumper to bumper, or about 3½” in old money.

The Cavorite Sphere on the Moon - hatch open

It’s a 38-piece resin kit, of which 32 are railway bumpers and one is the Moon’s surface (or a small part thereof). Visually, it’s based on the 1964 movie, which I re-watched parts of in preparation for painting this kit. (If you’re interested in this story, the 2010 Mark Gatiss TV Movie is also worth watching).

Having re-watched some key parts of the movie, the easiest thing to pick up visually was that the Cavorite itself was a yellowish substance painted on to white blinds. The yellow turned put to be metallic and reflective when the sphere was flying through space lit by the sun, so I could have gone for a very brassy look and it would probably have looked great. But the thing about Cavorite is that it counteracts gravity when it’s a) cool and b) exposed. If the blinds were deployed, and we had the brassy look, the sphere would probably not be – wherever it’s meant to be. It would be flying off into space. I thought about having one blind partially exposed, and maybe weathered so that the Cavorite covering is only partial, but ultimately I decided to keep it simple. No exposed Cavorite.

With my dodgy colour vision, I was less sure about the colours used for the rest of the sphere. However, the impression I wound up with was the ribs were a dark metallic colour, the panels surrounding the portholes were wooden, and the other panels of the sphere, where the blinds would be deployed were also dark in colour. I couldn’t decide whether it was a dark metallic colour or something else, but then I caught a hint that it was a dark red.

Now, this could be entirely my imagination, and if you watch the film you may see something else. As I’ve mentioned, my colour vision is dodgy, so if you see something else you’re probably right. But having seen it, real or not, I was caught up by the idea and decided that the majority of the panels were to be painted Burgundy. It’s not so far-fetched after all – burgundy was a popular colour of the period and not a million miles from the “Purple Lake” colour used for some railway carriages, so it fit in reasonably well with the railway theme of the bumpers.

The only “clever” bit of painting, as opposed to using flat colours, was for the wood panels, where I used a base coat of ochre and a wash of burnt umber to achieve a slightly textured varnished wood colour. I dry-brushed a little silver on the hard edges of the bumpers to give them a bit of wear.

You can attach the hatch open or closed. I chose not attach it at all, so I continue to have the choice. I also chose not to glue the top and bottom halves together, so that I have the option at some future date of scratch-building the interior. As you can see if you click through for the larger version of the picture, the interior is a bit ribbed – you can also see a bit of waviness on the exterior panels, although it’s not so marked. I think the body of the model was originally mastered in a 3D printer, with some details being modelled more traditionally before the whole was cast in resin; which is of course a faster way of producing multiple copies than 3D printing is, at least for now. It’s quite cool to see new technology being used in this way, and although there are detectable artefacts, I don’t think they harm this model, adding to the “hand-built” charm of the fictional sphere.

The Cavorite Sphere with the hatch closedTwo halves of the Cavorite Sphere

Finally just a brief mention for the base. Not used to getting a base in these sorts of models, it was quite nice to do so. Here it is in a photo of its own, where it doesn’t look quite so washed out in the harsh rays of the sun:

The Moon's surface

I decided that the powdery surface was pale, but under the surface – or harder bits that hadn’t weathered away – would be darker, and a combination of washes and dry-brushing in different shades of grey got me there, more or less. These highlighted most of the structure I wanted, but I did try to paint faint impact rays around the centre of the largest crater.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

God help us! The Iguanodon's loose!

A tranquil street scene – just before the populace become aware that an Iguanodon has escaped from the Zoological Gardens.

There’s a Highland company called Antediluvian Miniatures that have started producing proper miniatures of dinosaurs, taking into account the very latest scientific thinking – of the 1850s. As yet their range is small, but includes the two most iconic early representations of dinosaurs: the Crystal Palace Iguanodon and Megalosaurus! (Also, not included in this post, but I have to mention them – three intrepid adventurer figures including Shug McClure, Raquel Scotch and the finest of all: Professor Peter Cushion, adjusting his monocle and preparing to fend SOMETHING off with a furled umbrella.)

I should also mention that Antediluvian Miniatures have a very cool t-shirt, featuring their mascot Professor Buckland.

The real Crystal Palace IguanodonsThere’s a good chance you’re aware of the Crystal Palace dinosaurs, if not, then Wikipedia and other places are your friend.

The Iguanodon figure isn’t a perfect replica of either of the ones at Crystal Palace, but it’s more like the one standing upright.

The Crystal Palace dinosaurs are often given as an example of how scientists of an older generation got things hilariously wrong, especially the Iguanodon with the horn on its nose (now known to have been a thumb-spike), but the Iguanodons actually show a greater humility from Sir Richard Owen than our caricature allows. The two Iguanodons are different, with the one that Antediluvian have taken as their inspiration standing upright, while the other one is more lizard-like, and lounges on the ground with one paw up on a tree-trunk. There was doubt even at the time that these reconstructions were correct – they were just the latest theory.

When painting these two I tried to get something in between the look of the statues and something that could be a real beast, so the Iguanodon is a bit more vibrant than one of my paint jobs would usually be, making the faded shade of the statue look more lively. That’s the current colour of the statue, of course, as that's what I could find in photos; the colour they’re painted has changed over time as well as our theories of what the beasts were actually like.

Iguanodon wandering the Zoological Gardens

I defy you to spot the joins – both the Iguanodon and the Megalosaurus come with separate legs. I did apply a bit of Milliput as filler, but the fit of the moulded parts was really good, to a level that I know must be difficult for figure designers to achieve, judging by the frequency with which they don’t attain it. I was really impressed with these models. The Iguanodon is resin with metal legs, while the Megalosaurus is all resin.

Iguanodon figure inspired by Crystal Palace - right sideIguanodon figure inspired by Crystal Palace - left side

Rather annoyingly, there’s a mould-line that shows up in these photos of the Megalosaurus that’s actually hard to pick up with the naked eye under most conditions. The light in these photos hit it just right – or wrong. It’s also intended to look like a potentially living version of the real statue. The Megalosaurus also comes with scale replicas of the original fossils (not included in these pictures, and not yet painted, though I have some other scale fossils for them to go with).

Megalosaurus figure inspired by Crystal Palace - right sideMegalosaurus figure inspired by Crystal Palace - left side

4Ground

Jan. 26th, 2014 06:10 pm
ggreig: (Western gentleman)

You may remember last year I wrote about a Western building created as a laser-cut MDF kit by Battle Flag, which I’d picked up at Claymore in 2012.

Claymore in 2013 revealed a clear winner among producers of laser-cut scenery, at least in terms of the number of people stocking it; and there’s an obvious reason why.

4Ground’s models are “pre-printed” with colour paint, so don’t need a lot in the way of additional painting (or printing wallpaper as water-slide transfers). Stick ’em together, with a dab of glue for permanence, and you’re done.

Naturally, I did do a wee bit of painting myself to improve some of the minor details – doors, windows, joints – but  the assembled models you see are pretty much the pre-printed article. Given how thirsty MDF is when you try to paint it, this saves a lot of effort. For many people these will be good enough without any work beyond assembly. The Battle Flag building has a better finish, but at the expense of a lot more work.

(Although 4Ground win easily on convenience, I have some other Battle Flag kits that I look forward to building and although I don’t have any yet I love the look of Sarissa Precision’s Gaslamp Alley and City Block ranges.)

The 4Ground buildings have interiors, but are only printed on a single side of the MDF. What this means is that all the walls are double-thickness with the exterior printed on one slice and the interior on another, which makes for great, sturdy buildings but must shove the price up a bit.

As the buildings are designed for wargaming, roofs and interior floors lift out so that you can get at what’s inside – shown in the photo galleries accompanying this article. Doors can also be opened, which is a nice touch. Laser cutting allows “hinges” to be tight-fitting enough to sort of work.

The two models shown here are a small cottage and a larger market hall. The cottage is a rustic-looking timber-framed building, while the market hall is timber-framed but with the space between the framing filled with herringbone brickwork. Cool though this is, if I’d realised there was a version of the building that didn’t have the brickwork I’d have got that instead because:

  1. I prefer the look and
  2. it would have been cheaper. Brickwork means more laser etching, and more lasering increases the cost of the kit. By a tenner, in this case.

However, by the time I discovered that, it was too late and I’m still pleased with the result.

The cottage isn’t big enough to have stairs, but there is a ladder provided for getting to the upper floor. There are leaded windows, and for wargamers, there’s damage to the walls that can be punched out to make loopholes for firing through. I chose not to knock these out, but they can be seen plainly in the interior photos as I didn’t attempt to clean them up or hide them either. As an interesting aside, you can clearly see the scorching left there by the laser; in many places the scorching is not obtrusive, but in others it can need work to conceal it. I chose to live with it here, because I thought attempting to clean it up would just draw more attention to it. In other places, where it was easier to deal with, I covered it up.

The market hall has a largely open ground floor for traders, with a flight of stairs at one end leading to the upper floor and, tucked away at the back, a small jail cell for anyone breaching the peace. The upper story has a small walkway looking out over the side of the building, with a door opening from there into the main hall. The walkway is roofed over by a small internal gallery, accessible by ladder, so there are actually three levels to this building, albeit one of them is fairly minimal.

Between them, these buildings give a nice flavour of a small English village/market town. If you were serious, you could add more, although you would quickly require repeats – this range only includes one building not shown here, a timber-framed shop/dwelling somewhere between these two in size. For me, I think this may be enough and other buildings I may acquire will be about establishing other settings.

ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Royal Navy 50 foot Picket Boat (from HLBS)

For Christmas, my sister gave me a Royal Navy 50 foot Picket Boat (from HLBS) in 28mm scale, and I spent time over the New Year period painting and assembling it.

Prow of the pinnaceThe boat is a steam pinnace. “Pinnace” has a couple of possible meanings but in this case means a smaller boat carried by a larger ship for use as patrol boats, for ship-to-shore operations and as a defence against torpedo boats – the pinnace would be fast enough to respond to a torpedo boat, and was armed with one or more gun (a Hotchkiss 3 pounder in this case) that would allow it to respond at range. The other gun, not present on my model, might be a Nordenfeldt or Maxim machine gun mounted on the roof of the rear cabin.

This type of pinnace was in use from 1880 right up until the Second World War, with 620 in service during the Great War, so excellent for a steampunk setting.

The kit mouldings are very crisp and clean, mainly in resin with white metal for the finer details and fine plastic rod for the hand rails. The main thing required for painting it was a steady hand (never really got the hang of masking tape), though patience came in handy too while applying several layers of white paint to get a decent solid finish. The only thing I’m a little dissatisfied with is the rear cabin, which is a bit dark in colour and I feel I could maybe have done better there. Good enough though, and I’ll leave it.

An aft view of the pinnaceI had a few minor issues with the parts. The shoulder rest on the Hotchkiss 3 pounder doesn’t have an obvious place to attach it. I checked images of similar guns on the Internet and settled on a location to fix it; I then had to break it off and try again when I discovered the gun couldn’t pivot due to the shoulder rest hitting the top of the engine house. One of the stanchions for the handrails broke (recoverably). One of the cowl vents doesn’t sit comfortably in the space left for it, and some of the instructions could have been clearer.

Finally, I wondered whether the scale was quite right everywhere, as the spaces to be occupied by anyone operating the gun or steering the vessel seemed extremely cramped.  This might be just economy of space on an efficient working vessel, but in particular the space at the wheel is very restricted. Over all the issues were all relatively minor though, and didn’t distract from a very satisfactory model.

As far as colour schemes are concerned, I aimed to make it look more Victorian than 20th Century (which would have featured more light grey). I also went for black rather than blue, so it’s a perfectly normal pinnace; blue would have identified it as an Admiral’s barge. Picket boats such as this don’t seem to have had a lot in the way of individual markings – not even a name – so that helped to keep the paint job simple. If I ever feel brave enough, I may add a bit of coal dust around the coaling holes (the black circles on the deck amidships) using weathering powder, but as a working navy vessel I’m assuming it would be kept pretty spick and span most of the time.

There’s a surviving pinnace of more or less this pattern which is believed to be the last remaining naval steam boat in the UK. Steam Pinnace 199 was built in 1911 and now belongs to the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth. Steam Pinnace 199 was an Admiral's barge, so you can see the blue colour previously mentioned. There are a couple of interesting videos on YouTube:

ggreig: (Steam Elephant)

It takes me a while to get round to painting stuff, especially since I went almost all of 2010 without lifting a brush (I broke my duck on 30th December). If you were reading in October 2008, you might have seen me announce that there was a figure I especially wanted, given that the name of my steampunk campaign is Steam Elephants. Today I finished painting it:

A scale model of a steam-powered elephant.

It was nice to spend a few days painting figures just for fun; a steam elephant, an armoured tram, a miniature submarine, a mausoleum, three triffids and a couple of dolphins is probably not the most practical selection. It cleared away a few figures I started long ago, as only the elephant and the submarine were started from scratch in the last few days, and put me in a slightly better place to get started on some more practical figures.

ggreig: (Ribart's Elephant)

I ran a session of Steam Elephants on Saturday – my fledgling campaign using a very slightly modified version of  [livejournal.com profile] ffutures' Forgotten Futures rules. I say fledgling, because it's probably still accurate; it's been running for about two and a half years, but infrequently, so we've not racked up a lot of sessions. However, given how long it takes me to start a campaign these days, I’m inclined to think I’ll stick with this one for the foreseeable. It feels fairly comfortable for me, seems to be going down well with the players and it’s got lots of potential. And there are fun figures for me to paint, when I get the time!

This particular session was a not-particularly-steampunky first though; the first game I’ve been involved in where we had a virtual presence.

I set up a spare PC with a web cam on a chair in the living room, and [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfemtook part from California. The times worked out fairly well; our regular start time of 3 o’clock was 7 in the morning on the west coast of America so it was early, but not impossible.

I took advantage of someone else’s trial and error in finding the best solution; Scott Hanselman has written a couple of articles about remote working with a more social side to it, and in the absence of a spare $5000 for a Roundtable camera, I went with his Skype video recommendations, which he uses for speaking to the family when on the road, and sharing a virtual office with another remote worker, setting up a dedicated Skype account on the spare, and telling it to auto-answer anyone on its’ friends list with full-screen video. As it’s an old PC and I don’t have the world’s fastest broadband connection, I didn’t try the High Quality Video Hack, although the camera would have supported it.

Picture quality was good enough anyway, and help up fairly well for the nine or ten hours of play. There were some problems with corruption of the picture and freezing, and the sound was not always perfect, sometimes requiring repetition; but on the whole, OK. In the post-mortem, it turned out that some of these issues might have been due to a virus scan starting up in the background on one of the machines, so maybe the problems we did have can also be avoided in future.

From the GM’s point of view, I would say it was a success. It wasn’t hugely different from having a player in the room. There were some practical issues regarding who to send out of the room at some points when secrecy was required (i.e. everyone else might have to move rather than the remote person, because the PC is not easily shifted) but nothing insurmountable. I was kept busier than usual just keeping things going, but that may not have been due to the teleconferencing – we had a good turn-out, which means more people to deal with, which means more work.

From the remote player’s point of view, I think it was more of a qualified success. Although it did allow involvement in play from a distance, the positioning of the camera meant that other players were disembodied voices, so it wasn’t as immersive as actually being there. One thing I got right with the camera was putting it on a long USB extension lead, so that it could be brought over to the table to show the position of figures. I wonder if there’s a better place to put it for general play, though. On top of the monitor is good for other players, because it’s easy for them to face the remote player when talking to them; but positioning the whole assembly naturally as if it were just another player meant the other players usually weren’t within the camera’s field of view. Finding a different location that would show more of the other players to the remote player would be an improvement. I’ll have to see if I can come up with an alternative place to put it.

ggreig: (Ribart's Elephant)

After posting about 25mm servants before, I ordered some myself. As these are the first figures I’ve completed since getting a camera more capable of taking shots of miniatures, I thought I’d show the painted versions that I finished last week.

The house maid, Maisy, would have been better for the period with a longer skirt and mutton-chop sleeves, but I did find a period picture with a skirt of this length, and the colour scheme is taken from that picture. You can only see it sticking out past her left leg a bit, but she’s holding a yellow duster, or dish-cloth, or something of the sort.

The butler, Reeves, doesn’t look quite so cadaverous when painted up, but it’s still not a great face. He’s also a little on the short side.

Not sure why the chap in the DJ and holding a cigar has sneaked into the photo, but there you go.

The portrait )

This is actually two photos superimposed, because the flash-lit one was over-exposed, but did bring out some of the detail, whereas the photo taken sans flash had warmer colours but was fuzzy. The only place there’s a very noticeable unintended artefact of combining the two is DJ-man’s left eye. At least with my dodgy colour vision that’s true; maybe you’ll be able to spot something else.

I was going to scan the period picture of the maid (from an advert from the “Parkinson” Gold Medal Gas Cooker) but I seem to be having a problem with the scanner which I don’t have time to investigate and fix right now. Sorry.

Servants

Aug. 2nd, 2009 01:14 am
ggreig: (Saint George)

One thing that’s sadly lacking from the array of Victorian figures on sale is suitable domestic servants. I’ve actively looked for servants and not had much luck turning them up.

However, I have finally located a couple of figures that break the drought. They're a wee bit too 1920s, but at this stage I’m not going to be too picky! From Artizan Designs, I give you Maisy and Reeves. The names don’t help in locating them as servants – something descriptive might have been better! Also “Reeves” does not have a good look, but as I said – at this stage, not too picky.

Claymore

Aug. 2nd, 2009 12:35 am
ggreig: (Saint George)

I don’t go to Claymore every year, and I nearly didn’t go today. I didn’t really feel like it; but I thought I’d get out of the house, and find out where their new venue is and what it’s like. It’s no longer being held in the foyer of Meadowbank Stadium (nor has it gone back to Chambers Street, which is where I first remember attending).

I went to Edinburgh by bus, and slept part of the way while the weather got on with being dreich outside, in a particularly non-summery way. I got off in George Street, intending to catch another bus out to the location, Telford College on Granton Road. There was bus information provided, but as I looked at my printout, I thought “You know, I haven’t a scoobie where these actually depart from, especially with Princes Street up. I’ll walk part of the way, and if I get fed up I can always find a bus stop along the way.”

The weather had improved a wee bit, so I consulted my map and set off to boot it. I’d figured it was a bit further out from the centre than Meadowbank (and in a different direction), but wasn’t sure exactly how far. The route seemed straightforward enough though, and I reckoned it was probably a couple of miles, which apparently would take the bus 25 minutes. I didn’t think I could beat the bus, but it seemed plausible.

Retrospectively, Google tells me it was a little over three miles, and I did it in a little over three quarters of an hour, so I don’t reckon I did too badly. There wasn’t a huge amount of interest to see along the way, but I did get to cross Dean Bridge on foot. It’s always been intriguing when driving over it, with no chance for a more leisurely look. It was built by Thomas Telford in the early 1830s, and it still carries a lot of the traffic into the city centre.

The only other place of particular note I passed was Fettes College, alma mater of one Tony Blair. Now there’s a recommendation.

The space at Telford College turns out to be larger than at Meadowbank, and there were actually two halls in use. As a result, it felt like there were more trades stands, and there were certainly more demonstration games. However, I have to say I found less to be excited about in the way of figures this year than in previous years. In fact, I only bought three packs of figures from Scheltrum (the ones I bought are not yet on the price list there, at time of writing), and the rest was peripheral stuff. I did find myself looking at some Sudan figures from Perry Miniatures, but resisted. There were also some First World War figures of Scots in Lowland regiments, the sort with forage caps that you see quite a lot in Victorian and Edwardian period pictures of Scottish soldiers but never seem to see in miniature; again, I was a bit interested but couldn’t really justify them. I think they were from Scarab Miniatures, but I didn’t make a note and haven’t been able to find them online. Other items in Scarab’s WWI range look familiar though.

I walked back into the centre, and gave myself a blister, thereby proving that virtue is its own reward. If I’d known beforehand how much walking I was going to do I’d have worn boots instead of shoes, but hey ho. I also nipped into Henderson's on Hanover Street for a glass of melon, mint, pineapple and orange, which was expensive but just what the doctor ordered, as the day had got warmer as it went on.

ggreig: (Ribart's Elephant)

Having decided some time ago to call my steampunk role-playing campaign Steam Elephants, this new miniature has rocketed to the top of the “must-have” list:

Steam elephant

Techno-GM

Jul. 2nd, 2007 11:33 pm
ggreig: (Ribart's Elephant)

Last weekend's game was my first experience as a techno-GM, thanks to a loan of [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem's laptop, and the wonders of WiFi.

I guess I have been a techno-player before, as there's one game in particular (Aulm, for those who will know what I'm talking about) where I used a Quicksheet spreadsheet and HanDBase databases on a Palm III in order to keep track of cascading changes to  attributes and skills (in the case of my character sheet, in Quicksheet) and relationships between people, places and events (in a linked collection of HanDBase databases).

That experience was fairly successful and certainly helped me to keep on top of things. However, I haven't really repeated it for other games. I think that's because the other games I've played in since then have been more easily tracked with brainpower, pencil and paper, so I've not felt the same urge to invest some time in designing spreadsheets/databases to cope. I'm also not new to the Palm and an avid learner of the new systems, as I was then!

However, it has shown me that electronic systems can bring something to the management of a game, so although I was prepared to run with pencil and paper alone, I was willing to take up the offer of a loaner laptop to try running a game with technology.

I didn't have much in the way of electronic systems to run, because of my base assumption that I'd have to run with pencil and paper, but even so there were a couple of ways in which the laptop proved useful.

My note-taking during the game, while it still dropped off a bit as things got more interesting, was more organised, legible and structured than would otherwise have been the case. I typed things directly into a GM's wiki using (which I mentioned in another post recently), and was also able to look things up in a player's wiki that may become more publicly available at some point in the future, once I have a less embarrassing dearth of content and a technical solution that will make it practical.

The wiki structure was loose enough not to feel restrictive despite the lack of prior design. Doing the same thing with a database would be restrictive without some serious thought prior to use, as I occasionally found with my HandDBase efforts. However, it is encouraging enough of structure that I may have a clue how to navigate it in future, and I won't lose the bit of paper in a pile of other, similar pieces of paper. It was very easy to add cross-references on the fly. I imagine this will be very valuable, though I do wonder what navigation will be like once there's a lot of information to navigate through.

I was also able to wield the mighty power of Google to our advantage; when the topic of cab fares came up in the game, I was able to get a ball-park figure for Victorian cab fares directly from the web. Of course, electronic GM-ing also offers the help of Excel for dealing with all those knock-on effects of wounds.

I have never (yet) been the owner of a laptop, but I am considering the possibility next time I get myself a new machine and this experience is a point in its favour.

ggreig: (Ribart's Elephant)

Yesterday I ran a role-playing game for the first time this century.

It still needs some ironing out on the systems side of things, but it seemed to go OK. I'll leave [livejournal.com profile] flybynightpress, [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem, and [livejournal.com profile] qidane to judge.

As promised, it's a steampunk game run using the  rules, with some modifications. I'm calling it Steam Elephants, because that was an appellation applied to a number of early steam engines, and it's a nice image. Jules Verne thought so too. There's a literal steam elephant in The Steam House, although I'm happy - in a slightly shame-faced way - to say that I was ignorant of that until I went looking for illustrations.

Steam Elephants as the title was a recent decision, but may have been lurking in my subconscious waiting to pounce (can elephants do that?) since I first came across the term some time ago. In fact, the invitation to play that went out a few weeks ago still referred to Chariots of Salvation, the working title I've been using for maybe the last couple of years. Chariots of Salvation came from looking up "chariots" in a Biblical , which turned up only one vaguely usable quotation, from the Book of Habakkuk (Chapter 3, Verse 8). I liked the idea of using a Biblical reference as being fairly appropriate to the period, but in truth any allusion to steam power would have been pretty loose and metaphorical, as you can see for yourself:

Was the LORD displeased against the rivers? was thine anger against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation?

...and given that previous successful games within the extended player group have had major religious themes that I didn't see as being particularly relevant to a setting of scientific romance, in the end I was more than happy to dump poor old Habakkuk as establishing the wrong sort of tone.

ggreig: (Steam Coach)
Things I put on hold about three months ago are starting up again. In particular, [livejournal.com profile] flybynightpress has twisted my arm into naming a new date for running a steampunk game.

With that in mind, I have a bit of writing to do, to get things to the stage where I won't be sat in front of a handful of players going "Er... Ummmm..." while they wait patiently to get started generating characters.

Since I'll substantially be using the Forgotten Futures rules (author: [livejournal.com profile] ffutures), a fair bit of this work consists of copying - at least initially - but I do want to do some things my own way, and have my own flavour to the game, which means thinking about what is there and choosing when to make changes or add information.

I started off with Microsoft Word, but found that it encourages a very linear style of writing which can be a bit of a blocker. Even if I use Outline mode, I'm still thinking of what I'm writing as a document that will be read in a particular order, and which needs a certain amount of introduction and build-up as a result.

While that may be true for some players, and I think it's valuable to have that sort of material available, I expect that most will want a quick reference for character generation and subsequent lookup.

I have been spending too much time on getting a small amount of introductory prose just right and not spending enough time on the actual substance.

Remembering that [livejournal.com profile] flybynightpress has been singing the praises of Voodoopad, a Wiki-style notepad for Mac OS, I thought I'd have a look for something similar on the PC. I came up with WikidPad, which seems rather more basic than Voodoopad, but might do the job.

It's not the world's most accomplished app - for example, you can't install it or its databases to paths containing anything as exotic as a space character, which rules out "Program Files" for a start. Still, at least that avoids the errors when it finds it can't write to "Program Files" when you open its "help" wiki. I also found I had to change well-established paths on my machine just in order to put the databases where I wanted them. Sigh.

However, once I'd discovered those issues and addressed them, it seemed to work OK. I am now flicking between Word and WikidPad, copying and pasting, using them alternately to produce brief, to-the-point structured data and also to work towards a single, printable document.

Working in WikidPad does encourage more focussed writing, as it encourages breaking information down into topics and linking between them. While this is possible in Word, it's a pain and WikidPad is better suited to the task. I can always copy content back across to Word once I know where I want it to go.

WikidPad is a bit like having a less visual (and more useful) version of a MindMap. It's much better for building up informal thoughts into a useful structure than Word is.

As I don't own (and therefore don't GM with) a laptop, I won't be able to use WikidPad to make or extend notes during a game, but it does have that potential if the hardware is available. Maybe sometime.

I will also have to take a look at the possibilities of using FlexWiki (a real .NET wiki I've played with before and which I might just be able to host on a web site at some point) and FlexWikiPad (FlexWiki's equivalent to WikidPad). Between the two of them I might have a more powerful and flexible solution than WikidPad currently gives me, but WikidPad seems like a good starting point for now, from which I can always export what I've already done.

I would have looked at MediaWiki, the other really obvious candidate, but it's not an option for any hosting solutions I might be interested in.
ggreig: (Saint George)
The first change I've made from the standard Forgotten Futures rules is pretty much cosmetic, but it stems from my knowledge of my own failings as a GM.

Turn the tables... )
ggreig: (Victoria and Albert)
I've been talking about running a steampunk game for years. Not a huge number of years, but definitely years. In an effort to avoid actually doing anything about it, I did what any sensible person does and bought a whole load of figures to run the game with. It would plainly now be impossible to run the game until the figures were painted.

Escape from the 21st century... )

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