Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ramblings about paint.

On Wednesday @SlyFlourish asked the following question - "What is the best paint for miniature washing and drybrushing vs feathering and layering?"

As paint had been a subject I had been planning to tackle anyway, and being too long for Twitter, I decided to stop procrastinating. Be forewarned, this may be a little long.

T'Raukzul was painted over the span of two months at the beginning of 2013 with a combination of all the techniques and materials listed at the end of this post.

What type of paint to use on miniatures is often a very divisive subject. I have seen threads on minis forums that reminded me very much of D&D edition wars threads. What this means is that there is no one right answer. It is purely a matter of opinion and what works best with your particular style of painting. That being said, I feel that new people in the hobby can benefit from knowing what works for others.

Following is a list of many of the paints people use on minis. I am sure there are others, but these are the ones I am familiar with. (In no particular order)

Ral Partha
Army Painter
Craft Paint
Artists Acrylics
Poly S

Testors Enamel ($1.69 for 1/4 oz) - When I started painting minis in 1979 this is the paint I used, with the little white brush they still sell today. I had been building model kits since before I was seven. This was the only kind of paint I knew about, and I already had some.
These are solvent based paints, they smell horrible and cleaning up after using them is a lot of work. I personally do not recommend that you go out and buy them for painting your miniatures. If you are on a budget and already have some can you use them? Yes. You can even achieve tabletop quality (look ok when seen from above at a distance of about three feet). Will you win a Golden Demon or Crystal Brush using them? Nothing is impossible, but not very likely.
Shading and highlighting will be best achieved by deliberate brush strokes rather than washing or drybrushing.

Armory (No longer made 2oz) - This is the next paint I used. I discovered it when we finally got a game store in our town. This was a water based paint with fine pigment and nice flow characteristics. Much better than enamels. This is the paint I learned washing and drybrushing with. The metallics tended to run when coating with brush on sealer, so I stuck with Testors for those.

Poly S ($3.79 1/2 oz) - Another water based acrylic. This is what Bill was using when we met. It is a favorite among train guys, but I never see it mentioned with regards to minis. I never used them but I would think they would be fairly similar to the Armory paint, except I know the metallics don't run.

Citadel ($3.70 12ml) - Water based acrylic. When finding Poly S and Armory became difficult I ordered Bill the full set of Citadel paints. The old formula in the hex pots with screw on lids. They covered well, and had inks that made doing washes easy, and they were ok for drybrushing, though I had moved on to painting deliberate highlights by this point. There are a number of people who say that the new formula sucks. I have not used it, this may be true, or just anti GW sentiment. You can use these for any modern techniques including air brushing, layering and wet blending. Additives such as flow aid and drying retarder may allow for better results than just thinning with water. If you are a talented painter (I am not) you can paint award winning pieces with these, though it might require more work than some other brands.

Vallejo ($3.29 17ml) - Has four lines that I know of. Game Color, Model Color, Model Air and Liquid Gold. The first two, Game and Model, I believe to be similar other than the actual colors. The Game line has brighter colors while the Model line has colors for stuff like tanks and planes. They have a lot of fine pigment and are highly recommended by mini painters of all skill levels. They can be air brushed but need thinning to do so. Model Air is designed for the air brush, though I have heard that many painters still thin it. Just not as much as the other two. I would not recommend Model Air for dry brushing, as you will most likely cover way more of the model than you want. It is a good candidate for layering or glazes because it is thin.
The Liquid Gold is slightly different. It is alcohol based and you will want to use a dedicated brush for it, as I am told it will rust if exposed to water. I have not tried it yet myself, but it is very highly recommend for brush on metallics.
Lots of commission and competition painters use these lines.

Minitaire ($3.33 1oz [30ml]) - This is a new line designed for air brushing, which it does well without thinning. It seems to separate if you thin it with water, but if you add a little glazing medium (or Future Magic Wash) it is good for washes, glazing and layering. I don't recommend using it for a base coat applied by brush. I have given up all hope of drybrushing with it. It can be done, if you wait for the paint to start drying on your palette, but once it starts to dry it does so really fast.

Craft Paint ($1.50 2 oz) - This is the one that creates the nerd rage on minis forums. There is a vocal group that insists that you not use these. If you are on a budget they are quite acceptable. You can air brush, wash, drybrush, layer and whatnot with them. Future Magic Wash is your friend here. Use it and you can do anything with craft paint. Sure, you have to learn how much to mix for the effect you are after, but there is a learning curve for all paints. Can you paint prize winning minis with nothing but craft paints? I think so. I have no proof (yet) as most who use them are afraid to divulge this fact for fear of starting a flame war.

Artists Acrylics - Another less expensive option. Good if you like to mix your own colors. Now this is something I didn't know when I bought a pack. They come in Soft Body and Hard Body. If you intend to use them as your primary paint, get the Soft Body. You will need a mixing medium of some kind to thin them and it will take more patience. If you already have some, and are on a budget, use them. Not the best choice for layering or glazing as the pigment is not as fine. You will get a pixelated effect if you thin them much.

Now, for what I personally use.

Airbrushing - I use mainly Minitaire. Sometimes I will add a little craft paint to make a lighter color for zenithal highlighting. There is this one particular creamy off white that I find works great to lighten most colors.

Base coats - For brush on base coating I mainly use craft paint. I have it in lots of colors, and it is easy to mix custom colors. P3 is nice too, but I only have the ones from the Cryx base set.

Washes - Craft paint thinned with magic wash. Though I am experimenting with oil washes. These are nice because you can take a quetip and mineral spirits to clean up the raised areas and avoid that dirty look you get from washing with acrylics.

Glazes - Minitaire is good for this if you thin it with glaze medium. The difference between a wash and a glaze is that with a glaze you want it evenly across an entire surface, rather than collecting in the recesses. When applied over an area that has been washed and dry brushed it will smooth the transitions between the colors.

The cloak was airbrushed then layering was used for the highlights and shadows. A glaze was then applied to bring the colors together. Notice the orange looks gloppy. That is the result of trying to use Minitaire with a paintbrush.

Layering - Shading and highlighting by applying many very thin layers of color to smaller and smaller areas to make a smooth transition from dark to light. I am just starting to do this. For table top it was way too much work, but I am now interested in doing display and maybe competition pieces. Minitaire is good for this if you thin with a medium, not pure water. Craft paint thinned with magic wash also works well. I use whichever has the color I need.

Drybrushing - This is where the Hard Body Artists Acrylics I accidentally bought really shine. Just tap the brush to the paint, smear around on the palette a little, and go for it. It will not run into low areas, and wastes far less paint.

Wet blending - I will let you know if I ever try this.

Dry pigments - These work well for smooth shading, and for creating rusty, muddy and dusty effects. I have some from Secret Weapon. I also have some pastels that can be ground into powder. The pastels are much cheaper with a wider range of colors. They behave pretty similar.

Primer - If you can go outside and spray Krylon or Rustolem are good choices. Don't waste money on $14 a can hobby primer. The weather here does not often allow for spraying, so I don't. Instead I use Gesso. You brush it on and it shrinks down tight on the model preserving detail. I recently picked up Vallejo Surface Primer to use through the airbrush. If you are painting large numbers of minis this is far better than hand brushing the Gesso.

Sealer - Liquitex matte or gloss varnish. It can be applied with a paintbrush or airbrush. Much more economical than the oft recommended Testors Dull Coat.

Tamyia has some wonderful paints for special effects. Pick up their Smoke (washes on armor and engine soot) and Clear Red (gore).

This mini was painted several years ago entirely with craft paint and magic wash.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

My new adventures in Mini painting.

Many of you who are reading this are probably familiar with Reaper's recent Bones Kickstarter. For those who are not, here is the run down.
Reaper decided to come out with a new line of minis, called Bones. What makes the Bones line special? First they are soft plastic, more like WotC's DDM line than the hard plastic of Warhammer or Warmachine minis. This is great because it means they are more durable and much lighter that the traditional metal lines.
For me the best part is that they are NOT random and collectible! (WotC I am looking at you here!) If I need two dozen Goblins for the next mod I am running I will be able to buy two dozen Goblins, not two cases of minis and hope that most of the boxes have at least one Goblin in them.
Needless to say, I had to back this Kickstarter. Now like all Kickstarters, this one had reward levels. I pledged Vampire, which started out rewarding backers with a modest number of Bones minis. As the amount pledged increased, Reaper kept adding stretch goals, which increased how many Bones came with the Vampire level. Goal after goal was reached, untill some 17000 plus people had raised 3.4 million dollars to fund this project. WOW!
In the end the Vampire level backers will be receiving on the order of 260 minis as their reward. When I pledged I was determined to get them all painted. A daunting task, when the number was much smaller. How ever shall I get them all done?


More to follow in this series as I acquire the tools and set about learning to airbrush 28mm minis.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

DnDNext Wotc's Beyond Epic Fail

So, I got up this morning fully planning on waiting until after start of business in Seattle to start looking for an email from Wotc. I live on the east coast. Imagine my surprise when it was already there, waiting for me. A special "head start" email with a link to my playtest docs.
Or so it said. Instead it went to another sign up page, the only difference was this time there was a link to an NDA. The email said I was clicking a link to the docs. So I agree to the NDA, and am told to wait up to an hour for an email with the real link.
Fifteen minutes go by, no email. Then 30, 60, at 5 1/2 hours I get the email. Mind you I have been following supposedly alternate links posted by WotC for hours! The email leads to the same place as WotC's alternate links. A 400 error.
This is not to get an actual computer game like Diablo3. This is a handful of PDFs. If WotC can't distribute those with much less muss and fuss, what hope does the game have.
How hard to have emailed the actual PDFs after you signed the online NDA, rather than another link, to a broken server. Any ten year old could have done better.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Save or Die

Today's L&L article was about the save or die mechanic. This is something I truly miss in 4e. I hate the whole respawning, no one dies, no danger and thus no real sense of accomplishment feel to 4e.

One of the complaints I have heard is that no one wants to come to the game, play for ten minutes, then spend the rest of the night doing nothing. Please explain to me how this is any different from being prone, stunned and within threatening reach of the at-will attack that inflicts the stun, but out of melee range of the monster (unfettered kraken I'm looking at you), where I spend the next hour rolling a d20 every ten minutes. If I become unstunned I can stand, but if I move or attack, I just get stunned again. If I am dead at least I can go do something else until that encounter is over.

Save or die encourages smarter gameplay. When you know that you are going to confront the Medusa in her lair, you prep for it. You buy mirrors. You memorize or take scrolls of Stone to Flesh. When in combat you fight with your eyes closed. You have to think to survive. The strategy and planning is part of the game.

Back in AD&D my husband's character got disintegrated. He and a few others did something uber stupid in the presence of the most powerful evil wizard in the kingdom. Because he was a smart player he had things in place that allowed him to come back from this, so his momentary lapse in judgment was only a temporary setback. And it was really cool watching some of the other players try to figure out how he came back. It is a great tale, one that we wouldn't have without save or die.

It is a fantasy game. Death is almost never permanent. Along with bringing save or die back we need to also bring back raise dead and reincarnation. I remember our group having tons of fun deciding if our newly reincarnated companion was a Dwome or a Gnorf. We settled on Dwome. It added to the story, to the fun.

Now there are times when save or die is inappropriate. You should never get into that situation without warning. No random encounters with Basilisks in the woods. Having to save or die from failing a skill check to walk along a narrow ledge, especially if it takes twenty rolls to get all the way across, just makes your DM a dick. The problem here is not the mechanic, but how it is used.

As for those players too lazy or not smart enough to prepare for that encounter with the Medusa? I don't want to play with them. Whine like a two year-old if you are not winning by enough? I don't want to play with them. Think PCs should never die? I don't want to play with them. It ruins my enjoyment of the game.

If, after you Mind Blast the dragon while it is 200ft in the air and the trajectory of its unconscious body causes it it crush you, you can laugh and admit that it was a stupid thing to do...then you are welcome at my table anytime. Thank you for helping to shape a story worth sharing. One we will remember for decades to come, and pass on to our children at the game table.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

4d6 drop the lowest, Woot!

One of the items I read in the live tweeting of the D&D Next seminars was that rolling stats was once again going to be the default. My initial reaction to this was much happiness. When I mentioned it to my daughter, she had the opposite reaction. I expect at least one of my friends to also object.

Those of you who have gamed with me in person know that my luck sucks. Almost no one on the planet rolls worse than I do. So you might be wondering why I prefer random stat generation?

The answer is simple. Diversity.

Every character should be different. It, well, gives them character. With point buy every axe fighter is the same. Every bow ranger is the same. It is boring and unrealistic. Yes, I want 'some' realism in my fantasy world.

If you do sit down at the table with a character that is different at least one person at that table is going to lecture you on how you did it wrong. If you put this there, and that the other place and move that there you wind up with an extra free point, yada, yada, yada. Ugh! There is even a forum on WotC's site devoted to this very thing.

My favorite character was created using the 3d6 in order method. He had an 18 strength and a very low (had to be an assassin) charisma. The numbers gave me the idea for his backstory, and also the clue to how I was going to play him. Yes, he got paid to kill people, but there was nothing cunning or stealthy about his methods. He wore leather, but did not carry a shield, because in AD&D that was a dead giveaway that you were an assassin. He passed himself off as the party fighter. Which he really was at first as the party started off with one wizard, one illusionist and my assassin.

I would never have created him if not for the dice rolls and the rules for minimum stats for classes. But as I said earlier he is by far my favorite character. So much so that a decade later when that same DM started a 3.5 campaign I recreated him. It even fit in with the story line which was that you woke up in a magic circle in the desert of what was clearly another world or plane with no memory of how you got there.

So to the min/maxer's and the it's not fair crowd I say...give it a try, you just might find yourself having a whole lot of fun.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Minis and Battlemaps, a Sacred Cow

First, a little biographical info to help you to understand my position on this topic.
I have been playing D&D since the sixth grade. This August, Gencon and I will both turn 45. I have Never played in a D&D game that Did Not use minis and a battlemap. I even still have the mini for my first character. It cost me 38 cents at the local bookstore, City News Stand. It is made of 100% real toxic lead, and I painted it myself with Testors enamel model paints and a brush that would be considered huge today.

So what does any of this mean to my vision of the 5th edition of D&D? In all the past Edition Wars, 2nd to 3rd, 3rd to 4th I have heard the same argument. "We never needed minis before. They take away from imagination. They ruin the experience. Why are you forcing this foreign concept on us."
Every time I read these arguments I want to scream. Minis have always been a part of the game. Go back and read the history of how the game came about. Historical wargamers who wanted to play in a fantasy setting.

Now, through the editions there have been changes to how the rules interacted with the battle grid. They have become more restrictive, and varied back and forth on several issues. Many of these changes I do feel were unnecessary, and hindered somewhat my enjoyment of the game. Some of my more tactically oriented friends liked the very parts that frustrated me.
Like having to stand IN a square. When I started playing the grid was simply a replacement for having a ruler at the table. If you were standing on a line and could move 5 inches, you moved your mini up 5 lines.
Spell areas were simpler too. You could have any point on the map be the center of your spell. It didn't have to be the intersection of four squares, or the center of one. Where ever you took the pen and made a dot was your center. Once again the grid helped you map out your spell area without a ruler. If the spell and a mini partially overlapped the DM would usually give you a roll to see if you were in or out of the effect, or just declare it half damage. It was elegantly simple, and prevented the "I wasn't standing there" argument.
Then they said you had to be in a square. This led to whining that people who moved diagonally got to move farther. It wasn't "right", it had to change. So then we had to count every other diagonal twice. Drawing spell effects was a pain. It was good for the sales of templates, though. So then we had all these templates, and they dropped the double move in 4th.
The charging rules have also changed with every edition. Sometimes being so restrictive as to make a charge a very rare event. (I think this will be a future topic.) Opportunity attacks and other sorts of interrupts added to the complexity, and the grid went from common sense useful, to forced obligatory.

Bottom line...Minis and the battlemap are a Sacred Cow that must continue on in DnDNext. So why don't we change this conversation into fixing how the rules interact with them so they are once again a welcome friend rather than a dreaded enemy.

(The dragon can't catch me in his breath. I was standing behind him.)

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D&D Next, or How I Finally Learned to Twitter

So, it has been ten or so days since WotC announced that they were working on the next edition of D&D. My first reaction was "I told you so," as I had been telling my friends and family for a long time that it was coming. I first said it with the release of the Essentials books. The nail in my coffin of certainty was the rehiring of Monte Cook.

After this initial reaction, I wanted to know more. The idea that WotC wanted feedback from their customers seemed a little odd. I am still not sure I believe it, but some names I know and trust seem to, so I shall wait and see. I entered my email to be notified of the public playtest, (it seems that being married to an LG/LFR admin is never enough to get you on the F&F list) and joined the Dndnext forum. I was horrified to see how many members and posts it already had by the time I had gotten home from work at 2pm eastern.

It was so chaotic and overwhelming that I gave up and moved to Twitter to follow it. I didn't even know how to use Twitter back on 1/9. I only had an account to watch for when the next Leo LePorte podcast was going to be. There have been a lot of good ideas discussed on #dndnext, and it seems that WotC employees are participating. Maybe there really is hope for that player input.

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