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What’s VFF Publishing, you ask? Why, it’s my publishing imprint! Yes, I write and publish novels. This blog is about gaming, but I see no reason not to redirect you to the Visions of Fantasy & the Future site if you’re curious about what I write. I write fantasy and sci-fi. You can buy my novels at Amazon and other fine sellers of literature.

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Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Sessions 7 – 8

This adventure log will contain spoilers for the D&D 5th edition Tyranny of Dragons adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Ye’ve been warned!

Work in my Real Life™ got busy and I didn’t have the energy to update this. Now you get a mega-update with two sessions in one! Since the details of the last two D&D sessions are lost in the morass of fog that is the labyrinth of my memories, this will be more like a highlight reel. It doesn’t help that the last two sessions we played weren’t D&D at all; we play tested a couple of Fate Accelerated adventures I was working on for Gary Con.

When we last left our heroes, they were prepared to depart with the trade caravan heading from Baldur’s Gate to Waterdeep. Their cover as ale merchants was established and well-planned. En route, a wild red dragon swarm appeared and wiped them all out, turning the caravan to ash. Ash and tears. And blood. Ash, tears, and blood.

Except that didn’t happen!

What happened was, they learned one of the other members of the caravan was a stuck-up aristocrat who beat his animals. They rescued another traveler from a band of hobgoblin raiders. This grateful traveler joined the caravan. They encountered a field of weirdly fast-growing fungus and later heard horrible singing in the distance* which they chose not to investigate. Several more uneventful days followed, then the cultist’s wagon overturned on a rock, spilling ill-gotten booty. Our heroes helped right the wagon and pretended not to notice the purloined treasure. After a few more days, they were attacked by perytons as they passed near some mountains. Fortunately, they worked together with some of the more helpful caravaners and killed the beasts. The same afternoon, they spotted a marvelous sight: a golden stag leading a herd of deer. Our heroes realized what a portent it was and prevented the caravan hunters from killing the creature.

Eventually, they got a respite from the weeks of camping out under open skies: they arrived at a roadside inn. Oddly, despite the presence of only a handful of other people, the innkeeper claimed the inn was full. What appeared to be a noble with his entourage hurled abuse and insults, almost daring the Rockbottom Brewery crew to attack him. The situation deteriorated and a fight broke out. The noble and his men were not simply drunken fops, they were in fact a group of bored assassins looking to commit murder for fun. Kagark and Tom Haverford** from the caravan joined in the battle. Kagark was determined not to let harm come to Veya. After a hard-fought battle, the innkeeper lay dead along with the assassins. There was much rejoicing.

The encounter with the assassin was widely rumored to be one of the TPK-traps in Hoard of the Dragon Queen. I can certainly see where it got that reputation. The fact that I threw two NPCs into the fight on the side of the PCs really didn’t affect the outcome, nor did my tweak to the assassins to make that slightly less-deadly (I changed the poison on their weapons to work only on the first attack, rather than every attack; since they never hit with any subsequent attacks after their first hit, it never came up). The fact is, my players came up with an effective strategy for battling the assassins, I rolled fairly poorly on average (a switch from the previous session where I seemed to be critting on every other attack), and they earned their victory.

After Gary Con, Hoard of the Dragon Queen will resume. I really needed the break from D&D to test my Fate Accelerated adventures. Pacing FAE game is WAY different than D&D and I would have had all four games run way short if I hadn’t spent March’s game days testing.

* I was going to throw in the classic Dungeon adventure: “Old Man Katan and the Incredible, Edible, Dancing Mushroom Band”, but they didn’t take the bait. Oh well! Maybe I’ll run it at Gary Con next year.

** A halfling whose name came from a random name generator for halflings. I can only assume the programmer is a fan of Parks & Recreation, because one of my players pointed out that Tom Haverford is a character in that show… which I was unaware of.

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Dem Bones — Happy Valentine’s Day!

I wrote a brief story and painted a couple of miniatures for a contest in a Facebook miniature painting group. I thought I’d share it here:
(The contest rules were: “… choose two Bones! miniatures, paint them as a loving couple, and tell us their love story. Don’t feel mired in convention, either… just have fun with it. There are no politics here… man and woman, man and man, man and beholder… we don’t care, just keep it consensual and ‘romantic.'”) Sadly the two miniatures I chose did not have very finely defined detail; a failing common to some of the earlier Bones miniatures castings.)

She was a lady of refinement, daughter of a lord, lost in the Bleakmere. He was a scout for the Mucklebones tribe, one of their most fierce hunters. Draak had her in his sights, ready to shoot the smooth-skinned interloper down. There was something in the way she carried herself, a regal bearing, a quiet dignity in the face of all the dangers of the swamp.

He stayed his hand, and instead showed her the way to safety, revealing himself only at the end. Alora was shocked by her clandestine watcher, her hidden protector, but saw honor and nobility in his eyes. Though they were from different worlds, Alora reached out to him.

“Stay with me. Together, let us discover the wonders of this world.”

Alora & DraakDraak’s heart leapt. Ever since he was hatched, he explored. He knew there must be more to see than the twisted trees and black pools of Bleakmere. He took her hand and let the woman sweep him away. Through thick and thin, fair weather and foul, Alora and Draak traveled near and far, never leaving each other’s sides. Companions true, their love for discovery, adventure, and each other led them to experience all the great adventures the world offered.

Alora & Draak 2These are Reaper’s Bones Juliette Wizard and Lizardman Spearman. Juliette must have been one of the earlier castings of Bones because her features are very soft and poorly detailed. Even Lizardman Spearman suffers a bit from lack of detail around the face and chest (though his tail and legs were really nice). She photographed much redder than her skin tone really is and the subtle dry-brushing in her hair didn’t come through at all. Before I painted her, I looked on Reaper’s site, and I couldn’t even find the Bones version of this miniature. Obviously, Reaper wasn’t happy with the casting.

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Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Session 6 – Merchants & Moneylenders!

This adventure log will contain spoilers for the D&D 5th edition Tyranny of Dragons adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Ye’ve been warned!

We rewound a bit because I realized as I read ahead in the adventure a bit, that the PCs need to go back to Greenest before heading to Elturel, otherwise they’d miss some good information. Game-wise, it effects nothing they did at the end of last session, so it was mostly an expository jump.

Our heroes enjoyed an uneventful journey from the raider’s camp caves back to Greenest. Mayor Nighthill greeted them and gave them instructions from Master Leosin to proceed to Elturest and meet with him a human paladin of Torm named Ontharr Frume. Despite the soggy weather, they packed up and did so, arriving at Elturest and its perpetual, brilliant light a few days later. They tracked down their contacts at a tavern called Wild Cats.

Ontharr Frume was a bulky, hirsute man, jovial and friendly. After conferring with our heroes, he and Master Leosin formulated a plan. He offered the Heroes of Greenest an opportunity to work with the Harpers and bade them to track the Dragon Queen’s minions to their final destination. They knew they would be joining a trade caravan heading north out of Baldur’s Gate toward Waterdeep and suggested the heroes could disguise themselves and hire themselves out to the caravan as guards. He gave them the name of an ally in Baldur’s Gate who could help them find work.

The heroes boarded a riverboat that would take them to Baldur’s Gate and formulated a plan of their own. They would join the caravan to spy on the raiders, but not as guards, rather as merchants! Flint Rockbottom was already an accomplished brewer, and the rest could just as easily be his guards and support staff as they could anyone else’s. When they arrived in Baldur’s Gate, they bought supplies for the two-month journey to Waterdeep and worked with Ontharr’s contact to put together a wagon and enough equipment to masquerade as sellers of beer and fine ale. While they were setting up their wagon and equipment they spotted the raiders affiliated with the Cult of the Dragon in the staging area. A palanquin was most conspicuous, its passenger hidden from view. Unfortunately, it vanished sometime in the night. A halfling, Tom Haversford, approached Rockbottom Brewery, offering his service as a tinker and repairman, but they turned him away.

While the others were planning their trip, Veya became antsy and engaged in some contests of strength at one of the nearby taverns. She left victorious, with a half-orc following after her, begging to breed with the one who bested him. When she returned to the caravan staging area, everyone was ready to depart: Rockbottom Brewery, Edherlri Lewel (exotic wood), Oyn Evenmor (exotic birds), Achreny Ulyeltin (furs and uncured hides), Lai Angesstun (scented cooking oils), three wagons carrying Cult of the Dragon members in disguise, and one wagon with settlers and drifters accompanied by various carts. For two months, they would travel together. What dangers did the road hold?

Much of the session was spent planning and preparing their wagon. The adventure assumes the PCs will hire on a guards and everything proceeds from that assumption (even in future chapters). I was more than happy to let them choose another route, however. I was dismayed that I could not find, anywhere in the adventure, what the Master Leosin and Ontharr Frume wanted the PCs to accomplish other than following the dragon cultists. I couldn’t find anything that said if the PCs would meet up with them further up the road, or anything like that. This is one place where the adventure would have greatly benefited from some sort of outline or summary at the beginning of the chapter. A list of objectives. A list of challenges. Something. I guess I’m supposed to read ahead and memorize the entire adventure or cross-reference it myself (the next chapter mentions nothing about Master Leosin or Ontharr Frume as far as I can tell). This could also be one of those things that slipped past the editors, like the missing number on the map of Greenest. 

Two month on the road. There’s a whole slew of events that are supposed to happen, but plenty of time for me to exercise some of my own creativity, or even brush off some older material, ripe for insertion. Who would know? I could easily run a whole campaign during these two months.

Exploding Homer HeadI know! The PCs will pass the time by playing a new game… Atomic Robo! An RPG within an RPG!

 

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Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Session 5

This adventure log will contain spoilers for the D&D 5th edition Tyranny of Dragons adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Ye’ve been warned!

At the last minute, our heroes decided to not jump blinding into the hole from which they heard the alarmed shouts. Instead, they called back to them, attempting to bluff those below. Unfortunately, Tobin chose to use magic to mimic the voice of the half-dragon, who answered back and raised the alarm!

They retracted the rope ladder and covered the hole with Mondath’s table, then as much furniture and debris as they could quickly find. The Heroes of Greenest then retreated back to the entry chamber and set up an ambush for the forces of the Dragon Queen, using the fungus-filled corridor as a choke point.

A drake led the charge, followed by waves of kobolds. The presence of the half-dragon was felt, but as they battled through the kobolds, he stayed hidden. Two human fanatics* charged through the ranks of the kobolds, and though they gave the heroes some trouble, they too, were dealt with.

The heroes pressed their advantage and found the half-dragon issuing orders from the back, attending by winged kobolds.

I had to switch from Dwarven Forge due to the complexity of the layout. The myconids are stand-ins for the field of fungus in that corridor.

I had to switch from Dwarven Forge due to the complexity of the layout. The myconids are stand-ins for the field of fungus in that corridor.

After a brief moment of panic when they realized they were set up perfectly to be decimated by one blast by the half-dragons deadly breath, they charged into the fray. (You can see the PCs all lined up in the center of the picture there… I don’t mind telling you, had they not realized what they’d done, they would have when that half-dragon emerged and breath-weaponed them all; I was planning on it). It was a challenging fight, and Broken Sky was grievously wounded, but in the end, the Heroes of Greenest prevailed. They took a brief respite to bind their wounds and plan their next move.

Their next move was to continue exploring the cave complex. They returned to Mondath’s chamber, uncovered the hole and descended. Zinniana scouted the room ahead. It appeared to be some sort of temple dedicated to Tiamat. The walls were carved to depict various types of dragons, and beneath a carving of the dragon queen herself, there was a small chest.

The rest of the party kept a safe distance as Zinniana inspected the chest and discovered a series of traps. She disarmed them and unlocked the chest, revealing a handful of baubles. Further investigation lead to another chamber. This cave was essentially a ledge overlooking a sunken area. Two drakes spit and hissed at the party as they approached the edge, and they saw what the drakes were guarding: dragon eggs!

Broken Sky counseled that they stay on the ledge and let the drakes come to them as they peppered them from afar with magic and missile weapons. The drakes were well-trained, however, and remained near the eggs. Broken Sky saw this as an opportunity to keep a safe distance and kill them from afar. As Flint and Veya maneuvered, though, hidden kobolds attacked with glue and fire bombs. The monk made short work of them and the dwarf and barbarian moved down the ramp towards the drakes, despite Broken Sky’s protests.

The monk felt obligated to protect his companions and charged into the fray with the draks where he found a nasty surprise. Near the eggs, one of the stalagmites was, in fact, alive! A roper caught the monk up in his tendrils and tried to make a meal of him. The ensuing battle with the draks was hard fought. Many were brought to the brink of death more than once. In the end, however, the Heroes of Greenest once more prevailed. Tobin took a moment to examine the dragon eggs, and seeing they were black dragon eggs, smashed them, exposing the infant dragons within to a harsh world they were ill-equipped to survive.

Bloody but victorious, the Heroes of Greenest retreated from the caves, leaving several chambers unexplored. They headed northwest, toward their rendezvous with Master Leosin in Elturel….

So, the session was mostly a series of fights since the group basically alerted the entire cave complex to their presence (only by way of trying to trick an NPC by mimicking his voice to him). Instead of stealthing through the caves, taking the rooms one at a time and trying to minimize their presence, they ended up fighting pretty much all the remaining kobolds and cultists at once, except for those who stay to guard the eggs. It could easily have been a TPK, but they used the terrain to their advantage and created a choke point in the fungus-filled area. The roper was, by far, the toughest fight even though I held back for 2-3 rounds trying to get them to talk to it, I finally gave in and had it try to eat them (that’s when their dice FINALLY started playing nice).

For some reason, my dice HATED the monk, Broken Sky. I regularly rolled 18s, 19s, and 20s on him and by contrast, I had a tough time hitting the dwarf (I rolled a lot of 1-5s on him). I really felt bad because it made me look like I was beating up on the monk for playing his character’s background whenever he charged in to protect the rest of the party. It also annoyed me a bit that I was unable to disrupt the dwarf’s flaming sphere which proved to be a great boon to them during the big fight at the beginning of the session.

Still, they prevailed, no matter how close they came to death. Of course, this part of the adventure is really stingy with treasure, and I felt like they needed something, so I gave them all Inspiration to use in the next session.

* Yes, these were berserkers and yes, there were Clerks references, hence the video link.

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Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Session 4

This adventure log will contain spoilers for the D&D 5th edition Tyranny of Dragons adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Ye’ve been warned!

The second trip to the box canyon where the cultists and raiders set up camp was much less perilous. When our heroes arrived, they found the camp all but abandoned. After talking with some surly hunters, they learned that the big cave in the back was still occupied by the Wearer of Purple, the dragon-dogs and the dragon-man. As they approached the cave, they took note of how hastily-abandoned the camp seemed; a result, they supposed, of the recent prisoner rescue.

2014-12-26 21.56.43A not-quite-steathy approach to the cave meant our heroes were ambushed once they stepped inside, but they dealt with the cult’s Dragonclaws in short order. There were several passages out of the entry cavern. One was a fungus-choked passage with two trails leading through the fungus. Reconnaissance revealed the presence of kobolds and ambush drakes on the other side and the Heroes of Greenest led the kobolds toward them, ambushing them amongst the fungi. They set traps along the path and threw the corpses of the Dragonclaws and kobolds to the violet fungi in the passage. It seemed to deter the ambush drakes from pursuing.

Instead of navigating the deadly fungus and confronting the drakes, the heroes decided to investigate side passages first. They found the abandoned treasury where the raiders’ ill-gotten spoilers were kept, now empty saved for a sleeping, drunken cultist. They dealt with him and scavenged for leftover treasure. What they found was paltry compared to what was stolen.

The next chamber they investigated turned out to be a barracks of sorts for the remaining cultists. Judicious use of a sleep spell dealt with most of them, but a few resisted the spell. During the fight, from a connecting room, came an incantation from the Wearer of Purple. One of the leaders of the cultists joined the fray, dealing grievous wounds with her halberd, but in the end, she fell to the combined skills of the Heroes of Greenest.

Pretend the sword is a Halberd and the staff isn't there! :p

Mondath, the Wearer of Purple

Upon searching her chambers, they found a stack of papers. Most of them seemed to be poetry about dragons, but one was clearly a ledger of sorts and one was a map that seemed to show the cult’s targets. Interpreting the unlabeled columns of numbers would have to wait, as a hole was discovered in the floor of the chamber underneath a rug. Dropping a light down the hole elicited cries of alarm. The heroes of Greenest prepared to lower themselves down and do battle….

It was a good session, though a little slow-paced due to Christmas-related distractions. We were short one player due to illness, and frankly, I’m surprised we were short more. My wife got the flu right before Christmas and it put her down most of the two weeks I took off work. It’s a miracle I didn’t contract it while being home with her the whole time. Lots of Vitamin C, zinc (probably too much zinc… gotta watch that stuff), and hand sanitizer. Or maybe it was all the Christmas cookies I ate. Or both.

I spent several hours during my time off setting up that Dwarven Forge stuff, naturally, they chose the path that lead right to the section I didn’t have mapped out. I may switch to a different media for the map next session, though, the rest of the caverns are really hard to render even close to accurately (lots of long, curvy walls, few sharp angles).

Dwarven Forge works best when you base your map on what you have built already, rather than trying to build what someone else has drawn (unless they stick to squared-off rooms). It definitely adds a “wow factor” to the table, though.

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Dem Bones – Dragonman Warrior & Lysette, Female Elf

It’s a two-for-one Bones day! (This probably isn’t the first time I’ve said that, and it probably won’t be the last). I needed a few miniatures for session 4 of my Tyranny of Dragons campaign (watch for that update coming soon!). For a brief moment, my brain went wonky and I almost looked in the store for new miniatures to represent these two adversaries, then I remembered all my unpainted Bones!

Unpainted FrontSo, for those of you keeping track, today’s miniatures are Dragonman Warrior (which I will be using as a Half-Dragon) and Lysette, Female Elf (which I will be using a human female cleric w/a halberd since I don’t have any miniature like that at all).

First thing I did, of course, was to wash them in warm, soapy water (more on that in a minute) and then I affixed them to larger, more stable bases. Since these would likely be used in tactical, combat encounters, I wanted decent bases.

Dragonman 1st colors back Dragonman 1st colorsAfter that, I applied the base coats. The Dragonman got steel armor and blue scales (per his depiction in the adventure). Lysette got purple robes because she’s representing a character known as the “Wearer of Purple.” I learned three things from this: I didn’t have purple paint. Mixing Privateer P3 red and blue (I don’t remember the exact names) doesn’t result in purple, but rather muddy brown, and I FAILED to scrub all the mold release off of these miniatures. You can’t really see it in the pictures because I didn’t take them until I got the paint to properly stick.

Lysette First Colors Lysette First Colors BackFor Lysette, I used a Folk Art purple paint I thinned with distilled water. I did not thin it enough. I made do, but I immediately went out and bought more Privateer P3 paints to avoid the mess I made in the future. I ended up changing the color of her pack, too. I decided to make her blonde (despite how she is depicted in the adventure) and if I was doing this over, I would ultimately paint her jerkin a different color. Perhaps blue, or maybe red.

Lysette Second Colors Back Lysette Second ColorsYou can see in these pictures, the base coat of the blonde hair. I am not particularly good at hair, especially if it’s not black or brown. Naturally, I turned to Google. There are a lot of painting guides and tutorials written by far more skilled artists than I.

Despite the blob that the purple paint was, I rather like the way it came out. In closeups it sort of looks like the robes were dyed by hand; they have that uneven quality a quick-dip dye job might create. I certainly couldn’t have achieved that effect if I tried.

Dragonman Final Dragonman Final 2I don’t have an in progress picture of the Dragonman because, well, I forgot. Plus, he’s mostly armor. Now that I’m looking at the pictures, his armor really needs a black wash. I admit, I’m a little afraid to try it because the wash I did on the blue dragon was a disaster. I have another week before this miniature will get used, though, so I might read up a bit on it again and try this weekend. If I screw it up, I still have a few days to try to fix it.

Lysette Final Lysette Final BackIn the end, these two miniatures are better than the last humanoid Bones I tried to paint. There are more hard details on the figures and the faces aren’t just blank… things. The blonde hair turned out okay; I liked the way it started out, but the more I worked on it, the worse it got. I salvaged it in the end, I think. I did like the way the gem in Lysette’s staff came out, though. It doesn’t show quite as nicely in the pictures as it does in person. I painted over the orange color with an iridescent white paint and the effect under light is really nice. It photographs horribly, though. I think I need to dry brush a lighter blue on the dragon wings on the Dragonman’s shield, too.

I’m going to work on some townsfolk miniatures, next, I think, as well as finish up some metal minis I have sitting around.

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Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Session 3

This adventure log will contain spoilers for the D&D 5th edition Tyranny of Dragons adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Ye’ve been warned!

After policing the bodies and taking stock of their situation, our heroes tie up and wakened the lone surviving cultist. Tobin used an enchantment to gain the cultist’s trust and questioned him. They learned there was a rearguard watching the trail and the camp was set up in a box canyon. The cultist begged for his life, promising to flee to Baldur’s Gate if he was released, but Broken Sky broke the man’s neck, ensure no betrayal would occur.

It was mid-day by the time they set off after the rear guard. Our heroes caught up to them as they were laying in wait in an area where two overhangs surrounded the trail made by the main group of raiders. Broken Sky sneaked through the underbrush to discover groups on both sides of the trail were alert and had riders ready to send to the main camp. When he returned to the group, they discussed the situation and decided to bypass the ambush by swinging around them overland.

A wooden guard tower had been erected at the mouth of the box canyon where the raiders’ camp was located. Another tower was on one of the nearby ledges in the canyon. The guards, obviously not expecting trouble, waved our heroes past after a cursory inspection. Various groups of cultists wearing robes of red, blue, and black were mingling with hunters, mercenaries, and kobolds and all were celebrating the looting of Greenest.

Our heroes spent the evening mingling with the cultists, trying to learn the layout of the camp and their plans. They learned one of the caves in the box canyon was being used as a nursery of sorts, though for what, no one would or could say. They also learned not all of the so-called cultists were as fervently dedicated as others and there was dissension amongst the different factions. They located the prisoners and Master Leosin, and despite the elder monk’s protests that we was too weak and injured to be worth rescuing, worked out a plan.

They utilized Zinniana’s stealthy and skills at trickery to arrange a distraction near the cave they thought most likely was the nursery while the others set a fire to one of the many tents on the opposite side of the camp from the prisoners. When the camp responded to the twin threats, our heroes would make their move and turn loose the prisoners and lead them out of the camp.

The plan worked well enough and they got away with information, the prisoners, and the bit of treasure they’d take back from the kobolds with the scouting party. Greenest, of course, was overjoyed to see their citizens returned. After a day of recover, Master Leosin was well-enough to share what he learned about the camp and the cultists. He bade them to return to the camp; something big was going to happen and they needed to know what and when it would occur. So, our heroes prepared themselves to return to the lion’s den once more….

Not much to say about this session. They got a lot of information on the various cult and there were no real combats to note (just one quick altercation with a lone cultist they rendered unconscious). It was intended to be strictly an information-gathering mission, anyway. There was a lot of creativity and once again, I wasn’t with it enough to see opportunities to hand out Inspiration as well as I should have been. That’s something I, as the GM, need to work on.

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Dem Bones – Eye Beast

Eye Beast Unpainted

Rawr! Imma eat you!

Ha! It wasn’t fifteen months this time. But truth be told: I had this mini pretty much finished the whole time and never got around to actually doing anything with it. Behold, the fearsome, not-a-beholder-kin, IP-free EYE BEAST.

The Eye Beast requires no gluing. It even stands up on its own without weights or the boil ‘n bend straightening method. It has a lot of deep, craggy detail, and really big chompers. Pictures I found on the Internet showed it painted in all sorts of garish colors by artists more skilled than I. I didn’t want the bright, psychedelic look, though. I wanted something gritty, dark; a creature that would descend upon you from the depths of the underdark and EAT YOUR BONES.

So, I painted a black base coat.Eye Beast Base Coat I went with grays and browns for the highlights and found an ivory color for the massive teeth. For once, I wasn’t worried about how I was going to paint the eye. I did an iris AND a pupil! There were also a bunch of little eyes here and there all over its body, so I had to detail those, as well.

The base has some nice detail hidden in the rocks, like a sword. For some reason, I had the entire miniature finished EXCEPT the base and just let it sit for months and months (fifteen of them!). Eye Beast Mostly DoneI wanted to put little bits of flesh and blood on the teeth, but if it’s one thing I’ve learned through painful trial and error, it’s this: if your skill level isn’t up to snuff, the more details you try to add the worse it looks.
Finished Front

Finished Reverse

Unlike my mother, this guy really does have eyes in the back of his head!

I’m not an expert painter by any stretch of the imagination and I’m not painting these for contests or to display in a museum. Voltaire once said perfect was the enemy of good and in publishing, perfection is certainly the enemy of “done.” So, I’m calling this one done; it’s good enough for me. Err… except for the base. I still need to paint that sword and finish those rocks. I’ll get to that before I start my next miniature.

As promised, here is a picture of the two minis I painted concurrently with the dragon from my previous post. I still need to finish the bases and get at least a pupil or something in those eyes. Time to break out a tooth pick. I’ll put another picture of the dwarf up when I do my next mini; the beard looks better than this picture shows. I wanted to show off the shield, and now I see there’s a spot I have to touch up. The lady’s hair looks better in person, too. It’s not just a blob of brown; there’s nuance, I swear!
Dwarf & Female Greatsword

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Dem Bones – Fire Dragon

It’s been a while since I did a post about my Bones miniatures. Over a year. Fifteen months, actually. In an ideal world, this post would read something like this: I had a blast the last fifteen months painting my Reaper Bones! I was having so much fun, I didn’t have time to blog about it, so you all will never know all the painstaking work I put into painting these miniatures. Instead, enjoy these pictures of the whole painted horde!

I could write that. It would be a LIE.

I hardly painted at all those fifteen months. I was busy. Life got in the way. I wasn’t really playing D&D or running a game. Etc. etc. Blah, blah, blah.

Guess what? HOLY COW there’s a real, honest-to-goodness update here!

Fire Dragon 1 - Assembled-UnpaintedI painted a DRAGON. Not just any dragon, a Reaper Bones Fire Dragon (clicking on the pictures brings up a larger version).

Everything glued together really well. Superglue made a fast, strong bond on this miniature. It seems to work better with large areas to bond rather than something small, like a hand. There was relatively little flash on the miniature, but it was very front-heavy. I glued 1″ steel washers to the feet and it still flopped over. I glued 1.5″ bases to the washers and it was still unstable. I’m thinking of cutting a wood block to 1″ x 2″ and screwing the two bases to it, then painting & flocking the wood.

Now, I said this was a Fire Dragon. I don’t need another fire-breathing dragon. I don’t need a red dragon of the D&D mold. I did need an awesome Blue Dragon, though, so I went with that. Fire Dragon 2 - Base ColorMost blue dragon pictures I’ve seen use a tan/yellow type contrast for the wing membranes and belly scales. In the pictures, it looks pretty good. On my miniature, I HATED the wing membranes. The belly scales looked good, but I didn’t think that color would work well on the large flat areas of the wing membranes. They have very minimal texture, so it’s just a flat expanse.

I replaced it with a light blue. Fire Dragon 3 - Wing Membrane 1It seemed to work reasonably well. I went with a darker blue for the spine plates and intended to go over the entire dragon with a black wash, followed by a lighter shade of blue for drybrushing the highlights.

Fire Dragon 4 - First Coat FinishedIn the end, the final color scheme is pretty pleasing (to me). The scales have some subtle texture which is really nice compared to the doughy faces in some of the character miniatures I’ve seen. I really like this dragon.

Then… I did the wash. What an unmitigated disaster. The scales handled it fairly well, but the wash just pooled on the wing membranes and didn’t sit in the fine striations as well. I hoped it would make them more visible, instead, it was like dumping water on a piece of flat plastic. I almost threw the whole thing out.Fire Dragon 5 - Wash Disaster

Maybe I didn’t thin it enough. Maybe the paint is not formulated correctly (I’m using Privateer P3 paints now). I don’t know. I’m not an expert. It sucked. It didn’t work. In my head I was going “oh shit oh shit oh shit” while my stomach was knotting up like a clenched fist.

I used another layer of the light blue to cover up the wash on the wings (if you’re keeping track, that’s now 3 layers of paint on the wing membranes), and dry brushed the rest of the mini. I then did some touch-ups.

The end result… I’m pretty pleased with. My skill level is probably at the high end of Beginner or low end of Intermediary. The light plays pretty cool on some of the scales, and I think the color I picked for the eyes works really well. Unfortunately, you can’t see either of those in the picture. I have several other Bones dragons, and I learned some lessons on this one that should serve me well going forward… providing it’s not fifteen months before I paint another miniature!Fire Dragon Finished-Unbased

I still haven’t fixed the base, but it stands well enough now. I’ll get around to the base eventually. I painted a couple of metal minis at the same time as this one. I should’ve taken pictures of them, but I haven’t based them yet, either. Maybe once I get the bases done for all three I’ll post more pictures.

I have an Eye Beast, too. It will be the focus of a different blog post. It’s totally NOT a Beholder, y’all. That would be a violation of WotC’s IP. I haven’t based that one, either.

Categories: Bones Miniatures | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Session 2

This adventure log will contain spoilers for the D&D 5th edition Tyranny of Dragons adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Ye’ve been warned!

Once they were “safe” inside the temple of Chauntea, our heroes took a moment to take stock of the situation. The priest and acolytes were shaken, but unharmed. The priest, Eadyan Falconmoon offered healing to the heroes who saved him, but reminded them there was still a third group attempting to burn their way through the Sanctuary’s back door. After a quick planning session, the heroes execute their plan, then the attacking cultists and kobolds.

After eliminating the danger to the Sanctuary, they led Eadyan and his acolytes back to the keep. There, they were met by the Castellan who told them of the governor’s next cunning plan. The guards with families would usher their loved ones to safety through the old tunnel while the heroes and twenty volunteers would distract the dragon from the battlements. The Castellan was not convinced of the dragon’s resolve to destroy the town since it had been circling for hours now and Greenest was still standing.

The heroes agreed to lead the keep’s defenders in attacking the dragon. Tobin volunteered to try to talk to the beast, since he spoke Draconic. Meanwhile, Broken Sky had the remaining guards hide in the nearby towers and prepare to attack the dragon from afar through the arrow slits. He enticed it with promises of tribute and the dragon landed on the battlements to hear this human wearing cultist robes sing praises to him. While Tobin distracted the dragon, the rest of the heroes attacked! While Veya took a swipe from the dragon’s claws, she managed to land a mighty blow on its snout with her great axe. The beast dismounted the tower and flew away under a hail of arrows, abandoning the cultists looting the town.

When they returned to the ground floor of the keep, they were greeted with fewer cheers than they expected and some grim news: cultists were attempting to set fire to the mill. A proverb about “no rest for the wicked” came to mind (along with “no good deed goes unpunished”). Without the mill, Greenest would have no way of grinding grain for flour and it would severely damage their ability to make it through the next winter. The heroes once again set out.

At the mill, they saw some cultists setting fires outside and dealt with them, but they were either the most incompetent fire builders ever, or they weren’t really trying to set fire to the mill. Broken Sky snuck into the mill and spied multiple cultists lying in wait. He reported to his companions what he found and Zinnianna suggested talking to the mice and rats in the mill to swarm and distract the cultists so the could sneak attack them. As they were preparing to launch their attack, a group of guards from the keep caught up to them. They attacked the mill en masse and made short work of the cultists. They left the guards to mop of and returned to the keep.

Naturally, there was no time for rest. The heroes and Castellan were alerted to something happening outside. A sizable force of kobolds formed a ring around the keep entrance, and from their ranks strode an armored, half-dragon warrior. “Defenders of Greenest! This has been a successful night, and I am feeling generous. Do you see these four pitiful, useless prisoners? We have no need for them, so I will trade them back to you. Send out your best warrior to fight me, and you can have these four in exchange.”

Veya was still suffering from grievous wounds received earlier in the evening. Broken Sky volunteered to face the half-dragon. As he prepared himself, the creature paced in front of his prisoners. When the monk strode forth to meet him, the half-dragon swung his mighty blade, but missed Broken Sky. The monk responded with a furious attack that staggered the creature and knocked him back. The half-dragon snarled and unleashed his breath weapon. The bolt of lightning grazed Broken Sky, knocking the elf to the ground. Darkness took him. The half-dragon stood over him and sneered. He spit on the elf and threw his sword to the ground. “Is there no one here worthy to face me?”

He turned away in disgust and walked away from the elf’s smoldering body, directing the kobolds to release the prisoners. The kobolds follows him by rank, and the raiders left Greenest. Healers rushed out with the rest of the heroes and to their relief, found Broken Sky only mostly dead. After resting for most of the morning, the heroes bound their wounds and made ready to tackle their next task.

The Governor approached them and asked them to track the raiders. He felt they might be able to recover more intelligence about their purpose and perhaps, some of the stolen loot. On their way out of town, the heroes were met by Nesim Waladra, a disciple of a monk called Master Leosin. Master Leosin, who was known to Broken Sky, went missing in the night after pursuing a group of the cultists. He hoped the heroes could look for his Master while they were tracking the cultists. The followed the trail to a small camp where some cultists and kobolds were arguing over lunch.

The battle was brief. Without their leaders, the kobolds and cultists did not work well together and were divided and conquered with judicious use of spells and strategy. As the heroes took stock of their situation when the battle was over, the saw the trail left by the main group, leading further into the hills…

I actually gave out a LOT more healing than the adventure calls for. Officially, if they heroes can’t heal themselves, tough cookies. That might play well in organized play where there may not be group cohesiveness from session to session, but in an extended home campaign, it’s not terribly fun if they all die by attrition in the first two sessions before they even get out of 1st level. Other DMs out there may disagree and say that it’s more realistic. Neither approach is wrong and I decided since it was a new game with a new system and a new player, that I would err on the side of fun.

The rules for 5th edition still aren’t quite second nature, but this was only my fourth session running it over the last six months. We’re picking them up pretty fast, though, and I’m getting better at recognizing opportunities to hand out inspiration. I did have to hand out one “Let me finish before you interrupt me; there is a point to this!” Some of the adventure does rely pretty heavily on the players letting events play out rather than stabby-stabby grabby-grabby at every available opportunity. It’s not a bad thing; it just is.

Now that the first episode is done, I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of this plays out. It seems like Episode I is the biggest stumbling block to groups playing this adventure because it is SO difficult and doesn’t let them just do the stabby-stabby grabby-grabby thing (in fact, that’s an excellent way to die fast in Episode I). The pieces are on the board and the plot is in motion…

Categories: D&D | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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